Six years ago, I watched a CEO burst into my scheduled job interview with a blunt, “So, what are you interviewing here for? What job? What’s this about, anyway?”
Unnerved, despite having prepped for the position and company, I flinched, then fumbled for answers. In that moment, I know I lost both the job and respect for the company, realizing the CEO probably had zero briefing by the hiring manager and hadn’t cared enough to pre-scan my resume, skills or potential company fit.
First impressions count
The interview process is often the first touch a candidate has with an employer brand, culture or management style. That makes it critical to work closely with hiring managers and interviewers to come ready to ask pertinent questions, reflect your organization’s core values and treat every candidate like a potential client.
Today, it’s all too easy for job candidates to paint a critical picture of your interview process (and reputation) to friends, ex-colleagues and wider job market on social channels, including Glassdoor.
Creating a pre-interview (or interview preparation) checklist, game plan or toolkit can help ensure your team uncovers what makes a candidate a great fit (or not), optimize your colleagues’ time and leave candidates (hired or not) with a professional impression of your company.
The Interview Preparation Checklist for Employers
1. Define your interview pre-game
To up your interview game, confer with recruiters and team members before interviews kick off. An organized interview process helps ensure the right people ask on-target questions, have time to scan candidates for culture fit and keep candidates interested in and engaged with your company.
“Do you know what a hiring manager really wants? Many times, recruiters can get caught up filling a requisition with an existing manager, and we may not be asking the right questions when engaging with new candidates,” writes Proactive Talent Strategies Lead Consultant Peter Lawson in Does Your Interview Process Suck?
“To avoid this, take the time to sit with your hiring manager and dig into what they really want to see in a candidate profile and process. This is the time to set a strong foundation for realistic candidate expectations.”
2. Create an interview dossier
￼Before they walk into an interview, interviewers should not only know exactly whom they’re meeting, but also what they’re assessing.
At Greenhouse, an ATS and recruiting optimization provider, interviewers are sent a formal interview kit—think of as a dossier—with candidate information, resume and scorecard.
Leaving less to chance, the scorecard includes requisites defined by the hiring manager, including those to focus on, e.g., “leadership qualities” or “collaborative skills.” Post-interview, each interviewer ranks a candidate in each category, a great way to encourage objectivity.
For maximum efficiency, the kit also includes pre-set sample questions to assess those traits. Neat, smart and appreciated by time-crunched workers, this prepares and focuses interviewers, maximizing efficiency.
3. Coach poor interviewers
An interview process is only as strong as its weakest link.
From personal experience, there’s nothing worse than having an unprepared interviewer or loose cannon in the room with a candidate. Wandering off point, asking inappropriate questions (e.g., about age, religion or gender) or monopolizing precious interview minutes wastes everyone’s time and leaves a bad taste with candidates.
Greenhouse advises “taking the onus off the hiring manager by holding interview trainings yourself… You may not have time to train everyone individually, but it’s worth the time and effort to identify room for improvement.”
In other words, consider interviewing your interviewers beforehand, especially if you will have tag-team or group interviews, rather than standard one-one-ones. Deciding whom will ask what, e.g., based on their own area of expertise, will streamline the process, elicit more varied candidate responses and lead to a more engaging candidate experience.
4. Ask the hard questions
Don’t shy away from tough questions; just have a purpose for asking them, e.g., how well will the candidate sync with a team or department.
In fact, new Glassdoor Economic Research titled Do Difficult Job Interviews Lead to More Satisfied Workers? says a 10 percent more difficult job interview process is associated with 2.6 percent higher employee satisfaction later on, based on pairs of interview reviews and company reviews left by individual employees on Glassdoor.
“Brain teasers, business problems, behavioral questions and coding tests are routinely used to identify candidates best-fit for the position,” notes Dr. Andrew Chamberlain and Ayal Chen-Zion. “Not only are hiring managers looking for the smartest and most creative candidate, but in today’s competitive hiring landscape, they are also looking for the best cultural fit.”
5. Don’t slip into darkness
After the interview, try not to leave candidates hanging on their status. For job seekers, there is nothing more annoying than having no idea where they stand in the interview process, positive or negative. Many a great candidate is lost to company indifference or delay, often to industry competitors.
A good rule of thumb to take to heart is “treat every candidate like a customer.” In short, “close the loop” with every applicant, from initial resume submission to interview appearance. This engagement will pay employer brand dividends when candidates spread the word about your interview process to others via word of mouth or reviews on Glassdoor.
6. Check your interview reviews and ratings
Speaking of reviews, have you checked what candidates are saying about your interview process on Glassdoor? Consider it free, often actionable advice that can help you address sore points or weak experiences noted by candidates.
Then, are you responding when a candidate notes a bad experience? Remember, 62 percent of job seekers say their perception of a company improves after seeing an employer respond to a review (Glassdoor U.S. Site Survey, January 2016).
Two final words on interview prep
Had I known about Glassdoor before my close CEO encounter in 2010, I would have: a) done my due diligence on the company’s interview process, looking for warning flags so I wouldn’t be caught flat-footed, and b) filed a post-interview review, warning others what to expect and suggesting the company do a better job on interview prep.
For more inspiration, read 10 Ways to Build Better Hiring Relationships with Hiring Managers from Greenhouse.