4 things that every candidate wants during the interview process

Improving your interview process

Picture this:

You manage to find a perfect candidate. This could be the one! You’ve had a telephone conversation, an in-person interview, and you’re excited to make the job offer. One problem – the candidate has just accepted another role. You’re too late, and now you’ve got to go back to the drawing board.

There is nothing more frustrating in recruitment than the scenario above. Not only is it costing your business money having an important role vacant, but the recruitment process requires your valuable time and attention.

How could you have retained this candidate’s interest? The secret lies in the candidate experience. It’s the way your candidate feels valued during the interview process. And when you offer a poor experience, candidates cool off and start searching elsewhere.

Filling a role with a great candidate is a two-way street. Companies expect a certain level of professionalism from someone looking to come on board – but candidates expect that same courtesy. In many cases, your candidate can also be your client (a perfect example is when you’re hiring for retail, customer service, and restaurant chains), so it’s important to leave them with a positive experience.

So, what are candidates looking for when they’re interviewing with you? We’ve broken it down:

Insight into the role

Candidates want to know what they are getting into. Be sure to give them as much information as they need to make an informed decision – this includes a proper job description that outlines tasks, compensation and benefits, and where the role could go in the future (i.e. Could this be a management role in five years?).

It’s also important for the job description to offer a sense of your company’s culture. The best way to figure out if yours does is to poll some of your current top talent. If you have the budget, perhaps consider revamping your employer brand material to make sure that a candidate sees the whole picture, can make an informed decision, and stay interested in working for you.

Visibility into your hiring process

You’ve met with your candidate – what happens next? That’s what your candidate wants to know. What does the overall process look like for your company? How much time will it take you to make your final decision? How much longer will they have to wait to hear back?

Candidate disengagement often comes from the feeling like they are in a black hole. Waiting two weeks to get back to an applicant is too long. A reasonable time to get back to a candidate with next steps is two to four days. If the process is going to take longer, make sure you set precedence for follow-up, and stick to that promised date. Even if you don’t have a final decision, a simple e-mail or phone call letting the candidate know they are still in the running goes a long way.

Additionally, roles often get cancelled or go on hold after candidates are already in the pipeline. If this occurs, do the courteous thing and let the candidate(s) know as soon as possible so they can continue their search, or decide to wait for your role to reopen.

Reduced duration of the recruitment process

Time-to-fill is a metric that all companies should be tracking. This measures the length of time between a job opening to a candidate’s first day in the job. Time-to-fill should be monitored year-after-year to ensure that the number is not creeping up. Candidates in high-demand will usually fall off at the late stages of the recruitment process because of the experience being cumbersome.

Waiting to see if someone else (i.e. “better”) will apply when you already have a good candidate doesn’t always improve the candidate quality. In fact, it might just be the opposite – a great candidate who is keen to work for your company has taken the initiative to apply ASAP; they’re eager to be part of your company, and you’re still shopping around.

Look at your time-to-fill. In North America, the 2016 average time-to-fill is 39 days. If your company’s time-to-fill is longer than this, you should take a deeper dive into ways to identify and alleviate recruitment bottlenecks.

Communication and follow up

The most obvious, yet frequently overlooked, element of the recruitment process is timely and regular communication. When the trail “goes cold,” candidates assume that they are no longer in the running and will pursue other options. It’s your job to keep the candidate engaged.

Sometimes, a candidate is being hotly pursued by another company at the same time they are interviewing with you. The candidate is going to naturally lean towards the organization that puts in the better effort to make them feel valued and respected.

A way to gauge if a candidate is actively looking (and it’s safe to assume that most are) is to simply ask. An example of a reasonable question is: “Would you please keep us in the loop if you decide to accept another position?”

If they feel valued during the process, most candidates will follow up on their status. This said, you need to uphold your end of the bargain too, and let them know where you’re at in your process.

Quite simply, candidates not only want, but deserve courtesy. They want to know that their time is valued. A great candidate experience starts with respect and open dialogue. A poor candidate experience can hurt your recruitment efforts, and result in bad PR if the candidate takes their experience to social media (such as Glassdoor or Facebook). If you follow some of these simple best practices, you’ll save yourself some of the frustration involved with losing that perfect candidate, and your candidate experience will improve overall.


Sonya Matheson is a recruitment and employer branding consultant with Workopolis. Specializing in candidate experience, she has been working to help companies hire better for over 15 years.

See also:
7 reasons why performance reviews are still important for your small business
5 steps to setting goals with your team


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