Tips for Humanizing the Interview Process


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I often think about how closely aligned the hiring process is to marketing. You’re looking for a new employee, and you want to find the right match for your company. You also want to make sure that your company is the right match for the potential employee. The entire process can be broken down into a simple question: Will your potential employee have a good user experience while applying?

Anyone who has ever applied for a job knows that the interview process can be complex, confusing and nervewracking. But, employers have the ability to make the process easy and even enjoyable for potential employees. But, not every company thinks about the candidate’s side of the process.

In fact, many companies not even know what it’s like to complete their own hiring process. From online application sites, automated services and one-way interviews to bland job descriptions and one-sided conversations, too often the hiring process doesn’t reflect the institution’s true mission and community. The process was designed to make things easier for the company, which unfortunately could turn away the ideal candidate.

Not all is lost, however, and these tips could help you find and attract the best talent.

Sell yourself to your candidates

It’s a two-way street. The hiring process is as much about the institution finding the best candidate as it is about the candidate finding the best institution. Scroll through any job site and you’ll undoubtedly come across hundreds of job descriptions that read exactly the same way as yours, despite them representing drastically different institutions, industries and communities. How is a candidate supposed to know what’s right for her?

Don’t just list the various tasks and strategic initiatives that candidates would engage in, describe your institution, your culture, your community. Take the time to really sell yourself to the candidates, as they are choosing you as much as you are choosing them.

Relish in the perks that come with joining your ranks and embrace the type of environment you offer. Mention the office culture, dress code, amenities and benefits that are available to employees. Is your place of work more laid back in nature, dog-friendly with a “jeans and t-shirt” dress code that offers ping pong tables and all the snacks you could want? Shout it from the rooftops. Is your company more corporate in nature with a formal business dress code, stock options, and structured growth opportunities? Own it! There are individuals who seek each type of work atmosphere, and you want to find the people who will thrive in your particular environment.

More and more companies are also infusing their job descriptions with not only the hard skills that candidates need to do the job well but also soft skills that help them thrive within the community. Think about how you would describe your top employees both in terms of professional success and personality and use those terms in your job description.

Be true to who you are as a company and you’ll find candidates who will thrive in the environment you offer. Plus, touting those perks could help you stand out among the hundreds and even thousands of other opportunities available to job seekers.

Embrace the Good and Not So Good

Be honest in the job description about what you need, what your goals are and what you can offer both now and in the future. Don’t focus on your pie-in-the-sky strategic dreams for the position when right now, the truth is that you’re working off a bare-bones budget and have a list of mundane tasks that need to get done. If that’s the case, be honest about both your needs right now and your goals for the future.

The right candidate will embrace the work that needs to get done now and aspire to the same dreams that you have. Share the challenges that your candidates may face if offered the job and what impact they might have on the company. For many candidates, job satisfaction includes being able to make a difference and knowing that they can have an impact on your processes and procedures may actually get someone more excited about the job, than just talking about the future.

Hiding your shortcomings won’t be in the best interest of your candidates or your institution.

Assess Your Automation

Automation definitely has value in the hiring process, but it’s important to assess how it impacts your overall process. No one will argue that hiring managers can receive hundreds of applications and weeding through them can be a chore. Setting up automatic responses to applications coming in can be a great way to minimize the need to reach out to every applicant individually, but still confirm that their materials have been reviewed.

Some companies have embraced automation to further determine candidate compatibility. Personality tests, additional survey questions and even skill assessments can be useful ways to further narrow down the field of candidates, especially when you’re receiving hundreds of applications.

However, it’s important to assess whether automation is right for your institution. If you tout a community that focuses on knowing the individual, a series of automated tasks might not be the best way to represent your institution and connect with candidates. While automation has value, companies need to be sure that it won’t deter qualified candidates from continuing on through the hiring process.

Two-Way Conversations

Nothing beats face-to-face interaction, whether it’s in person or via an online chat. Having an opportunity to interact with your candidates can help you get a feel for what they would be like on a daily basis.

A new trend is to ask for a one-way video interview or audio session, which requires the candidate to film and/or record themselves talking to their computer. This can be a great way to assess a candidate’s speaking abilities and allow you to share the recording with others in your institution.

However, for some candidates, this can be an impersonal experience, and for some, an intimidating experience. The idea of speaking to your computer and recording a monologue for a company you may not know well and people you don’t know at all can deter some candidates from even continuing. Candidates may have questions about the job or the company, that prohibits them from answering properly.

Someone is going to have to watch the videos in the long run, so taking the time to do a two-way video chat can help you get to know the candidate better, and gives the candidate a chance to interact with you. If you want to record the candidate’s responses, then a screencast of the two-way interview might be a great compromise; just make sure the candidate knows you’re taping the conversation.

Another aspect of providing a quality two-way conversation is to make sure both sides have a chance to talk. Make sure your interviews are long enough to allow for both sides to ask questions and respond. You’re selling your institution to the candidate as much as the candidate is selling him/herself to you. Bombarding your interviewees with a long list of questions and not giving them a chance to ask their own can often leave them with a bad taste.

Chances are, your candidates will want to know more about you and your organization. While you would hope that the candidate has done some homework on your institution before an interview, it’s important to remember that only you truly know the ins and outs of the environment. Whether you’re on the phone or in person, you might consider starting by talking about yourself personally, the company and the job. This approach invites conversation and can often put the candidate at ease.

As such, launching straight into the “Why do you want to work for us?” type questions might not be the best way to go. In many cases, candidates only know what can be found online, and isn’t sure yet if they truly want to work for you; they are still in the “get to know you” phase. Use this as an opportunity to provide reasons why they should want to work for you.

Follow Up

Common courtesy often goes out the door in job searches. Not many candidates send thank you notes these days and not many companies take the time to follow up with applicants to let them know their application has been received or that the position has been filled. If you automate the process for acknowledging applications being received, you can tell candidates that they will only hear from you if they will progress through the process.

It’s also helpful to let a candidate know your anticipated timeframe for hiring. If you plan to collect resumes for three months, say that up front, either in the job description or in your follow up confirmation. If you’re hoping to move quickly and hire within a few weeks, also make that clear. These timelines can help you eliminate candidates whose own hiring timelines don’t align, and it can keep some candidates at ease, knowing they may have to wait a while.

Once a candidate begins the interview process, the level of communication required changes. Once assessments or phone interviews have begun, it’s important to follow up with them. Many job searches can take a long time to complete, and you want to make sure you don’t lose a qualified individual because you stopped communicating.

You might consider trying to touch base with your top prospects every two or three weeks and keep them updated on the progress of the search. And, once you complete your search, be sure to reach out to everyone who was interviewed to let them know they didn’t receive the job.

It’s especially important to reach out to your top candidates personally when they don’t get the job. They may be individuals that you want to keep on your radar for future openings or contract work, and you may want to add them to your professional network. Maintaining professional connections can be beneficial to both parties in the future.

Test Your Hiring Process

Have you taken the time to go through your own hiring process lately, from start to finish? You might be surprised by what you discover along the way, both positive and negative. If your hiring process is simple and inviting to the user, let them know that in the job description. But, if you go through the process and find that it is less than perfect, look for ways to improve it.

Job application sites like Indeed and Monster strive to make the application process simple for the user. But, many companies go on to complicate the process. Some of the most common job application site challenges include registration issues, required duplication of information, hard to use import services, and a confusing interface.

Test your process to see how long it takes to complete from start to finish, and see if everything works well. You risk losing qualified candidates if they can’t easily apply on your site. Try out your document uploading process, and make sure the steps to upload and submit those documents is clear and easy. A candidate not including a cover letter might be a direct result of your service not accepting two documents.

Make sure there’s adequate contact information should your candidate need help to complete your process. Sometimes, candidates have questions or want you to know that something is working correctly, and if they don’t know how to get in touch with you, then you risk losing them altogether.

Be true to your word.

If you’re going to use a site like Indeed or Monster, but want the applicant to apply in a different manner, make sure that process is clear and don’t allow them to submit via the service. Offering an “easy apply” via one of these job sites but then requiring a more lengthy application process, in the end, can feel like a bit of a bait & switch to the candidate, which can leave them wondering if this is indicative of your company’s regular practices.

Along the same lines, many companies require an application to be completed but will allow the user to upload a resume instead of completing endless fields of information. However, make sure that your application doesn’t require the user to still duplicate the details of their resume within the application. Offering a checkbox at each section that says, “see resume” can be an easy way to stay true to your promise of allowing applicants to use a formal resume instead of completing the application.

The Bottom Line

Finding the right candidate can be a challenge, but it’s important to make sure that you’re not sabotaging your own process. Many candidates will jump through hoops to land the perfect job, but if the candidate struggles to complete your application process or connect with you during the interview process, that can be problematic.

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