Why Your Interview Process Should Be A Two-Way Street

Way too often the interview process is looked at as a way for the candidate to impress their prospective new employer, with no regard to how the employer should also be in ‘wooing’ mode. If you’re in the traditional mindset that an interview is structured so the candidate can win over the employer, you may need to rethink your motives here. What employers are failing to realize is the interview process is best compared to your dating experience. Think of it this way, during the first date you can get a pretty good idea of how well the two of you will mesh. You learn more about your date, their interests, hobbies, family, and values, and of course, they learn the same from you. 

Can you imagine walking into a first date that is completely one-sided? One person asks questions, yet answers none. In this case, the person asking questions might have a good understanding of who their date is and if they are compatible, but the person on the opposite end has not a clue. You can see how an interview like this might leave the job seeker a little confused and cautious about moving forward. The interview process is in place to make sure both parties are a good fit, so your process should reflect that sentiment. 

First Impressions Matter

Having been on both sides of the table during the interview process, I’ve learned how important the little details are when welcoming a candidate into your office. As an interviewer, we can so easily forget the small gestures when gathering a candidate from the lobby. Things such as taking the candidate’s jacket, offering a drink such as coffee or water, or making sure they are properly introduced to all those interviewing are such minute, but very important details.

Chances are the candidate will not notice if you don’t offer them a beverage, but they certainly will take note when you do. It shows that your office is a warm, welcoming environment and that you care about the comfort of others. What better way to start off an interview? I’ve always been impressed when I walk into an interview and the interviewer takes the time to ensure I am comfortable. 

Ask Questions and Welcome Questions, Too

Of course, the purpose of the interview is to learn more about the candidate, their experiences, aspirations, and goals, but it shouldn’t end there. In order for you both to get a full view of whether or not this relationship is one worth pursuing, the candidate will need to learn more about your company’s goals and aspirations as well. While you’re asking questions make sure to truly listen to your candidate’s answer and find ways to fill in more information about the company/position in between your question set. 

For example, you can ask “What is your experience with content creation?” From their answer, you can elaborate a bit more on how content creation is an important component of the job. Tell them about how your team creates content, the process you go through to brainstorm, come up with concepts, and implement them. This will give them a better idea as to how the actual ‘day-to-day’ will look in this position, ultimately helping them see if it is a good fit. 

Introduce Potential Co-Workers Throughout

Whether your company has three standard interviews, or five, you should make sure to sprinkle in other people during the interview process. I find it to work best when you allow for interaction between the candidate and their potential colleagues. Let’s say you went through the initial interview with the job candidate and decided you want to bring them in for a second interview; this is the perfect opportunity to have them interact with someone in the position they are currently applying for.

First of all, meeting with a potential colleague is great simply because they can present a more realistic view of what the job will look like. Things such as on-the-job learning, job growth and movement, how promotions work, and the overall structure of the team are really great points a peer can better communicate. It’s also always a good idea to give the team a glimpse of the candidates who are applying so they can have a say in who they would like to see fill the open position. 

One important note I will stress, should you decide to go this route, is to make sure you prep your team for the interview. Sending a peer out into an interview with no knowledge of legal guidelines can be very damaging for your company. I once was interviewing with a company who sent in a younger peer would I would be working closely with if I got the position. She immediately asked me my age, marital status, where I live, if I own or rent, etc. You can see how this can get bad very quickly. If you’re going to go the peer interview route, make sure you send everyone in prepared and give them basic guidelines to follow. 

Set Communication Expectations and Meet Them

You should be open and honest about your timeline from the start. When I conduct interviews I like to give candidates a timeline for the hiring process so they have a better idea of what to expect and when they should hear back. If you have a lot of people in the hiring process this can be tricky, but you should still have some loose ideas on when you will have an answer, or simply move from first interviews to second interviews, and so on. 

Unless the job seeker is a recent college grad, they likely have an existing job and will need to plan ahead for upcoming interviews. Be as respectful of their time as you would want them to be of yours. Tell them what they can expect as far as how many interviews will take place in total and when your ideal candidate would start their new position. This will allow for them to adjust their plans as needed in order to make sure they can fit into your timeline. 

This goes for the follow-up between interviews as well. Every candidate you interview should be made aware of the entire process timeline, so even if you choose to move forward without them, they should be made aware as soon as possible. Don’t leave candidates hanging; if you have time to interview them, you certainly have time to send them an email explaining why you chose to move on without them. After all, if they received a different offer during their interview with you, you would likely appreciate their correspondence of such. 

Your Sole Focus is Candidate Experience

If you haven’t noticed, there is a bit of a theme going on here. When it’s all said and done, you’re crafting the candidate’s experience. From the first outreach to schedule the interview to your job offer (or rejection letter), you are shaping the candidate’s perception of your company, so you need to keep a conscious effort in doing so. The last thing you want is to misrepresent your company, find the perfect candidate, offer them the position, and ultimately have them decline due to poor experience or unmet expectations early on. Do not forget that the interviewee is interviewing you just as much as you are them.