How often has this happened to you? You get what seems like the perfect applicant for an open position. You interview the candidate by phone, then in your office, and you’re extremely impressed. You’re certain this candidate would be asset to your company, so you offer him or her the job. Only to be turned down.
What went wrong? Maybe it was the interview process itself. “Many leaders are missing the mark and losing top talent by failing to deliver a quality candidate experience,” says Lisa Brown Morton, CEO of Nonprofit HR, a human resources firm serving the nonprofit sector. You need to keep prospective hires engaged and interested throughout the hiring process if you want to bring in top talent, she says. “It starts from the moment they send in their application and lasts till the day they get hired.”
How do you create a hiring process that makes candidates to want to work for you? Here’s Morton’s advice:
1. Remember that every interview is a two-way street.
“During the application process, you're interviewing the candidate, but they're also analyzing you,” Morton says. They’ll be trying to figure out whether your organization can deliver the career benefits they’re looking for. They’ll also be wondering how willing you are to invest in them.”
You may not care much about a specific candidate, but a bad interview experience can extend way beyond one person. Morton reports that 51 percent of job applicants share information about their interview experiences on social media. Positive comments can boost your brand and help raise interest among your talent pool. Negative comments can damage your reputation among high performers, who may come to see your company as a place they wouldn’t want to work.
2. Never leave anyone hanging.
It’s a simple matter of following the Golden Rule, Morton says–treat applicants the way you would want to be treated if you were applying for a job. “Stay in close communication with top applicants during the entire process, communicate quickly with those who do not fit your criteria, and acknowledge questions and submissions in a timely manner,” she says.
3. Ask the right questions.
Interviewees will pay close attention to the questions you ask. They’ll use them to try to figure out what working at your organization would be like. So make sure to ask the questions top candidates most want to hear. That means asking questions that demonstrate that you’ve read the material they sent and understand how the candidate could contribute to your team. “Try questions like, ‘I see you grew donations for your old employer's capital campaign 25 percent in the three years you were there. Do you think you could achieve the same outcomes at our organization? What barriers do you expect you'd face?’” Morton suggests.
You should also ask forward-looking questions that tell candidates they’ll have a future at your company, she advises. For example, “Where would you like to be within our team in two, three, or five years?”
4. Introduce them to a prospective co-worker.
It’s important to give job candidates a clear sense of your company’s culture, Morton says. “One way to do this would be to pull in an additional person from the team to share more about their day-to-day interactions and how they operate. Letting candidates hear this from a third party will give them new insight into the company and they’ll get to meet someone else on the team.”
5. Give them an office tour.
This can be another great way to let the candidate get to know your culture, Morton says. “Walk candidates around, introduce them to a few of your staff members and allow them to get a sneak peek into what the environment is like.” You can also do a soft sell, telling the candidate in a casual way what you love about your workplace during the tour.
6. Be honest about the downsides of taking the job.
This may seem counterintuitive, but if you’re honest about the not-so-great aspects of working for your company, candidates will be likelier to believe you when you talk about the great ones. “Show your culture proudly and truthfully,” Morton says. “There are both positive and negative aspects of every position. While you should certainly emphasize the positive, being open about the challenges a candidate could face might actually help you recruit better, more committed team members who truly understand and embrace the job they’re signing up for.”
New hires who come in with a thorough knowledge of both the position and your company–good and bad–are likelier to stay, she adds. That will save you from having to start over again soon with a new crop of job applicants.