The Search for The Best Interviewer

I once did a study to measure the commercial impact of poor candidate experience in a large subscription based telco business called Virgin Media.  You might have heard about it?

That work, almost four years ago, helped me engage a business behind a recruitment function to drive significant improvements for candidates, hiring managers, and employer brand reputation. It also helped get the investment needed to change our candidate experience and become exceptionally proficient at recruiting great people.

Applying the same method and maths here at BT — an organization seven times larger in employee numbers, three times larger in hiring requirements, and double the application numbers (250,000 per year), by my calculations — the potential cost of poor candidate experience is in the region of £10.7m.

This is the second time I’ve quantified the business case for improving candidate experience. To be honest, it’s not particularly difficult. I wonder why more talent leaders working with consumer brands don’t take advantage of this sure-fire way to capture the attention of business leaders to gain attention, support, and investment for change.

So what do you do once you have the backing of the business to make any necessary improvements?

With my agency partners, Ph.Creative, it’s the second time we’ve mapped and designed a radically improved candidate experience that’s set to make transformational impact.

Together, we believe it’s important to focus on understanding and mastering these three principle areas to create a brand experience that every part of the business can not only be proud of, but can benefit from too.

  1. The application process — The first impression you make as a hiring brand is essential. Attraction, user experience, content, speed, efficiency are all best practice considerations that your digital team can assist you with managing and improving on an ongoing basis.
  2. The interview — This is the first in-person interaction with your brand. The people in this team are directly responsible for creating a positive or negative impression for your entire brand at this point. They hold more power than they sometimes realize; get it right.
  3. The decision — good or bad, the way feedback is provided, the timing, positioning, and richness of the feedback can be make or break for how you make a candidate feel. It’s got to feel personal and add value to the candidates’ career regardless of whether it’s a yes or no. 

The Zero Moment of Truth (the application process)

Quite often your brand experience with a candidate starts long before you realize it, and certainly long before it’s under your complete control. A candidate can research a brand for up to six hours before deciding to make their presence known to you by touching an application or a call to action on a job advertisement.

ZMOT, first coined by Google, meaning the Zero Moment of Truth, is a term to describe the period of time between (a candidate) being stimulated toward a brand and the first “moment of truth.”

How your brand is represented on social media, review sites such as Glassdoor, social media,, friends’ opinions, your career website, and even the general press is essential to convincing your potential candidate to get serious about applying for a job or not.

People shop for jobs these days. They don’t simply apply and hope. We need to accept the fact that they hold at least 50 percent of the power during the entire process — every touchpoint counts, but convincing someone to take the first step is the toughest because you have the least control over what they see, unless you work hard to influence your brand perception and the first impression you create online.

Ph. also talks about designing the “moments between the moments” —  looking at how you can influence what a candidate thinks and feels, even when you’re not there. What’s the lasting impression, the sentiment, and the memorable message and feeling you create?

From the first time your candidate sees your brand and is drawn toward you, how do you design a consistent brand experience that conveys the position you wish to create, even in times of off line contemplation? Your brand must resonate and convince that candidate to take the next step.

After that first decision is made, your application process mustn’t let you down by asking for too much information, taking too long, or putting the internal process ahead of the experience of the candidate. The brand experience must remain consistently high throughout. I’ve seen too many brands create exceptional attraction campaigns, which lead to “train wreck” application forms that see numbers drop off a cliff.

Think about how you can surprise and delight the candidate when least expected. How can you demonstrate real empathy and consideration when it matters? (see image above about time and emotion)

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Focusing on the Interview Experience

The experience we provide people when they attend an interview lives long in their memory. It is an emotional, life-changing event, and arguably the most critical employer brand impacting moment of all.  The way we conduct ourselves, the level of care, attention to detail, level of respect, understanding, manners, and skill we apply when interviewing will make or break our reputation.

So here at BT, after reviewing the NPS insights, and hearing various anecdotes of interview experiences that made me cringe, I decide to isolate the interview experience as an area for immediate focus, mastery, and improvement.

What We’re Doing 

  1. We’re going on a search to find The Best Interviewer in BT. We want to know about the great role models in our business who take the job of interviewing seriously, and provide a brilliant experience for all candidates, whether successful or not. We’re going to shine a light on them. To provide some inspiration, I enlisted some help from some people in our team who know a thing or two about interviewing, on live TV. What’s more, our sports presenter talent will be helping us scan the globe to select our winner.
  2. The Interview Experience eLearn course — We’re providing a new online training course to help give even the most experienced of interviewers a great refresher on the skill of interviewing, but most importantly, focusing on how to provide a brilliant experience for candidates. It’s not mandatory. We’re going for the carrot and inspirational campaign approach rather than hitting the typical corporate-sheep-dip default button on the STAR method.
  3. The Interview Wizard — We’re providing everyone who recruits with a new, auto-generated interview guide that’s tailored to the level and type of role. It provides great questions and clear scoring guides to help make brave and fair hiring decisions. Developed in house.

How We’ll Select the Best Interviewer

Three ways:

  1. We’ve introduced Interviewer NPS. We’re asking everyone who attends an interview to rate the experience, and recognize great interviewers.  So we’ll add people who’ve been name-checked as great examples to our shortlist.
  2. We’re working with our recruiters to get nominations — based on the great feedback they receive from candidates.
  3. Peer nomination — a simple online form on our campaign landing page.

“The search for the Best Interviewer is on!” — Gavin Patterson, CEO, BT

What Happens Next

We’ll announce our best interviewers at the end of the year. We have something special planned when we find them. I’ll reveal the results at the ERE conference in the Spring in San Diego.

Graeme Johnson

Graeme Johnson (known as “GJ”) is global head of employer brand & talent acquisition strategy at British Telecom. Former head of TA at Virgin Media, and recruiting leader at Accenture, he most famously developed a pioneering approach to candidate experience at Virgin Media, grounded in Net Promoter Score insight, and highlighted the commercial impact poor recruitment has on subscription and retail businesses in particular. His work was showcased at LinkedIn Talent Connect in 2016, and case study available on #HROS. Connect with him for a chat on Twitter @gjrecruitment.