Changing jobs is awfully stressful. In fact, it’s among the most stressful life events, right after “death of a close friend.” People put their entire professional profile on a sheet of paper, take time off work to sit through multiple grueling interviews, worry about adhering to interview etiquette, all the while subjecting themselves to harsh scrutiny and the potential for rejection. Being good at your job and being good at getting a job are often very different things.
As a recruiter, it’s important to do whatever you can to alleviate some of this candidate-induced stress so you can both focus on what matters most: Are you and the candidate a good match? Below are 5 ways to minimize this stress factor in your hiring process.
1. Simplify your application process and respond to all applicants quickly.
Beware of the “application black hole” – the perception that once an application is submitted, it falls into a pool of thousands of applications, never to be seen again. This idea persists because it’s a reality at many companies. While you definitely should have a standard application process (for things like applicant tracking, DOL compliance, etc.), keep it simple! There are a ton of applicant tracking systems designed to keep companies in compliance while ensuring a smooth, easy process for applicants. Most systems will also let you incorporate template emails that are automatically sent to candidates when an application is received or rejected. While arguably not the most personal approach, even a well-written form letter that reflects your company’s brand and culture is better than letting applicants wonder for months whether their application has been reviewed.
2. Be sensitive to your candidates’ lives outside the interview room.
Your candidates are more than just candidates. They’re people with jobs, families, commitments that can’t be broken, and lives that don’t slow down. No matter how badly they want the job, it’s never easy for people to break their routines to accommodate a half-day’s worth of interviews. Get creative and be flexible with your interview process. Consider phone and/or video interviews to be a large part of your process for people who can’t make it into your office very easily. Make yourself available for interviews outside of regular business hours if need be; it’ll show candidates that you’re serious about them. And if a suit isn’t required interview attire, tell your candidates that – especially if you know they’ll be coming from work to interview with you.
3. Set clear expectations – and stick to them.
Interviews suck, don’t they? Someone can be perfect for a job, but if he or she isn’t the best at communicating that in an interview (due to nerves or other understandable factors), you’re probably not going to hire that person. So be gentle! Describe what the candidate can expect through the entire interview process before you drill down with questions. Give candidates all the information they need in order to prepare for the interview the right way. If you’re going to ask them to write code, make sure they know this well in advance. If there’s role play or any abstract questions you plan to ask (which should be used very carefully, by the way), don’t surprise the candidate with this. And please, please don’t ask any trick questions. I once heard someone ask, “What is one misconception that people have about you?” There’s no way to answer that question without making yourself look bad. You want to give your interviewees the chance to shine, not fall into a trap.
4. Remember that you’re being interviewed too.
Each interview is more than just a hiring decision between you and your team. At the same time that you are interviewing them, candidates are assessing you, too. And they are looking at things far beyond basic information about the job. Candidates observe things like office upkeep, employee morale, work conditions, and other factors besides day-to-day responsibilities. Most importantly though, they’re assessing you, the interviewer. Will they want to work with you? Are their work ethics and values similar to yours? Do you communicate harmoniously with each other? Do you have realistic expectations, and are they expectations the candidate can meet? Put yourself out there, warts and all, so that if an offer is extended and accepted, both parties know what they’re getting into.
5. Give clear, constructive feedback – even if it hurts.
Once an interview is complete, candidates are on pins and needles wondering how they did. Sometimes, it’s obvious that it went really well or really poorly. Usually, it’s not. So give feedback promptly and directly. If you were the candidate and you made a fatal mistake in the interview, wouldn’t you want to know what it was, instead of wondering why you weren’t good enough? Ninety-nine percent of the time, candidates who fail an interview are very appreciative of any feedback you’re willing to give. One percent of the time, the candidate will disagree with your decision, and make a fuss—which serves as great reinforcement of your decision not to hire that person. And one important note: If the recruiter (instead of the hiring manager) is responsible for delivering negative post-interview feedback, make sure you give them all the necessary info to craft a thorough let-down. No one likes bad news, but a clear, thoughtful rejection notice is hard to argue – and it’s better than leaving someone wondering what’s wrong with them.
While this is clearly not an exhaustive list, implementing these tactics at your organization will improve your candidate experience by putting job-seekers at ease right from the start. And if you ever have doubts about your process, just remember the golden rule: Treat people they way you’d like to be treated in stressful situations, and you can’t lose!
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