One result of the global pandemic is a massive change in the typical interview process. As companies compete with one another to fill open seats, employers must make an impression on candidates during the interview process.
Historically, interviews have been considered a one-way street, with applicants focused on impressing the company and the company focused on being impressed. It is no longer that way. Candidates are looking to build a foundation of trust with a company, feel respected, and come away with the feeling that this is as good of a fit for them as it is for you. Even if a candidate doesn’t fit your company’s needs, it is essential to remember that they may still be a future customer, and it’s best to leave a good impression on them during the hiring process—be honest, communicative, and amicable, always.
Based on more than a decade of experience in supporting businesses of all sizes in the recruitment, hiring, and onboarding processes, here are some best interview practices, especially in today’s hiring landscape:
1. Prioritize competency over likability.
Many people make the mistake of hiring based on a “gut feeling,” but that often canresult in making poor hires. Just because you like someone doesn’t mean they’ll fit the role well. To avoid relying on intuition, ask suitable questions that help you learn more about a candidate’s skills, their knowledge of when and how to use them, and how they can add value to your team.
Asking behavioral questions that determine how your candidate would react in certain situations at work is a good start. This can be more difficult for entry-level positions since recent grads or others just entering the workforce don’t have a lot of work experience, but this is where being creative comes in. Try asking questions that reveal what tasks they execute in their everyday life, what organizations or groups they were involved in during their studies, or even what they envision as their future career and the current steps they are taking to prepare. A few sample questions are below:
- What do you think has prepared you for this role?
- What interests or activities did you pursue outside of work or school?
- What about this role excites you?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- What is the biggest misperception people have of you?
- What three words would your last supervisor use to describe you?
It’s helpful internally to build a set of questions for each role you will ask each candidate. This strategy not only levels the playing field for the candidates but is also beneficial when comparing applicants and deciding who best fits the role.
2. Manage the length of the interview process.
With job seekers having the upper hand, they don’t have to endure hiring processes that are inconvenient or difficult to navigate. It’s essential to ensure you have an efficient and effective interview process and that each team member knows the parameters they are working with. Internally mapping out response times, a number of interviews and with whom, and next steps is a great way to ensure each applicant has the same positive experience.
When communicating with applicants, transparency is a critical factor in building trust. Be upfront in the first interview to let them know what to expect moving forward, including how many interviews there will be, what setting they will be conducted in (i.e., group, in-office, virtual, etc.), and when they can expect to hear back from you.
3. Keep candidates engaged when requiring multiple interviews.
It’s important to consider being flexible when requiring multiple interviews. Candidates asked to come in person for multiple interviews might drop out because they can’t find childcare or get away from their current job. Consider offering to conduct some of the interviews virtually or even condense interviews to ease the burden on the candidate.
If there is a significant time gap between interviews, check in with the candidate to see how they feel about the process and where they are in their search. You are likely not the only opportunity they are pursuing, and it’s essential to know if another company is moving faster or if the candidate has already accepted an offer. It’s best to be swift without compromising your business’ values and needs for the role.
4. Never “ghost” a candidate.
It’s integral to your brand reputation to respond to all candidates—even those you’ve decided not to move forward with—especially after someone has taken the time to sit through more than one interview. Despite it being an applicant’s market, these are trying times for people, and job seekers are anxious to work. A simple follow-up, even if it is automated, is better than going cold.
Always remember you are operating as a brand, and how you treat people (not just your customers) matters to your reputation. Word of mouth travels fast, and a reputation of poor communication may stop good-quality candidates from applying and also can tarnish your brand.
As companies continue to offer flex scheduling, hybrid work options, and financial incentives, it will become even more integral to define what your company can offer to a candidate to beat competitors. Considering these interview best practices and swiftly executing your hiring process can help you connect with candidates and make a lasting impression, which ultimately may have the power to influence them to choose you with the same confidence you have in them.