5 Interviewing Practices to Improve the Candidate Experience
Interviews are generally acknowledged as the most stressful part of the hiring process. The pressure of making a good first impression and answering on-the-spot questions is enough to stress anyone, even qualified candidates. And while performing under pressure may be something that your hiring team wants to assess, this atmosphere should not be created through ambiguity or faults in your interview process—thoughtful questions are more effective.
Most candidates spend a great deal of time preparing for interviews, and it’s our responsibility as TA leaders to give them the information and structure they need to be successful. It’s not about making the interview process ‘easy’ instead, it’s about making it clear and navigable for candidates.
The surest way to achieve a positive candidate experience throughout your application process is to enact best practices in your interviewing process. Remember, candidates who walk away from your interviews feeling confident and comfortable are more likely to accept your job offers or apply again for another opportunity at your company. You’ll see both immediate and long-term results for your hiring program.
For advice on how to maximize the interview experience for candidates we talked with talent acquisition (TA) leaders from Zenefits, Lever, ClearCompany, Breezy HR, and internally at Checkr Before we dive in, let’s first pause and build some foundational knowledge so you can make the most of these recommendations.
What are interviewing best practices?
Best practices for interviewing are commonly held as the ‘gold standards’ for conducting interviews with candidates. These practices and processes will help both the candidate and the TA team get the most from an interview and help your company avoid any out-of-date or inappropriate interview faux pas.
How can interviewing best practices improve candidate experience?
When organizations implement interviewing best practices, candidates are able to prepare more effectively because they know what to expect from the process. Like most aspects of recruiting, structure and communication lie at the heart of these recommendations. When there are clear structures and communication, then candidates feel they had a fair chance to put their best foot forward.
To get you started on evaluating and boosting your interview process we talked with five TA experts about what’s worked for their teams.
1. Invest in relationship building.
‘Ghosting’ is when a candidate cuts off all communication with your TA team with no explanation. It’s a frustrating experience for recruiters and hiring managers who feel they have invested in a candidate. However, we have to remember that companies often do this to candidates without a second thought. To avoid these situations, Danny Speros, Senior Director of People at Zenefits, recommends taking the first step towards relationship building. It’s hard to cut and run when there is a real human connection. Here’s what he has to say:
“We make sure someone on the recruiting or interviewing team builds a relationship with every candidate. This opens the door for communication, helping the candidate feel comfortable and prepared to do their best. It’s tremendously helpful if there’s a delay or hiccup in the interview process; we’re able to keep the candidate engaged and they don’t worry about being ghosted.”
2. Create resources to educate candidates on your company.
Sometimes we are at a company so long that we forget what it’s like to be an outsider. If your company has a strong culture including jargon and meeting norms, these behaviors could be off-putting to someone who isn’t in the know. Some companies leverage candidate portals or chatbots to help candidates feel informed. Caitlyn Metteer, Recruiting Lead at Lever suggests creating an FAQ doc:
“Similar to most companies, we’ve transitioned to 100% remote interviewing. Because of this, we want all of our candidates to feel like they are supported by us during this new interview experience. To do that, we provide all candidates with an FAQ and tip sheet to ensure they feel prepared for their interviews and are set-up for success.”
3. Provide detailed and transparent feedback.
Building off the idea of introducing candidates to your company and culture, Brian Abraham, Talent Acquisition Manager at ClearCompany strongly recommends taking the time to provide feedback and guidance to candidates. These applicants deserve to know what your team’s expectations are for each interview so they can prepare for the meeting to the best of their ability. Here’s how his team does it at ClearCompany:
“To achieve a positive candidate experience throughout our process, our recruiting team works to ensure our candidates’ relationship is not one of being the gatekeeper standing between them and the job they seek. Instead, we treat candidates as their advocates, standing side by side with them, providing transparency into every step of the process, what it’s like to work for us, and providing updates throughout. A recent method we’ve implemented with some of our hiring teams is to provide candidates detailed instructions on what they need to achieve, or areas of improvement, for a better next-round interview. Some may view this as giving away the answers to the test. However, this is a great test to see if candidates can take new information and apply it, something they will often be doing in a growing technology company. We’ve learned that those that can, do. The result is that candidates feel empowered and respected through the process. They are also much more receptive to constructive feedback should we decide not to move forward. As a result, we have been able to form relationships that last beyond the interview process.”
4. A little empathy goes a long way
During these unprecedented times, candidates are dealing with a variety of challenges from schools being closed to cramped quarters. It may be hard for applicants to find a quiet space to interview,last-minute childcare may be a major concern, and even power outages may affect scheduling. It’s not fair to judge candidates unfavorably based on these factors that are not within their control. Be sure to put an extra spoonful of empathy in your coffee and proceed with a lot of understanding. Darren Bounds, Founder & CEO of Breezy HR has some great reminders:
“I’d say flexible remote video interviewing—the operative word ‘flexible’—is our biggest candidate experience tip at the moment. One thing we experience at Breezy, and hear a lot about from the hiring managers we work with, is how important it has become to find ways to be more flexible with remote candidates in the post-2020 hiring game. We use video interviews to make sure we’re able to pick up on the same personal, human elements of the interview that often only come through in an in-person interview. But it’s also important for hiring managers to keep in mind that we’ve never relied on tech (especially video) in the world of work as much as we did last year. Experts like Stacey Gordon of Rework Work remind us how important it is to remember that every candidate’s remote experience is different. Some days might be no-video days for your candidates due to having a child, older or ill family member at home, not to mention wifi issues, or just plain Zoom fatigue. Try to be flexible in how you expect candidates to show up. A little extra leeway and understanding go a long way with the right candidates.”
5. Structure your interview process for clarity and fairness.
When your process is structured, it’s easier to get all your stakeholders on the same page from candidates to recruiters and hiring managers. A lot of communication shortfalls happen because the hiring team doesn’t have the information to communicate in the first place. This leaves candidates feeling confused and frustrated as they can’t put their best foot forward without knowing the expectations. Simple steps like defining your adjudication process and role criteria can help exponentially. Arthur Yamamoto, VP of Talent at Checkr points out that disorganization can also lead to inconsistencies and bias, here’s why:
“One key aspect of the Checkr interview experience is ensuring a ‘structured interview process,’ meaning that each interviewer has clearly assigned competencies to cover, and an established set of questions they will ask. An important part of reducing bias in the interview process is to ensure that every candidate for a given role has the exact same interview process. This ensures comparing feedback on candidates is always an apples-to-apples comparison as well. Fair and objective interviews are table stakes for a positive interview experience.”
Why should your hiring team consider implementing best practices for interviewing?
At the end of the day, improving the interview process for candidates also improves the hiring process for recruiters and hiring managers. Recruiters are able to convert more candidates and hiring managers can make better decisions when candidates are prepared for the process. This is true even long term as your TA team may want to re-engage passed over candidates at a later date for a more appropriate role. This will only be successful if the candidate had a good experience the first time around.
These interviewing best practices are easy to implement and do not require new budget allocation: it’s all about putting yourself in the candidates’ position and acting from a place of empathy. If you enjoyed hearing from our recruiting experts be sure to check out the first blog in this series, 6 Ways To Reduce Bias In Your Hiring And Screening Process to learn actionable strategies to make your hiring practice fairer!