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The Importance of the Candidate Experience

Posted on March 1, 2019


graphic interview panel

Brandi Leos, City of Tigard, Oregon.  Find me on Twitter and LinkedIn

What I’m Watching: The Daily Show with Trevor Noah

What I’m Reading: Dare to Lead by Brene Brown

What I’m Listening To: NYT The Daily’s summary of the Michael Cohen hearing


We all know that the hiring process can be improved.  HR professionals like to think about things like finding the right candidates, making sure our pool is well qualified and diverse, following laws related to hiring, and asking all the right questions.  I find that we tend to think of the recruitment process as how well it works for us.  Human resources professionals have a few common goals:  reduce turnover through good hiring; ensure the candidate is the best for us; don’t get sued.

We also know the hiring process must not completely suck – they got us, didn’t they?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the hiring process as seen from the candidate’s point of view.  Partly because it really is a job seeker’s market but also because I want our candidates to have a great experience while checking us out.  The truth is, especially in the current labor market, the hiring process is just as much a tryout for the employer as it is for the perspective employee.  I have worked in government for over 20 years and have been involved in countless interviews, on both sides of the situation. There are some things hiring managers do really well, to make you want the job and make you want to work there.  There are other things hiring managers and HR folks can do to make you run for the hills.

Knowing it’s not just me, I reached out to my friends on Twitter for their advice on what employers can do to attract the truly top talent.  If someone already has a job they like pretty well, you’re going to have to work to get them to make the switch.  It’s more than just pay and benefits.  Here are some themes:

  1. Communication is key. Is your process taking a while?  Let your candidates know.  An email sounding like it was written by a real person explaining some circumstance as to why it’s taking weeks to get back to candidates goes way further than radio silence.
  2. Ease the nerves. Multiple entrances or parking lots at your office?  Tell your candidates where to park, which entrance to use, and where to check in.  Be explicit and put it in an email so they can refer to it when they arrive.
  3. Sell the organization. Make sure your benefits information is on your website. Use your LinkedIn page to highlight the reasons candidates should come work for you – tell the stories of employees making a difference and having impact on the community.  Excite them by sharing the challenges of the position.
  4. Ditch the surprises. Tell your candidates in advance who is on the interview panel.  Provide the questions while they are waiting.  Tell them about the next steps in the process and ask them to hold dates.
  5. Make a good impression. The employees working where candidates will check in should be prepared and friendly.  The interview panel should be welcoming.  The hiring manager should be prepared and able to answer questions about the job, the benefits, the key projects on deck for the position, and the next steps in the process.  Show the work space (make sure it’s clean) and let them meet a team member or two.
  6. Take it easy on the “selection activities.” Sometimes real-life activities can be extremely helpful in determining the best candidates, but don’t overdo it.  Make sure the activity is job related and relevant.  If a walking tour is involved, tell your candidates in advance!
  7. Consider the candidates’ schedules. Keep in mind that if your candidates already have jobs, they are going to have to get out of work to come interview for you.  Offer times on Mondays and Fridays, be flexible with your time offerings including early interviews (I once interviewed at 7:00 a.m.) or late interviews.  It’s going to be a lot easier for folks to take time off work at the start or end to their week or the start or end of their day.
  8. Plan out the process. While the job is open and collecting applications, HR professionals and hiring managers should work together to map out the process. Reserve conference rooms and set interview dates, set deadlines for application review, figure out the next steps and get those on the calendar.  Let’s be honest… the biggest hold ups in our hiring processes tend to be taking too long to review applications and getting interview panels together (have you ever tried to schedule five people for a whole day?).  If these activities are well planned, the panel is ready and natural deadlines are in place to stay on track.

Whether you’re hiring or looking to be hired, I hope these tips will help you in your journey – finding your next perfect candidate or finding your next perfect job.  It’s all about the relationship and it starts at the beginning.

I’ve also come up with a list of don’ts and interview horror stories, but those will have to wait for another day.  We could probably write a book about negative interview experiences.  We can definitely do better.

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