Creating a positive interview experience
Why a good interview experience matters
The hiring process experience shapes how a candidate feels about your company and influences their decision to join your organisation.
It is important to provide a positive candidate experience during the entire hiring process, but the interview stage is especially valuable.
That’s because the interview provides an opportunity for you to decide how well a candidate’s skills and personality align with your needs and company culture. It is also highly influential in helping the best candidates decide that your organisation is the right fit for them.
There are many ways to provide a positive experience, from prepping the candidate with the S.T.A.R Method, to maintaining strong lines of communication throughout the process. Here, we’ll discuss these and other methods of providing a good interview experience including:
Preparing candidates in advance
The first step to ensuring candidates have a positive interview experience is to prepare them for what the process involves. Providing candidates with as much information as you can ahead of the interview, not only demonstrates how you work, but can also showcase how you treat employees. This sets candidates up for a positive experience.
Three important things to tell candidates
When the interview is.
How long the interview process will take, the number of interview stages, and when you hope to make a decision.
Who is doing the interviewing.
How many interviewers will meet them, who they are, what their roles are within your organisation, and, in some cases, why you’re meeting them.
What else the candidate needs to know.
The format of the interview(s), what the candidate needs to prepare in advance, appropriate dress code, and possibly even the types of questions they can expect, etc.
Pro tip for preparing a candidate for interview
Send a calendar invite with details of where and when the interview is taking place, as well as details of who the candidate will meet.
How to get the most from your interview time
Because the interview stage has the potential to change everything you think about a candidate, and how that candidate feels about your company, it’s important to get the most benefit from your time together.
Personalise the interview.
Just because you have a list of standardised interview questions does not mean you can’t dig deeper into the candidate’s CV to personalise the interview by tailoring some questions to their unique experience and skills.
Equip candidates with the S.T.A.R method.
Some candidates are better at interviews than others, but that may not mean they’re the best person for the job. One way to ensure you get the information you need is to guide candidates through the S.T.A.R method of answering, or even send them this handy template.
Situation: What were the circumstances?
Task: What were the challenges involved?
Action: What action did you take?
Result: What was the impact of this action?
Standardise your evaluation.
A good way to streamline the interview process is to equip your interviewers with a standardised evaluation form before they meet each candidate. A standardised evaluation form, or scorecard, makes it easy to reference, rate, and compare all candidates.
Pro tip for getting the most out of your interview time
Giving candidates your preferred structure for answering questions can help put them at ease ahead of their interview.
Showcasing your company culture
Research has shown that company culture can affect your chances of attracting the top 20% of talent. But while anyone can say they have an amazing company culture, it can be much more difficult to demonstrate that culture during the short time you have with candidates.
Keep all your digital channels up to date.
As candidates will check you digital channels before the interview, you can get a head start on highlighting your company culture by keeping you company’s website, social media feeds, and LinkedIn page up to date with pictures and videos of your employees in real-life situations.
Get your team involved.
If a candidate comes into your building for their interview, encouraging their potential future team-mates to give an office tour, or just to share a coffee with them, can really bring your company culture to life.
Showcase your culture in your building.
Whether it’s photos from your last off-site hanging in reception, or a video of your employees taking part in a volunteering program, there are many ways to use the location of the interview to show your company culture to candidates.
Pro tip for showcasing company culture
To find out if a candidate will add to your culture, start from the bottom of the CV, using their interests and hobbies as an ice-breaker question.
What to avoid during the interview
When they have a positive interview experience, a candidate is twice as likely to recommend your company to others, even if they don’t actually get the job. Following the steps above can help, but it’s also important to know what causes a negative interview experience.
Things to avoid during the interview
Don’t dominate the conversation.
This is the candidate’s time to shine and they should do most of the talking during the interview. When a candidate speaks, you should not only listen to their answers but use their replies to spark further conversation.
Don’t check out during the interview.
If a candidate was checking emails or text messages during an interview, it’s likely you’d be frustrated. The same is true for candidates if an interviewer appears distracted by their phone or laptop. Use a pen and paper for taking notes instead. This will also help you to make eye contact and read body language during the interview.
Don’t overvalue soft skills.
Uncovering soft skills such as adaptability and leadership during the interview is important. However, without the required hard skills and knowledge—which you can test for by asking case study questions— even the most perfect culture fit will not be able to do the job. Ensure your candidates can demonstrate both.
Pro tip for ensuring a great interview
Use a wall clock to keep track of time. Looking at your watch or phone could lead a candidate to think you’re bored.
The best way to provide interview feedback
A critical, yet sometimes forgotten, part of a positive interview experience is how you provide feedback. According to LinkedIn research, over 90% of candidates want to receive feedback, even if they have been unsuccessful in their interview.
Keep your promises.
To provide the best interview experience, it’s important not to leave candidates in the dark. This means sticking to the agreed upon timelines from the start of the interview process. If that’s not possible, communicating any timeline changes as soon as you can should keep candidates content.
Never extend a time-sensitive offer.
When you have found your next great hire, it might seem like a good idea to give the successful candidate a narrow acceptance window, such as asking for a commitment within 48 hours. However, this can put unnecessary pressure on candidates and hurt their relationship with your organisation before they even accept.
Be mindful of rejected candidates too.
Nobody likes to deliver bad news, but rejecting candidates in an impersonal way—or even failing to tell them they have been unsuccessful—can leave them with a poor impression of your company. Taking the time to contact each unsuccessful candidate may seem arduous, but it will improve their experience and gives you a chance to reconnect if they are suitable for a future role.
Pro tip for providing feedback to candidates
Keep acceptance deadlines reasonable and start a dialogue with candidates who struggle to meet them.
A great interview experience is in your hands
In a competitive talent landscape, there are a lot of things out of your control, but there are many ways you and your team can have a positive impact on the interview experience.
From communicating timelines at the start, to giving post-interview feedback, it’s possible to provide candidates with a positive interview experience at all stages of the process.
This will leave them with the best impression of your organisation, even if they don’t get the job.