What Recruiters Get Wrong When It Comes to Interviews

June 7, 2017

Let’s face it – the perception of recruiters by our customers (hiring managers, candidates, client customers) is often times not a great one. No matter how good you are, how many great placements you have made or how great a sourcer you may be, most of our customers think that they can do our job (or at the very least, have opinions on how they would do it better). 

I find this both a humorous and an unpleasant reality. Imagine if you went to the Doctor’s office and said “Well, Doc – I appreciate your diagnosis and treatment plan, but have you considered testing for something else and a different treatment plan? I read on WebMD that you went about this consultation all wrong – I would have done it this way." Alas, we get this as a profession from all around – some of it deserved and some of it no so much. 

One area where I do think the criticism of our profession is warranted is in how we set up and manage the interview process. We all understand we are a “people” business, but seem to forget the whole “people” thing when it comes to interviewing. While not emblematic of all organizations – this is what typically happens in most companies when it comes to interviewing:

  1. Phone screen with Recruiter: A basic check of interest, skills, motivations and talk of potential next steps in the process).
  2. If the candidate passes this screen, then a second phone screen with the Hiring Manager: A little more than “basic” (but not much) check of interest, skills, motivations and talk of potential next steps in the process.
  3. If the candidate passes the second screen, then an in person interview with on average anywhere from 4 – 7 people in the department and maybe some cross functional departments as well (a check of interest, skills, motivations and talk of potential next steps in the process) but now with several people all in the same day.
  4. If the candidate passes the in person interview, some organizations move to potential offer. However, in A LOT of organizations this now moves to a second in person interview round where they meet even more people on the team or cross functional teams and maybe an exec or two (a little more than “basic” check of interest, skills, motivations and talk of potential next steps in the process)
  5. Offer or rejection status communicated.

Did you notice anything there? If you have eyes and a brain, you noticed that the exact same conversation was had with the candidate roughly 10 times by 10 different people, all trying to cover a lot of topics in 45 minutes to one hour conversations. Sounds productive!

Second – you also probably noticed an excessive number of interviews, and a lot of time invested on both the candidate and employer side. Let’s face it – there are only so many “doctor appointments” someone can take from their current job to interview before things become incredibly inconsiderate and uncomfortable for the candidate. Also – you now have likely spent several weeks scheduling, rescheduling and coordinating these meetings with lots of very busy people on the employer side too. But Ed – we are a PEOPLE BUSINESS!!! Ha ha. You make me laugh, but not belly laugh, more like Joker “Why so serious” laugh.

Look – I get it. As a recruiter, you are handling many moving pieces and usually several job requirements as well. However – I would argue that the interview is one of – if not the most –important process of getting your open requirements to the finish line for all parties involved. With this in mind, it's time to really re-think how you manage interviews.

What you can do to make your interview process a lot better

My colleague J.T. O'Donnell  and I recently discussed this on RecruitHUB with our members, but here are some basic pointers to think about. Yes, different industries, different cultures, different assessment needs will always factor in to the equation. But if you keep these things in mind, you might just end up saving time and that whole “people” thing too.

  1. Streamline: Interviews don’t have to be a 4 – 5 step process. Streamline your phone screens. Have a more thorough 1 round as opposed to 2.
  2. Invite ONLY the people to interview who matter: Interviewing teams over the years has become a politics thing as much as an assessment thing. I understand Joe in Finance might interact with this team, but does he really need to be on the interview list? The interview team should only include those whose opinions are important to the hiring decision. This should not be an exercise in making people in the company feel important.
  3. Plan: As simple as this sounds, planning for the interview can be your best plan (see what I did there?). What are the areas you want to cover? What skills need to be assessed? Who are the best people on the itinerary to do this deeper dive?
  4. Divide and conquer: No one, no matter how good an interviewer they are, can get everything they need to know in a 45 minute conversation. After you have done step 3, assign these different topic areas to the interviewers. Each person will be doing that deeper dive on specific areas, which leads to a more well-rounded assessment process AND gives the candidate more insight into different topics of importance to the company too. This is how you avoid having the same conversation 10 times.
  5. Be considerate: I know it may seem obvious, but allow time for the candidate to explore further on his/her end too. Not just questions, but give them a tour. Discuss with them the challenges and wins you have experienced. Give them history of the group, company, department, etc. Don’t make them come in several times over. Give prompt feedback, let them meet a potential peer or two and make sure you let them know you appreciate their time and interest.

These are just some basic but important guidelines to consider when planning your interviews. We might never get our customers to stop thinking they can do our job, but we sure can make them a lot happier and more productive if we bring the whole “people” aspect back into interviewing. Watch this video to hear J.T. and I discuss this topic more: 

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