Make Believe They’re Coming to Your House

There are many facets and procedures that need to be addressed correctly if recruiting is to be a cost-effective and successful endeavor. The list is long, but let’s look at one important issue that sets the tone for all to follow: It is the first impression candidates get when they come to interview and their overall experience of the interviewing process. The metaphor I use in explaining this to clients is to envision the candidate as a guest who is coming to your house for dinner on a Saturday night. You get ready a few days before, clean the house, plan the dinner, make the guest feel welcome, serve dessert and coffee, and see that the guest has a good time. (If you don’t do any of this, you probably eat alone quite often.) Having a candidate come in for an interview is a very similar experience. The candidate may come from across the country or across the street. (If they came from across the country, they probably flew in the night before. A candidate who gets up at 4:00 a.m. to interview will most likely arrive with all the energy and creative thought of plaster.) It doesn’t matter; the experience is still the same. The candidate should be made to feel welcome and comfortable, and have a positive interviewing experience. There is nothing worse than a candidate who had a bad interviewing experience. It will be remembered until the end of time. The candidate will have nothing good to say about your organization, and these bad feelings never amount to anything good for either party. Always remember the candidate should be treated like a valued customer. (In a sense they are “buying” your company to ply their skill sets as opposed to “buying” another company with whom you compete.) If you do not have this as a mindset, change your thinking and change it fast. With this in mind, consider the following incorporating some or all of the following ideas into your interviewing methodology. If you accept and utilize these ideas, you will have more offers accepted, more new employees impressed with how you do business, and an increase in the number of referrals to your employee referral program:

  • The candidate will be forming an impression from the very first point of contact with your company. Make that contact professional, pleasant, respectful, and upbeat.
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  • If you tell the candidate that you will get back to them for any reason, such as to finalize plans or answer a question, tell them exactly when you will be making the call and do it when promised. There are few things worse than having a fuming candidate waiting for a call that was promised three days ago. If you are going to be late in making the call, contact the candidate to let them know that you have not yet been able to gather the information requested and reschedule the call.
  • Be sure the candidate has all of the information required to be successful. That includes the time of the interview, name of the person to ask for upon arrival, a position profile to review, an interviewing schedule with names and positions listed, the correct address, URL, and clearly marked instructions. Confirm this by email and “cc” the hiring manager for the purpose of clarity.
  • Upon the candidate’s arrival, greet the candidate in a positive and upbeat manner and ask if they would like anything (coffee, tea, restroom, etc.) One important point here: You may be having a bad day. No one cares. The first introduction to the organization is critical. If you are having a bad day, save it until you go home and be the professional that you were hired to be.
  • All interviewers should have a copy of the position profile, the candidate’s resume, and the interviewing schedule together in one neat, clean folder. The interviewers should read the candidate’s resume twice before the candidate arrives and should list any questions that quickly come to mind on a separate sheet of paper. (Try not to write on the resume. It is not a good idea.)
  • Begin the interview process on time if at all possible. Candidates do understand that things come up, but if there is a last minute change, or you run late, all you have to do is apologize. A simple and sincere apology will usually do the trick.
  • Be sure the candidate has time scheduled for lunch. Allow 90 minutes if you go to a restaurant and 60 minutes if you have food delivered to the office. Ask the candidate what type of food they like. Vegetarians do not appreciate the greasy steak and cheese sandwich you toss at them, and those who fall asleep after eating carbohydrates do not look forward to pizza. (I once had a candidate request a peanut butter sandwich on white bread with an egg over-easy on top. I had to angle my chair so as not to look, because it made me so queasy.)
  • Lunch is not a time for hard-core interviewing. It is a time for forming relationships, trading war stories, talking about the industry, and doing some gentle probing on important issues. Do not grill the candidate over lunch; it is not a good tactic. (By the way, some interviews use lunch to ask the illegal questions that they can’t ask in the one-on-one interview. “How old are you? Are you Spanish?” Very bad idea. Please do not even think of doing this.)
  • Each interviewer should end their interviewing session by asking the candidate if they have any questions. Candidate questions are good, and they give you some real insight into what the candidate is thinking and what is important to them.
  • End the interviewing schedule as close to on time as possible. If you will run late, ask the candidate’s permission, since they might have another appointment.
  • Tell the candidate when you will be in touch and do so on time.
  • Thank the candidate for their time. If they are going to the airport, be sure to get them there on time and be sure their departure is as upbeat and friendly as the arrival.

Successful first impressions lead to many good things. None of the above ideas are difficult to execute. Use these tactics, and recruiting, though not often a pile of laughs, will become a little bit easier to live with.

Howard Adamsky has been recruiting since 1985 and is still alive to talk about it. A consultant, writer, public speaker, and educator, he works with organizations to support their efforts to build great companies and coaches others on how to do the same. He has over 20 years' experience in identifying, developing, and implementing effective solutions for organizations struggling to recruit and retain top talent. An internationally published author, he is a regular contributor to ERE Media, a member of the Human Capital Institute's Small and Mid-Sized business panel, a Certified Internet Recruiter, and rides one of the largest production motorcycles ever built. His book, Hiring and Retaining Top IT Professionals/The Guide for Savvy Hiring Managers and Job Hunters Alike (Osborne McGraw-Hill) is in local bookstores and available online. He is also working on his second book, The 25 New Rules for Today's Recruiting Professional. See if you are so inclined for the occasional tweet. Email him at