I vividly remember my first job interview. Hearing about how great this company was to work for made me want that job so much more. Bursting with excitement about this opportunity, I arrived early like the experts advised, but I had to wait a long time before meeting with the interviewer. I wasn’t given any information or reason for the delay, offered something to drink or told where to find a restroom. I was nervous, and now I felt lost and abandoned sitting alone in the lobby. My excitement was disappearing faster than an ice cream cone on a hot summer day. When I was finally taken to meet the interviewer, he was distracted and rushed through his questions. In less than 20 minutes, I was shown out without having the opportunity to ask a single question. In fact, I had waited in the lobby longer than I had been interviewed! Why people thought this company was such a great place to work was a mystery to me.
Have you been guilty of conducting an interview like this? Be honest: no one can see you sheepishly raising your hand or bowing your head in shame. Most of us are guilty of making mistakes, and that’s okay if we learn from them instead of repeating them. Sadly though, too many recruiters and hiring managers are still making this mistake, and it comes with a high price: losing top candidates.
The competition for talented people is fierce, and candidates can afford to be highly selective. According to an MRI Networks survey, 90 percent of recruiters believe the current job market is a candidate driven market, which is up from 54 percent in 2011. The survey also found that 47 percent of small businesses had difficulty finding qualified applicants or complained of too few applicants. A recent CareerBuilder survey found 60 percent of CEOs reported the inability to find qualified candidates prevented their company from reaching its full potential, 35 percent said their recruitment process is inefficient and 48 percent said their companies have lost money due to inefficient recruiting.
Recruiters have high expectations for candidates. And yet, we fail to hold ourselves to the same standards. Candidates must be prepared for the interview. If they fail to research and understand our company’s products or services and ask thoughtful questions about the job and the company, recruiters say they lack initiative. Candidates must answer our questions clearly and concisely. In return, however, many recruiters treat them like annoyances who interrupt our busy days with endless phone calls and emails asking about the status of their applications.
In a competitive labor environment, it’s more important than ever to create a great candidate experience. When is the last time you viewed your hiring practices through the lens of your candidates? Think about how you are communicating with your applicants about the job’s responsibilities and how they can help you achieve your business goals. Do some thorough research to identify your ideal employee and to understand what is important to them. Develop Insightful Interview™ questions designed to help you know who your candidates really are. Tell candidates the truth about what it’s like to work in your company—both the good and the bad.
If your recruiting process fails to give your candidates a great experience, the best people are passing you over for companies that do. Top candidates want to work for businesses that have challenging work and share their personal values. Your hiring process must clearly represent your value to potential employees or you will lose them.
If you think candidates aren’t assessing your company using the same criteria you use to evaluate them, you might still be living in the 1950s. The best people are watching everything you do. Simply spend time on Glassdoor.com or check out these Twitter hashtags to learn what candidates are saying about how they are treated:
Most of us are perpetually overcommitted with too many things to get done in a limited time. But, you must make the time to create a great candidate experience. It’s easy to do and getting it right has a huge return on your investment of time. Here are a few simple ways to start:
1. Write a great job ad.
Job seekers are increasingly basing their decisions about where they work on online research and interactions. Many candidates pass over jobs with a boring ad. If you are posting a dull job description, please stop right now. Time is at a premium for everyone. This means you have about five to seven seconds to grab someone’s attention. Make the first two sentences of your ad catch the attention of job seekers. Grab great candidates by their eyeballs and suck them in to get them excited about your opportunity.
2. Apply marketing techniques.
When you think of marketing, you think of being persuaded to buy something. You want the best people to buy working for your company. Put on your marketing hat and figure out what will attract great candidates to your company. What makes your company a great place to work? Hint: the answer has nothing to do with winning awards for being a great workplace. I asked a client’s employee to tell me the coolest thing about working there. You might expect the answer to be salary, benefits or remote work options. It was none of those. Instead, her answer was taking her mother on vacation and seeing her company’s products used in hotels all over the world. That simple statement is recruiting gold! All of us have this gold, we just need to access it.
3. Attract instead of screen.
Old-school recruiting was focused on screening out unqualified candidates. That process was time consuming and often mind numbing. Who has time today to read hundreds of resumes? Attracting great candidates takes less time than screening out unqualified candidates and you get better results. If you do some research, you’ll find that great candidates are looking for information on company culture, whether your company has the values they like, innovative work practices and diversity. The best candidates can see your cookie-cutter template approach a mile away, so tailor your message to appeal to your ideal candidate.
4. Be courteous and respectful.
Be on time for scheduled phone calls. I routinely have candidates thanking me because I called when I said I would. I frequently hear that recruiters are late for scheduled calls or fail to call at all. What kind of impression does that leave with your candidate? You expect the candidate to be on time, so you should be too. If a candidate has spoken with you and given you their valuable time, you owe them a final answer. Let them know the status of their application. I understand it’s difficult to tell someone they are no longer in consideration; it’s my least favorite part of recruiting. When I have to give candidates bad news I also give them feedback that will help them improve for their next interview.
5. Have an efficient interview process.
Candidates evaluate how quickly you act once you make that first contact. Candidates tell me how excited they are about an opportunity and how frustrating it is when it takes weeks to get through an interview process. Your hiring team needs to make interviewing a priority so candidates can meet with everyone in one visit instead of having your applicants return for two or three additional interviews. If you are too busy to schedule an interview, a candidate will wonder if you will be too busy to give them feedback on their work, be available to answer questions or have time to help them work through problems.
6. Have a plan for what you want to learn in your interview.
Interviews are the single most important piece of the hiring process, and yet it’s the one piece that most fail to do well. The biggest mistake I see is failing to plan. We expect that the candidate comes prepared, and yet we often fail to prepare questions in advance or thoroughly review the resume to highlight areas where we want to know more. Have a strategy to collect the information you need from each candidate you interview. Hold the interview where you can avoid interruptions from phone calls, walk-ins, emails and text messages. Focus completely on the interview with the candidate and allow enough time to obtain the information you need as well as give your candidate the opportunity to get the information they need. Allow time after the interview to write notes and a brief evaluation while everything is still fresh in your mind.
7. Remember to communicate.
Another common mistake is contacting a candidate and then failing to communicate. Do your candidates hear crickets after the first contact? If they do, shame on you. We expect candidates to be at our disposal and yet we fail to communicate our process. Your candidates are looking for a career with your company, not buying groceries. They expect to be kept informed of the status of their application and your excuse that you’re too busy is unacceptable. We have multiple avenues for communicating that take mere seconds. So, just do it! Keeping candidates informed shows respect and courtesy. Employers must be on their game to sell their opportunities to the best and brightest people. If you examine your process from a candidate’s point of view, how do you stack up? Are there areas that can be improved? Please drop me a note with your questions and thoughts on how to create a great candidate experience.
Rebecca Barnes-Hogg, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, is the Small Business Hiring Expert and works with small business owners and entrepreneurs who want to end their struggle to hire the right people. She is the author of the upcoming book, The YOLO Principle: The Ultimate Hiring Guide for Small Business, and a co-author of Rethinking Human Resources. She can be reached at 843-779-YOLO (9656) or firstname.lastname@example.org.