To Make a Good First Impression on Candidates, Do These 3 Things

August 30, 2016

Even if a candidate already thinks they want to work for your based on what they’ve seen or heard, their final decision over whether or not to accept your job offer relies heavily on the experience they get when applying. 

This means that for employers, giving candidates a good first impression during the interview process is crucial – even for the candidates that don’t get the job. That’s because even if they are rejected today, they might be a good fit in the future. And, it’s not just about how that one candidate feels - word of mouth still counts for job seekers and poor recruitment experiences tend to get shared.

In fact, research from the UK’s Recruitment & Employment Confederation showed that 1 in 4 candidates having a negative application experience would dissuade someone else from applying to the same company. 

Clealy, making a good impression counts for a lot. That said, here are the three most important things any company can do to make a great impression on candidates:

1. Clearly define exactly what you are looking for in a new hire

Nothing puts a job seeker off more than indecision, and this can often start with the vacancy itself, especially if the hiring manager is unclear as to the type of person they want to hire or what exactly this person will do.

Research shows the first thing 69% of job seekers want to know when hearing about a new position is the responsibilities of the role, and that 59% join because of the scope for development and advancement. This is where the recruiter should work with the hiring manager to establish why the vacancy has been created and how it will fit in with the overall company mission and values. The rationale for creating the vacancy should be robust, as a weak brief will be hard to recruit for.

Question the scope of the role and responsibilities and map out the future potential. Also check that there aren’t already employees in the business who could step into it. Candidates investing time in interviewing for a post get a poor impression if they find out the role has been filled internally.

An experienced recruiter should help draw up a job specification that is clear about the purpose and responsibilities of the role, and isn’t a shopping list of previous duties and achievements waiting to be ticked off. Talent doesn’t tend to look for a role that replicates what they have done before.

The golden rule with any job description is to write them for the potential candidates and not the hiring manager.

2. Make sure hiring managers are prepared for interviews

The most important part of the process for many job seekers is the interview stage. According to reseach, 83% of candidates say a negative interview experience can change their mind over a company or role that they had once been interested in, while 87% say a positive experience can make them reconsider a role they had doubted. Overall, 77% said the interview stage influences their decision to join, with just over half identifying the meeting with their prospective manager as the most vital part. 

Generic questions, particularly those showing that the interviewer is not fully prepared, or doesn’t know much about the interviewee, are a major contributor to a negative experience. Candidates expect a two-way conversation with their business questions answered honestly.

This means companies need to help hiring managers prepare. One way to do this is by conducting trial interviews to assess how hiring managers come across and work with them to understand the different types of questions that can be asked, such as behavioral questions to help predict future performance.

Hiring managers also need to be ambassadors for their own vacancies and personify the vision, values, culture and leadership style of the company. They need to sell the role, and the opportunities for development. It is important for a recruiter or HR team member within the business to have the manager sell them the opportunity to make sure that the message is clear.

It is also vital for a good impression that they respect the time that applicants spend on preparation. Interviews should start promptly and not be re-arranged at short notice.

3. Communicate frequently with candidates and offer feedback

The way we communicate with talent at all stages of the process can often say a lot about the type of business we are. Candidates should get clarity around the process - duration, interview stages, selection process - so that they know where they stand. 

Vague messaging, such as saying that if they don’t hear anything by a certain time then they are unsuccessful, gives a poor experience. If they aren’t considered, they deserve a reason. A business giving them value and insight during their search will create a positive impression.

While many businesses tend to rely on email for communication, there is growing interest in communicating with candidates in a way that they themselves would prefer, such as text messages. Many also like to receive progress reports and feedback through calls.

Interviews should be properly set up and confirmed, with interviewees given as much information as they need to prepare fully, so that they feel they have been given the chance to showcase the value that they can add. This can include information around the division or team, current trading updates, future plans, an understanding of the team they will be joining and possibly videos showcasing life within the business.

And last but not least, talent needs to be given constructive feedback. 94% want interview feedback on how they performed, yet only 41% receive any. This provides a great opportunity for differentiation. And, research shows that unsuccessful candidates were 4 times more likely to consider a future opportunity if they received constructive feedback.

Most companies are operating in an experience economy and talent acquisition is no different. We need to get our recruitment processes right, as talent will judge us as much by the experience we give them as the opportunities we offer.

*Image from Death to the Stock Photo

To receive blog posts like this one straight in your inbox, subscribe to the blog newsletter.