Is Your Interview Process Damaging Your Talent Brand?

The top complaints candidates have about interviewing is that the process is too slow or they did not receive enough feedback. Don’t let top talent get away because of an antiquated or poorly planned interview process.

Everyone in Talent Acquisition is talking about talent branding. We all are using various methods of social media, employee engagement, and ratings on Websites such as Indeed or Glassdoor to gauge and refine our organization’s brand in the eyes of potential employees. One area that impacts the brand the most is one that often gets overlooked—the candidate interviewing experience.

How important is the interviewing experience to an applicant? Candidates regularly convey to us that it is a critical factor in their decision about a position. We work in executive recruiting and, at this level of hiring, the interview process is expected to be thorough, professional, and reflective of the excellence of the organization. In truth, each and every job applicant is using the interview process as a measure of a potential employer.

Organizations often don’t meet candidates’ expectation. As a general measure, conducted a survey of job candidates in which roughly half, 46 percent, said their interview process experience was poor. Additionally, more than half, 64 percent, said they shared their experience via social media. The top complaints candidates have about interviewing is that the process is too slow or they did not receive enough feedback. Yet many organizations do not have standard procedures for interviewing in place, or leave it up to the hiring manager. Furthermore, many wait until they have the resumes in hand before they decide on their interviewing process or even decide as they go along.

The good news is that all of this is easily remedied. Here are some things we counsel client organizations to consider:

  1. Decide an interview strategy before you have resumes in hand. Sit down with the principals involved and map out what types of interviews will be done (i.e., phone, video, on-site), who will be involved in each, and what a target timeline is so all participants know when to set aside time for interviews. If there is additional testing or evaluation that needs to be included in the process, map out when that will occur and what triggers a candidate to complete it.
  2. Have regular communication between all parties participating in the process. Keep checking in with clients to discuss progress and where the process stands. Often, these calls are brief, but they are enough to keep everyone on the same page and keep things moving forward.
  3. Incorporate technology and streamline the interview process, ideally to three or four weeks. If your interview process takes longer than a month, you run the risk of losing candidates. If your standard process is a phone interview and two on-site visits before you hire, consider replacing one of the on-site visits with a video interview. Video interviews are easier and faster to schedule and can be an effective screening tool. They will not replace a face-to-face, but can reduce the time it takes to get your finalists list. A video interview also can replace the phone interview. It allows you to see a candidate’s body language and facial expressions.
  4. Make sure your candidates get timely feedback. It is the biggest complaint we hear. Candidates all want feedback, whether the news is good or bad. Most candidates will assume they are no longer being considered if they don’t hear from you for more than a week or two. A short e-mail letting them know you have them under consideration and you will be in touch shortly is all that is needed.
  5. Whenever possible, share the timeline with the candidate. If you have candidates coming in for interviews for the next two weeks, let them know they should not expect a decision for two to three weeks.
  6. Make sure all interviewers get feedback to you within 24 to 48 hours. Make it easy for them to comply. Give them a quick electronic form to complete with their thoughts about their meeting with each candidate. Don’t let one or two people drag the process out.
  7. Make sure those conducting interviews are prepared. Distribute resumes well in advance and give interviewers guidelines for questions. Candidates can tell when an interviewer is unprepared for their meeting. It is rude to assume a candidate will thoroughly prepare for a meeting but interviewers can rush in without having read the resume or prepared questions. If you are going to give out sample questions, make sure interviewers ask different questions. We get feedback from candidates telling us they spent a whole day interviewing and answering the same questions in each meeting. This is obviously a big turn-off for candidates and reflects poorly on the whole organization. Instead, give each interviewer an assigned area to question the candidate on.
  8. Make sure a candidate feels welcome; never leave the individual unattended for too long. Make sure someone greets them in the lobby. If an interviewer is detained, move someone else into that time slot and move the itinerary around. If all else fails, give candidates a quiet spot to rest while they wait—somewhere that allows them to check their e-mail or make a quick phone call. Always remember that candidates have taken time out of their busy and complicated life to meet with you.

We are in a candidate-driven marketplace where the competition for skilled and experienced employees is fierce. Top candidates are selectively looking and may be interviewing in multiple places at once. Statistically, most top candidates withdraw from a search because they have received an offer from another organization first. Your talent branding might get them to wait for your offer.

In short, don’t let top talent get away because of an antiquated or poorly planned interview process. You should never make a snap judgment about a candidate, but it certainly pays to be organized and ready to move when the right one comes through the door.

Melinda Lee Morton is a senior associate with WK Advisors, a division of the executive search firm Witt/Kieffer. Diane Nicholas is an executive search consultant, formerly of WK Advisors.


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