Flashback: It’s Not a Hiring Process. It’s a Hiring Experience.

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Jun 23, 2022
This article is part of a series called Flashback.

Editor’s note: Periodically, we’ll be reaching into ERE’s long archives to bring you articles that have significance today. Twenty years after the original version of this article was initially published, “hiring experience” is still not a thing. Should it be? Does exact terminology even matter? 

I enjoy the recruitment words and phrases we use to describe and define our recruiting domain. Often they can serve to describe recruitment methods of the past, present, and future, and are dead-on descriptions that always work. Some need to change with the times, however.

Your “hiring process” may be one of those phrases that’s ready for an update.

The Problem With “Process”

I found myself in a common recruitment situation the other day. The market is coming back; companies are getting business and are hiring some interesting talent. A prospective candidate asked me, “What’s your hiring process?” This struck me as a typical question, but one that deserved an answer with some thought.

I thought of the old days, when we had a big supply of resumes on the desk and lots of voicemail. The response gets to be automatic (and when we’re good we say it with feeling): Please email your resume, we’ll review it, keep it on file for six months, and get back to you if we see a match. It’s a process, yes, but not real inviting.

Well, I didn’t respond to the candidate’s question so quickly this time. Instead I said, “You know what, that’s a good question. We don’t like to think we ‘process’ candidates. We like to think of our relationship with you as an experience. In other words you’re the candidate, you matter, and it’s up to us to treat you with an experience that will compel you to come work with us.”

We typically tell a candidate that our process involves storing their resume, then searching and retrieving their resume, then passing it about and finally, at some point in the future if we find a position that matches their background, actually calling. Then we bring them in for a series of interviews, and then we make a decision.

Now might be a good time to rethink our “hiring processes.” At my company, “hiring process” is not really a process at all. We do our best to establish relationships with all who show any interest in our company. We send them company information and positions specific to their needs. We work to treat them well. We consider this a recruiting relationship, and try to treat our visitors like gold and hope they enjoy the experience.

But the recruiting relationship is just the beginning. The interview is the big date where the relationship can be forged or lost, and we’d better do a good job of keeping the relationship intact if we’ve managed to bring the prospective employee this far.

Ever had a candidate in for their first interview with a hiring manager and found out they were left in the lobby for 45 minutes? Or the lunch plans were changed at the last minute and it was obvious they were not going to lunch with a key decision-maker? Or the interviewer you knew was going to talk 80% of the time and complain about the commute to work spoke 80% of the time and complained about the commute to work?

Can we really advocate eliminating the phrase “hiring process”? Probably not. It’s a part of our industry lexicon that’s here to stay. It does make sense, however, to consider that the hiring process is really about orchestrating a very positive candidate recruiting and interviewing experience at all points, from introduction to hire and beyond.

It’s a “Hiring Experience”

Here are some points to consider when implementing a positive and competitive hiring experience:

  • Build relationships with website visitors on their terms.
  • Allow them to profile what they want to do quickly and anonymously.
  • When a candidate submits to a position, let them know immediately if they are qualified or not.
  • Inform the candidate of your timeline and hiring plan.
  • Follow through on all expectations you set, particularly when you can’t inform the candidate immediately.
  • Prepare for the visit (interview) and make the candidate feel welcome.
  • Follow up immediately after the interview.

We talk a good game about candidate relationships but don’t take it far enough — from website experience to the onsite interview. Hiring is not a process but a series of meaningful communications that begin when a prospective candidate first hears about your company or visits your website. It continues through the recruiting relationship and interviews, and can either become an employee relationship or a positive networking relationship — because you treated the prospective candidate well.

In a competitive recruitment environment, these relationships matter. Recruiting is more than just a process. It’s personal, it’s unique, and it’s all about relationships.

This article is part of a series called Flashback.
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