The job interview. Three little words and one huge challenge for talent acquisition teams.
Talent Board’s 2022 candidate experience benchmark research shows that the No. 1 reason job candidates dropped out of the recruiting process last year was because their time was disrespected during interviews and appointments.
And an Aptitude Research report reveals that one-third of employers aren’t confident in their interview process, and half have lost quality talent due to a poor interview process. In fact, 25% to 30% of all candidate abandonment is estimated to take place at the interview stage — after TA teams have already invested time and effort in shepherding a candidate through the previous recruiting stages.
All of this shows just how urgently we need to raise the bar on the interviewing process.
To be fair, interviews aren’t exactly a science. They’re a fallible and biased art, at least partly. But recruiting and hiring managers in this science/art interview equation can put candidates at ease and can choose the right questions to ask that are consistent for every candidate (avoiding the growing number of inappropriate ones). They can also read body language and facial expressions (and respond in kind), can provide helpful insights into jobs, and can describe the company culture and ethos, which are just some of the balanced aspects of interviewing candidates.
This can be extra challenging when interviews are conducted virtually, as so many are these days. (Nearly half of all of the candidates Talent Board surveyed in 2022 still said they had interviewed virtually, although in-person interviews are on the rise again.)
Even so, there are ways to master the empathic art of the candidate interview — and there are plenty of more mundane, process-driven aspects that we can improve as well. Here are five of the most crucial ones:
1. Respect Candidates’ Time
More than a quarter of the candidates Talent Board surveyed last year said that their time was disrespected before, during, or after in-person interviews, and 25% of those participating in virtual interviews said the same.
This is one of the most consistent complaints we’ve received from the nearly 1.5 million candidates we’ve surveyed over the past decade. Disrespecting candidates’ time happens across the candidate experience, but it’s all too common at the interviewing stage, when recruiters and hiring managers schedule interviews but simply don’t show up or reschedule interviews again and again, often at the last minute.
Other candidates are forced to endure several rounds of interviews that could have been handled more efficiently (e.g., with a panel interview). Miscues like these send a clear signal that employers don’t value candidates’ time.
Ghosting or rescheduling interviews excessively not only discourages qualified and finalist candidates from continuing in the recruitment process but it often makes candidates believe the company treats all of its people with the same disrespect. Bottom line, companies with the highest-rated candidate experiences in Talent Board’s research are better at respecting candidates’ time than their peers.
2. Help Candidates Prepare for Interviews in Advance
This is another way of showing your respect for candidates, and it immediately sets your company’s candidate experience apart. Sadly, in 2022, one-third of North America candidates received zero preparation before the interview.
Start by giving candidates a detailed interview agenda and a bit of background information on the individuals who will interview them. Also, don’t hold back on insights into your company’s mission, culture, and values, as these are now the most highly valued types of information to today’s job seekers. Nearly one-third of North American candidates said they wanted more information about company culture last year, and almost half said that company values are the most important content they looked for regarding potential employers.
If you’re conducting virtual interviews, offer instructions for setting up, testing, and using whatever video technology or platform you’ll be using.
3. Implement Structured Interviews
If you truly want to conduct fair and unbiased interviews, structured interviews are the way to go. (The term “structured interviews” refers to the practice of asking all candidates for a given job the same questions and grading their responses consistently.)
Structured interviews help level the playing field among all candidates, and they’re better than unstructured ones at predicting actual job performance. Plus, letting candidates know that you interview everyone the same way can boost your employment brand’s perceived fairness; structured interviews make candidates feel they’re being assessed on a uniform standard that offers them the greatest chance for equal and fair treatment.
Seven of the 10 companies with the highest-rated candidate experiences conduct structured interviews. However, only 56% of North American employers in our 2022 research use them — a clear opportunity for improvement.
An unstructured or inconsistent interview process can negatively impact quality of hire and can even encourage recruiters and hiring managers to “wing it” or forgo preparing ahead of time. Add structure and reduce unconscious bias by creating a set of fixed questions that correspond to critical job competencies, desired behaviors, and specific personal qualities you want in a candidate.
You can also consider providing recruiters and hiring managers with ongoing training in basic interviewing skills, bias awareness and reduction, negotiation techniques, and more.
4. Implement SLAs
Another way to improve the overall quality and effectiveness of your interviewing process is to implement service-level agreements (SLAs) between recruiters and hiring managers, especially if your process is slow or inefficient.
SLAs can help define resume review timelines, the maximum amount of time a candidate spends in the interview process, quality-of-hire metrics, feedback, and more. Whatever the specific SLAs, they’re put in place not only to hold TA team members accountable but to nurture the effective collaboration between recruiters and hiring managers, ensuring that both parties understand their commitments and deadlines.
5. Provide Feedback to and Ask for Feedback From Candidates
Candidates appreciate getting and giving feedback. Talent Board’s research over the years has shown this again and again. People want to know how they’re being perceived in interviews and what they can do to improve going forward.
Employers that offer and ask for feedback always see a positive jump in their candidate ratings. Yet only 15% of North American employers give feedback to external and referral candidates (this figure jumps to 70% for internal candidates) post-interview, and only 24% of candidates were invited to provide feedback post-interview.
When specific feedback is given to finalist candidates, their willingness to refer others increased by nearly 50% in 2022. Also, candidates who were invited to provide feedback after their interviews were 65% more likely to refer others.
The best feedback you can provide to rejected candidates is a recommendation on what they should do next. These recommendations can include which skills to sharpen, additional training they might pursue, other jobs to look into, or even other employers they should consider.
Everything your TA team does before, during, and after interviews has a tremendous impact on how candidates rate their overall experience with your company, especially those you choose not to hire — whether or not they’ll continue to be interested in your jobs, whether they’ll recommend you to others, and even whether they’ll consider buying your products or services in the future.