How to provide an engaging interview process

Why does it matter?

Unemployment levels are at a historic low. The skills shortage is growing. As a result, it’s a candidate-driven market. Good people have lots of high-potential businesses battling over them. In such a competitive environment, having a well-thought-out recruitment plan that attracts these candidates to you is vital for success.

Word of mouth is still the most powerful form of marketing and the best way to positively impact your employer brand.

The interview process is one fantastic opportunity a company can use to take advantage of this, simply by providing a positive & engaging experience to candidates they meet or interact with.

So why are so many companies still giving candidates such a terrible experience when engaging them through their interview process?

I’m talking about too many interview stages, big delays between interviews, big delays in decisions being made, rubbish, bland feedback, or even worse – no feedback.

Companies are way too focussed on assessment of candidates rather than the attraction of candidates. It’s a balance that most get wrong.

How to get it right

I ask my clients to think about defining and planning their end to end candidate experience.

If you haven’t taken the time to plan something – then you’re probably not going to deliver it. And if a candidate has a bad experience – are they really going to want to work for you?

For every vacant role, start by defining the interview process before the search starts. This not only makes it easier to manage the end to end process but ensures that everybody involved has clear expectations.

One of the things I have done in my own business is to map out every aspect of both my candidate and my client engagement process – essentially a standard operating model – to ensure I deliver a consistently good service.

And you can do that for a recruitment process. As a first step, you need to analyse your current process:

What is the candidate experience like through your interview process? Is it positive? 

The only way to do that is to ask for their feedback. Start with existing employees and then make this a regular metric moving forwards for new hires. Work with your recruiter to gather this feedback from all candidates interviewed. I continually ask my clients and candidates for their impressions and how I can improve.

Does your interview process engage and excite candidates? Does it promote and sell the company? Good quality candidates with in-demand skill sets expect interviews to be a two-way process. Generally, they have been headhunted and are not actively looking. So as much as you’re assessing them, they’re assessing you. That means you also need to sell to them. 

Do you provide quick and meaningful feedback to candidates regardless of outcome?

Quick feedback is so important for momentum with candidates you want to hire. But it’s equally important to provide this whether you hire them or not. I think if you give someone a good experience with value, then they will walk away feeling positive about you.  

Offers. Remember you are selling to them as much as they are to you, so close them at the end of the interview. If you want them, make sure they know. And offer the best package you can that exceeds their expectations and demonstrates how much you value them.

Post offer/onboarding. Once you’ve made an offer, it’s absolutely critical to continue the positive experience so that they are in no doubt they’ve made the right choice. Keep in close touch after the contract has been signed. Think about inviting them to meet up with their new team, maybe over lunch or post-work drinks. And plan their first day and the subsequent weeks carefully. Get it right, and you’ll make them feel welcome on day one and help them to embrace their onboarding programme.

Standardise across your stakeholdersEnsure everybody in the business understands the approach to the recruitment process and implements it. You’ll get little benefit unless the same methods are adopted across the board. Remember, you’re aiming for a balance between assessment and attraction. To successfully hire the best candidate, both are equally important. If you get it wrong, you not only lose your hire but run the risk of them spreading bad PR about you that can damage your reputation.

Once you have got these basics right, you can start implementing a standard operating model for the interview and recruitment process and start providing a consistently good interview and candidate experience.

I’ll summarise with a final thought 

Treat all candidates equally and with respect. Engage them in the process, giving meaningful and timely feedback. Keep them informed throughout the process. That’s how you’d like to be treated, isn’t it?

If you provide a consistently good experience to ALL the candidates your company meets or interacts with, I guarantee this will positively impact your reputation and in turn your ability to attract, hire and retain the market’s best talent.

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