On a daily basis, recruiters hear stories about challenging interviews and horrible bosses. Recently, I met someone in line at the grocery store who told me about a marathon interview session he had just endured. He was sharp, had a great mix of work experience, and went to a good school. He was a top-notch candidate and could have his choice of job opportunities.
Unfortunately, the company that just put him through this test of endurance will not be on his list to consider.
Below is advice for hiring managers, recruiters, and talent acquisition leaders on how to score top talent for your company by implementing some humane procedures in your interview process.
I Want You to Want Me
This is not just a great Cheap Trick song (if you are old enough to know that); this is also a mindset every company should have when trying to attract talent. I’m not saying you need to bake the candidate a cake, but being a little welcoming won’t kill you.
The following tips may seem simple, but they have real impact; you cannot believe how many companies don’t do enough of them. When you treat candidates right, they will want to work for you.
1. Welcome: Let whoever is going to greet the candidate when they arrive — a receptionist most likely — know the candidate is coming. What does it say to a candidate when no one seems to be expecting them? They will feel like an imposition instead of a welcomed and wanted guest.
2. Know Their Name: You may want to put your hands on your head for this one because it is going to blow your mind: Call them by name. There is something powerful about a receptionist saying, “Hello, Stuart! I’ll let Jane know you have arrived.”
Make sure you ask the reception to use the candidate’s name. “Jane, Stuart is here to see you” is a world better than, “Hi, your appointment is here.” These are people; let’s treat them with respect.
3. Loop the Candidate Into Your Schedule: Unfortunately, we’re all busy, and it is entirely possible we are unavailable when the candidate arrives. If this happens, do your best to keep the candidate updated. If your schedule is packed, make sure the candidate knows you are aware they are waiting. It’s a lonely feeling to sit in a lobby, wondering if the hiring manager knows you are in the building or if they even remember they have an interview with you.
And, if you are running late, a quick message to reception can buy you the time you need without being off-putting to the candidate. Just as we tell every candidate, I want to remind every company that we only get one chance to make a first impression.
Join the Conversation: Does Your Company Treat Candidates Like Human Beings — or Like Resources?
Article 26 of the Geneva Convention
I understand the interview is a test, but it shouldn’t be torture. Even POWs are guaranteed nourishment and access to bathroom facilities.
For example, the guy I mentioned from the grocery store was fresh from a four-hour interview where he met with five different people. He was not told in advance he was meeting with five people, and the meetings went from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM. Do you think any of them were over a sandwich? No. In fact, he had to ask for water and bathroom breaks because they were not offered.
This wasn’t an interview; it was an interrogation. The company thought it was being thorough and really getting to know a candidate. Instead, it was waving its arms wildly while trying to coax a squirrel to take a peanut out of its hands. The company sent a signal loud and clear that what this guy could do was way more important than who he was. He said he felt like software being tested, not a person being evaluated. This was the best candidate the company would never hire.
Does this mean we don’t use the interview to push candidates to see what they are really made of? Absolutely not. I need to know that anyone who works for me has not only the skills, but also the psychological stamina to survive this business — and that means asking some tough questions. But I can’t have them asking for the grief counselor at the end of the interview. I need to make sure they feel it was a reasonable assessment and that I value them as a person, whether or not they are a fit for our company.
Remember that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Don’t forget there are other great companies for which your candidates want to work. Everyone at Google is positive their company is the greatest. Everyone at Apple feels the same way. You know you have a great company, but your next hire who might be sitting in the lobby doesn’t know that yet. Don’t let hubris be your tragic flaw. By the end of the interview, the candidate needs to know why they want to work at your company above anywhere else. You may be the prettiest girl at the dance, but they may prefer someone with a great personality.
Have a real conversation with candidates, find out what gets them up in the morning, and show how your company has what they want — for example, community development, a clear mission, or free food. They may not end up working at your company, but they may tell friends and colleagues an amazing story about your organization. Is there any better recruiting tool than that?
Keepin’ It Real
In case you missed it, there is a theme in the above advice: These are people, not resources.
In my opinion, too many companies treat the interview process as antiseptic — like a medical procedure. Instead, it should be like a date: an opportunity to get to know someone. Remember, you may end up spending the next 5-15 years with this person. Wouldn’t it be good to have both respect and a fondness for one another?
Be open, be honest, and be fair. If you like them, tell them. And if you don’t, let them down gently: “You are a great candidate, and I am glad we had the opportunity to spend this time together. Unfortunately, we are looking for someone with X, but I can see you are going to be great for a company that has the right position for you.”
Gone are the days that the existence of your opening is reason enough for someone to work there. It’s a tight candidate market, and the competition for talent is real. Don’t get knocked out before you even get in the fight. You want either the best talent on your team or raving fans; anything else is a loss.
Stu Coleman is a partner and senior managing director of accounting, finance, and administrative at WinterWyman Contract Staffing.