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Jul 9, 2014
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by James

Creating a Great Candidate Experience

Posted in Hiring Best Practices
Creating a great candidate experience is something that all companies should be working on to differentiate themselves in today’s competitive market.
I recently conducted a research study in Canada on some new hires that had just joined a large multinational Fortune 500 company.   The purpose of the study was to find out what factors influenced the new hires to chose this particular firm.   I was expecting to hear the typical canned responses such as work life balance, competitive pay, great benefits, career growth, etc.  I definitely got those responses, but one of the answers that almost all of the participants brought up surprised me.

Each of the subjects informed me that one of the main reasons that they chose to join the company was because the in-house recruiter and the interview team made the hiring process a  great experience.   Now I’m used to hearing that every once in awhile, but not from ALL of the subjects, so it prompted me to dig deeper.
 When I asked them what was so great about their interview experience, I was expecting them to tell me how they were showered with gifts, wined and dined, introduced to the CEO or something really creative, but none of them mentioned anything out of the ordinary.    The most common response was…
“They simply got the basics right during the entire recruiting process.”
When I heard this simple statement, I had to dig deeper so I went straight to the source… the in-house recruiter who hired all of these people.   Here’s what she told me about how she gets the basics right:
1.  Acknowledge interview anxiety
2.  Use the phone to explain, but always confirm by email.
3.  Over-communicate throughout the process
4.  Be on time, and follow up when you promised.
5.  Make a compelling offer.
Let’s explore these in greater detail.

Acknowledge Interview Anxiety

The first thing to remember when creating a great interview experience for your candidates is that the interview process is an incredibly stressful and traumatic experience for most people.   Think about the last time you were interviewed as a candidate.   You probably took a day off of work, wore some clothes that you don’t usually wear (unless someone died) and you spent a few hours sweating it out while interviewers hurled questions at you.  Then you walked out of the office thinking you “nailed it” only to find out they chose another candidate.
If you start with the baseline understanding that your candidates are nervous and completely in the dark about your process of selecting talent, it helps you to realize that the thing that they need most is for the very basic things to be addressed during the process.

Use The Phone – Overcommunicate – Deliver On Your Promises

Technology has made a lot of recruiters overreliant on email.    Mass emails, mass inmails, and back and forth email communications have depersonalized the hiring process.
To get the basics right, all you have to do is call the candidate at each step in the process but use email to confirm the details because most people are taking calls on their mobile phone while on the move.  Here are some examples…

Phone or Video Interview:

1.  Call by phone and schedule the phone or video interview (click here to see why we support the use of video interviews).   Don’t rely on email alone.  It’s too impersonal for a first contact.
2.  Explain the hiring process very simply and follow-up with the same information via email.
3.  Call on time and conduct a difficult and thorough interview and allow time for questions if possible. (FYI…easy interviews turn off top candidates)
4.  Tell them next steps which includes a date when you are going to get back to them.  Email them the same informaiton.
5.  Put that date on a calendar or in a reminder in your ATS or CRM (Or a sticky note!)
6.  Call the candidate ON THE DAY THAT YOU PROMISED.*
*  All of the subjects in this research study all said the same thing.
“She called me when she said she was going to call me.  Even if it was to tell me that she didn’t have an answer yet.”
I know that sounds like Recruiting 101…but its also the #1 thing that candidates complain about.
Have you ever interviewed before and never heard anything for days?   Or at all?    It’s a horrible experience, and it ruins your employment brand. There are plenty of ways to scare off good candidates; don’t miss out on an opportunity by screwing up such a simple thing.

On-Site Interviews

The next round of interviews is essentially a repeat experience of the screening interview.
1.  Call the candidate, congratulate them for making the next step in the process.
2.  Explain where they are in the process.
3.  Find a mutually beneficial time to meet for the next round and give the candidate a few days to make arrangements.
Don’t do the “We’re moving really fast and need you here tomorrow” trick.
Nobody likes to be rushed to make a major life decision.   And be honest…when has your hiring team EVER made a quick hiring decision???
4.  Give them a formal agenda on company letterhead with names, titles and linkedin URLs.  Call them to explain it and prep them for the interview.  Then email it to them.
5.  Make sure they have crystal clear directions on where they’re going.   Giving them the address and telling them to “google it” isn’t a great experience.  Spend 10 minutes and take a photo of the front of the building, give them landmarks to look for, embed a map, give written directions and put it all on a document that you email to them along with their agenda.
6.  Have water waiting for them when they arrive to help with the nervousness.
7.  Don’t let them wait more than 10 minutes.
8.  Make sure the right people know how to escort them around if it’s a big office and they need to meet multiple people.  There’s nothing worse than a bonehead hiring team member who finishes his or her interview and goes around asking everyone “Do you know where this guy goes next?”.    Put that information on the agenda so that each interview knows how they’re getting to the next person.

Make a Compelling Job Offer

If you get a job offer, it’s usually a good experience; however, a lot of companies screw it up.    Here are some ways to get the basics right.
1.  Call the candidate and tell them they did well and that you’re awaiting feedback from the team.  Get their feedback on continued interest, their experience and pre-close them on an offer.
2.  Quickly work on getting feedback from the team and putting together a good offer.
3.  Don’t lowball an offer.  Don’t give lateral offers.    Give your best offer but always check with your offer approvers if there is additional room if the candidate suddenly wants more.
4.  Prep the manager with the actual offer letter and talking points.    Let the candidate know that the manager will call with an offer.  Pre-close them again within the terms of the offer so the Manager doesn’t get into a negotiation on the offer call.
5.  Follow up by phone with the manager and the candidate to ensure that everyone has what they need.

Stick To The Basics

Hopefully you can see that nothing that our recruiter from Canada did was some unique candidate romance story.   It’s basic blocking and tackling interview process management.   It’s these basic behaviors that got her the recognition from new hires that she was one of the main reasons that they joined the organization.   Not only is that a great feeling for her, but it’s a great competitive advantage for the organization.
Would you like to see the questions we used to conduct our “New Hire Survey?”  Click here and we’ll send you a copy of the survey so you can use it in your business!