We’re currently in the midst of one of the worst talent shortages in recent history. According to Manpower’s 10th annual Talent Shortage Survey, more than a third of employers worldwide are having trouble hiring everyone from skilled trade workers to sales executives, accountants, IT workers, and office support staff. And nearly three-quarters of CEOs surveyed recently by PwC said they’re worried about being able to fill key roles.
The balance of power in many corners of the job market is tipping away from companies and towards highly qualified candidates–which is upping the competition among employers. The need for companies to rethink how they attract and hire has hardly been greater. And it all starts with improving the old-school, face-to-face, onsite interview.
Interviewing by phone, Skype, or video-conferencing is more common now than ever, but none of those methods have made in-person interviews in the company’s offices any less important. They’re still a crucial part of every employer’s brand.
Why? First, they tend to be the longest and most meaningful part of the hiring process, and they’re still typically the last step before both sides make a decision. Second, according to a recent finding from The Talent Board, nearly half of all candidates don’t have a prior relationship with the companies they’re considering working for.
That makes the interview an especially crucial opportunity for employers to sell promising candidates on their brands and showcase what makes them unique. Even for applicants who don’t get the offer, a great interview can still create a positive brand perceptions in the job market and give you a leg up on competitors.
It doesn’t take much to give your interview strategy a boost, but it shouldn’t be up to your HR team alone. In fact, one recent study found that more companies are charging their CEOs and marketing teams with shaping employer brands. Consider setting up a hiring committee that draws on your marketing and HR teams, senior executives, and even recent hires who can offer up-to-date feedback on the process that led to them coming on board.
It starts before a candidate even walks through the door. Interviewers know they’ll get a better, more honest interview out of candidates who feel relaxed and confident. So prepare candidates ahead of time. Tell them what they can expect during their time on site–whom they’ll be meeting with, in what order, and for how long.
Some companies are trying to become more transparent about the interview process itself and what it’s designed to reveal. Google’s website, for example, is packed with detailed information on how its process works, what it’s looking for, and plenty of interview tips and tricks.
Similarly, Stripe shares a comprehensive guide with candidates that includes an overview, links to recommended reading, and a blog post from a Stripe employee about the kinds of questions she asks during interviews. Netflix also uses this stage to promote its company culture and help potential employees understand what they value by sharing its infamous culture deck along with employee testimonials.
The morning of a major interview can be stressful, even for even the most seasoned executive, and companies that go the extra mile will leave a lasting impression. A common concern is making it to the interview on time and not getting lost on the way. Give candidates clear instructions for getting to the office, parking tips, and any information they’ll need to access the building.
When the candidate first sets foot in your office, there are some easy ways to make a great first impression. My company, Hired, has a giant whiteboard welcoming everyone who’s interviewing as soon as they step outside the elevator. They’re greeted by our office coordinator, offered a drink, and directed where to wait for their first interview. This all seems minor, but it’s a good way to set someone at ease and show that you’re as excited to have them as they are to be there. Leaving a candidate to awkwardly hang around the front desk waiting to be welcomed is the worst possible way to kick things off.
If you have candidates coming in for a long day or half-day of interviews, plan in advance and anticipate their needs. So many companies don’t provide food or tell candidates where they can grab some lunch nearby–or even offer a break at all. If someone’s going to be in your office for four hours or more, offer snacks and some time for a breather at a minimum. Better yet, have them grab lunch with other employees who can advocate for your company and offer some thoughts on what it’s like working there.
Many companies wait until their new hires’ first days on the job to take them around. Even if you don’t have flashy digs, showing off the atmosphere of your office can help candidates get a better sense of what it’s like to work there. Finally, be respectful of candidates’ time when they’re on site. Don’t spring extra interviews on them or go over the allotted time.
Even if you don’t extend an offer, keep in mind that interviews are typically the culmination of hours of work and preparation on a candidate’s part. So be respectful. Outline next steps at the end of the interview, either verbally or by email within 24 hours of meeting with the candidate. It goes without saying that all the effort you put into hosting a great interview is for nought if you don’t move quickly on candidates you want to make an offer to. It’s in your best interest to capitalize on those positive vibes.
If you decide to reject someone, be as thoughtful as possible in your response–it shouldn’t feel canned. According to The Talent Board, fewer than one in five candidates gets a meaningful response after interviewing. Common decency aside, there are strategic reasons for leaving candidates with a good impression about your company. They might be a good fit for a different role later on or talk about the experience with their friends or professional contacts. All of that matters more in a competitive talent market.
People will assume that the way they’re treated as a candidate reflects how they’ll be treated as an employee. Prove that assumption right. If you truly think of interviewing as an extension of your marketing and branding efforts, you’ll start to treat every candidate who comes through your doors the same way you would a valuable customer or prospective partner. If you don’t, there’s a competitor down the street who will.
Matt Mickiewicz is the cofounder and chief product officer for Hired, the company on a mission to empower everyone to find a job they love. Matt is a serial entrepreneur who previously cofounded 99designs, Flippa, and SitePoint. Follow him on Twitter at @MattMickiewicz.