Whether as a candidate or as a hiring manager, every professional has experienced an awkwardly formal job interview. There's always a stiff handshake, followed by a long sequence of basic questions and rehearsed answers. The candidate is often overdressed, and sometimes the interviewers are too, to keep up appearances.
These types of stiff, formal interviews don't work. They don't help companies determine if the candidate is a strong fit, and they definitely don't give the candidate a good understanding of the company culture they're looking to join.
Instead, try flipping the script with a casual interview. You want candidates to impress you, of course, but you also want to them to believe they're joining a great place to work. To excel in a tough hiring market, keep your interviews casual, starting with these three tips.
Casual interviews showcase your culture
A more relaxed interview is the perfect way to show off your company culture. This starts with the people you have in the room--it's important to have multiple levels of staffers join the conversation. If you stock your interview with executives, you give the impression of a hierarchical culture where lower-tier employees' opinions are less valued. Not only does this potentially intimidate the candidate, but it also may exclude the candidate's future teammates from the discussion.
Beyond that, there are other ways to showcase your culture. If your company has a business casual dress code, there's no need for interviewers to wear suits. If you have a relaxed office environment, don't hold the interview in your formal boardroom.
You can even showcase the perks your culture offers to employees. For example, Utah direct-selling firm Nu Skin offers coupons to their company store in order to showcase the monthly product allowance they offer employees. These types of steps demonstrate the type of culture candidates can look forward to if they eventually accept the job.
You can better discover soft skills
Résumés are typically a collection of credentials and job titles, and it can be difficult to identify a candidate's soft skills before the interview. But according to the 2019 Global Talent Trends Report, 80 percent of HR and business leaders believe soft skills are increasingly important to company success.
To uncover a candidate's soft skills, it's important to make the interview into a casual conversation. While a formal interview might lead a candidate to reflexively state the most impressive points on their résumé, it's more helpful for the candidate to share the stories behind their résumé, including how they succeeded and what skills made the difference.
Formal conversations make people feel as if they can't speak freely. Keep things informal, and you'll get a better glimpse of the candidate as a person. Remember, you aren't just determining if the interviewee can do the work required--you also need to know if they're a good fit for your business. A casual interview will reveal far more nuances in a candidate than a formal one.
Remember: Nobody's perfect
Because casual interviews invite candidates to speak freely, it's possible that more weaknesses and imperfections will be on display than in a formal discussion where the potential employee can stick to their prepared answers. As an interviewer, it's important to keep a candidate's shortcomings in perspective--it's better to have a full picture of a future employee before you make the hire, rather than discovering a list of flaws after they've joined your team.
Conversely, a casual interview gives a more authentic picture of your company. Your workplace isn't perfect, but a formal interview might give that impression. You want employees to join your team having a clear understanding of what your company stands for, what you value as a leader, and what types of people tend to thrive at your organization. People are happier at work when they know what is expected of them and what they can expect in return.
A casual interview is still an interview. Be prepared, but make the atmosphere a conversation rather than an interrogation. Showcasing your culture, keeping stress levels low, and understanding that everyone has weaknesses is how you'll get the right people in the right seats.