5 Ways to Create Amazing In-Person Interview Experiences

March 23, 2015

The decision to accept a job is a big step for any candidate — especially for top performers who have dozens of opportunities at any given time. That’s why it’s important for recruiters and hiring managers to craft amazing in-person interview experiences. As much as you’re evaluating your candidates, they’re assessing your company too.

Interviewers need to help candidates feel comfortable, valued, and excited. Even subtle interactions can make a big difference. That’s why we interviewed 5 high performers to share their most memorable interviewing experiences. Here are 5 key lessons that recruiters can take away:

1. Be thoughtful

Story shared by: Rob Wormley, content marketing manager at When I Work.

It can be challenging for high-growth organizations to prioritize every candidate experience. Unexpected situations, customer fire drills, and fluctuating team schedules are the new normal — and day-long interview processes can become clunky as a result.

From a candidate’s perspective, disorganized interview experiences are frustrating. The perception of ‘on the fly’ decisions can also put interviewees on guard, leaving them concerned about what’s happening behind the scenes.

“I liked the experience I had at When I Work for two reasons,” says Wormley. “First, I could tell that the entire process was incredibly structured and well-thought out. I never once felt like things were being done last minute. Second, I felt like everyone I interacted with and met at When I Work—not just the HR manager or the department manager, but every single team member I was introduced to—was genuinely interested in getting to know me on a professional and a personal level in order to figure out if it was a good fit.”

As Wormley points out, thoughtfulness goes a long way. Candidates notice when you’ve taken the time to plan their interview experiences and answer their questions.

“These subtle gestures will help your candidates learn whether your company is a good fit for them,” says Wormley. “That means spending more time designing processes around their needs.”

2. Put your problems aside

Story shared by: Emma Siemasko, content marketing specialist at Grasshopper.

At almost every organization, people are strapped for time. Employees have infinite to-do lists, which makes it tough to set time aside and meet with potential new hires.

What stood out to Siemasko about her interview experience at Grasshopper was that her interactions never felt rushed.

“I was here for 5 hours in total, and I never felt like anyone was rushing me, or that I was wasting anyone's time,” she says. “They gave me a tour of the office like I was already an employee there, making me feel accepted from the get-go.”

This subtle level of attentiveness is what swayed Siemasko to accept the role at Grasshopper.

“The team was invested in my growth and willing to teach me and welcome me,” Siemasko says. “I felt that if I joined the company, I would be gaining a new family, and that has proven to be true.”

3. Be radically transparent

Story shared by: Lance Jones, CMO of Flow by MetaLab.

Top performers want to make sure that they’re pursuing the right opportunities—they’ll research companies extensively, reach out to their networks for reviews, and analyze publicly available data. Companies can facilitate this decision-making process by sharing as much information as possible.

“The people who interviewed me at Flow were radically transparent about their business results,” says Jones. “I was given access to Flow’s product and web analytics, and recent KPI reports. I was even given access to people on the customer happiness and marketing teams so that I could ‘interview’ them.”

Jones also appreciated the opportunity to learn about the problems that Flow was trying to solve.

“Because of his transparency, I got to put myself in the shoes of Flow’s marketing leader, look around, and paint my own vision for growth,” says Jones. “I also think the process was engineered that way, by having me commit to building a plan, it might be hard for me to simply walk away.”

The Flow team’s transparency helped build immediate trust and rapport with Jones.

“Hearing the business challenges made me feel invested in solving them,” says Jones.

4. Create one-of-a-kind experiences

Story shared by: Ian Greenleigh, marketing and social media consultant.

Interview experiences will often follow a set of patterns—tours, a series of meetings, question and answer sessions, deliberation, and eventual decisions. As Greenleigh points out, companies can stand out by adding an element of creativity to this routine.

In 2010, Greenleigh had a final interview and test preparation for what he considered to be a dream job—a social media manager role at an Austin Startup.

“Fast forward to the actual presentation—I thought I was doing fairly well, but halfway through the deck, the CMO at the time cut me off, saying, ‘Thanks, we've seen enough.’ I wasn’t sure how to interpret the feedback,” says Greenleigh.

A minute later, one of the managers met Greenleigh outside in the room and offered to provide a tour of the office.

“When we rounded the last corner and arrived back where we began,” says Greenleigh,“I was shocked. The entire marketing team was standing around a giant gong, and they all erupted in applause when they saw us.”

What amuses Greenleigh most was that he felt ‘initiated’ before receiving a formal offer.

“It was just a perfect match, and we both knew it,” says Greenleigh.

5. Offer flexibility

Story shared by: Brianna DiPietro, public relations specialist at Babson College.

It can be tough for candidates to step away from their jobs to interview for new opportunities. Candidates are limited to their hiring managers’ timeframes and schedules—it’s stressful and hectic, but often necessary.

That’s why DiPietro was taken aback when she interviewed at Babson.

“Since I had a hectic work schedule at the time, they were also willing to have me in for an in-person interview when it was most convenient for me,” says DiPietro. “It was unheard of.”

“I was also happy to find out that they would only be calling me in for one in-person interview with a team of what would be my future colleagues before making their decision, instead of multiple interview days with one person each time, as I had experienced in the past.”

Candidates notice when you respect their time—it’s a gesture that can create a strong first impression.

Final thoughts

When it comes to interviewing experiences, the subtleties make all the difference. Momentary bells and whistles are minimal compared to the experience of a strong first impression. Set the tone right by making your candidates feel valued and appreciated.

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*Image by Luke Hayfield

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