By the time a qualified candidate decides to apply, they’ve already formed expectations about what our recruiting process will be like. After all, we’ve done a lot of work to establish an employer brand. If candidates find our screening process responsive and intuitively easy to navigate, they tend to follow our predetermined information-gathering path. Once our initial contact bridge is digitally or manually crossed, they’re “in the system” and their time-tolerance clock starts ticking.

We’re competing for the right person so our screening process should be consistent with our brand and mirror the reality they’ll face on the job. Keep in mind we’re looking at this from the applicant’s viewpoint. Scheduling that first interview is a chance to solidify their initial impression and set the tone for a face-to-face conversation.

I’m a big believer in the “hire-slow-fire-fast” school. What message does it send when we hire someone with one interview? It’s a lot like offering what you think is a ridiculously low price for a car and having it immediately accepted. What’s wrong with the car? Someone walks into their first interview and they’re offered a position within 30 minutes. What’s wrong with the company?

That being said, if we stretch things out too far, candidates can get impatient and lose interest. The ideal time span varies depending on industry norms, company culture, and hiring manager desperation; none of which matter to an applicant. At every step, we need to be deliberate about the message we send and the expectations we set. What do you want candidates spreading over social media about the way they were handled?

Here are a few guidelines that can help manage a candidate’s interview experience:

  • If they will be working with more than one person, have them interview with more than one person.
  • If correspondence is part of the job, ask for a writing sample.
  • Help them “see” themselves in the position by giving them time in their potential workspace.
  • Introduce them to their peer group (peer conversations are better yet).
  • Use behavior-based questions based on competencies required to do the job well.
  • Give them real problem scenarios that come from actual successes and failures.
  • Prepare a list of questions well before the interview and keep them relevant to the job.
  • Refrain from stupid questions unless, of course, answering stupid questions is part of the job (and we all know some favorites that include animal comparisons, favorite foods, or inappropriate metaphors).
  • Provide context and training for interviewers. Make sure they know enough employment law to keep everyone out of trouble.

The key here is to emulate working conditions (which should align with our employer brand) in the interview process. Practiced consistently, a structured process can build trust in the right candidates, repel the wrong candidates, and limit on-boarding surprises.

Each step in a worker’s journey either accelerates the next, hinders progress, or triggers an unexpected separation. Interviewing sets the stage for a new hire’s acclimation speed in the next step of the journey: On-boarding. We’ll look into some on-boarding best practices next time.