If you have ever hired anyone, you know that the process of finding the right candidate for a job can be grueling. But at least you hope to enjoy the satisfaction of hiring the perfect candidate by the end of it. For employers, perhaps the greatest frustration comes when your ideal candidate refuses the offer.
The decision to reject a job offer usually stems from a complex variety of reasons, many of which you as the employer cannot influence or change. However there is one area that you do control: the interview and selection experience.
Employers often miss out on their best candidates because of (often unintentional) messages that they send through their selection process. So here are my tips on how to improve the candidate experience, and improve your chances that the ideal candidate will be delighted to sign on the dotted line.
In your ad, be honest and explicit
The relationship with your potential employee begins when they read your job description and requirements. Do your candidates the courtesy of stating clearly what you are looking for, including the job title, what the job includes, and the requirements. Make sure the title is a true reflection of the content and the seniority of the position. If you try to get someone to do a senior job for less money because the title is more junior, or if you try to attract someone experienced for a lower level role by glorifying the title, you are setting both sides up for disappointment, as well as eroding trust before you have even met your potential employee. Tell the truth, and be prepared to compensate your chosen candidate appropriately for the role.
Communication before the interview: respect and humanity go a long way
When a candidate is asked to come in for an interview, s/he is usually delighted. However the way that communication is made has an impact as well, and can often cool the candidates’ enthusiasm considerably. If it takes you over a month to respond to the candidate’s application, if you show no flexibility as to the date and time of the interview, and if your tone (whether by phone or by email) is condescending, cold or disrespectful, your candidate will take it as a bad sign for the future.
During the interview: get your information without belittling your candidate
The interview has evolved into a sophisticated interaction, where the candidate’s responses, body language and reactions to unexpected situations all fall under scrutiny. For the interviewer, it can be easy in this kind of situation to forget that fact that the person across from you is a human being with feelings, ideals, hopes and fears, just like you. But keeping that awareness, even while conducting a sophisticated interview process, can make all the difference in the world. It can remind you to maintain your warmth, sense of humor, and respect for your candidate as a human being throughout a process that is grueling and challenging for you as well as for them.
Follow up: a sure sign of a gentleman or woman
Probably the most disrespectful thing you can do to a candidate is to keep them hanging indefinitely after an interview. Even if you really have not made a decision one way or another, and are still interviewing other candidates, everyone deserves the respect of basic follow up communication. Sending an email thanking them for their time, telling them when they can expect to hear from you, and informing them what the process will include if they are chosen to move to the next step, all demonstrate respect. A candidate who feels respected during the process will be much more inclined to accept the job if it is offered.
I wish I didn’t even have to say this. If a candidate requests confidentiality, they mean it. They are going out on a limb by interviewing with you while they are still at their current job. You have no permission to discuss their application with anyone beyond the decision makers at your company, until you receive permission and references from the candidate. They have trusted you with confidential information; be worthy of that trust.
Negotiate with principle and integrity
An employment negotiation can be stressful for both sides. Both employer and candidate have needs and are trying to get the best deal they can. This kind of situation can lend itself to some negative interpersonal behaviors, including power plays, threats, and bullying. But it does not have to be that way. A skilled negotiator can reach an outcome they are very pleased with while maintaining an honest and respectful approach to the candidate. And the rewards of a respectful process will go far beyond the actual deal. It will help establish trust and respect in the upcoming professional relationship, which is worth as much and probably more that the actual compensation agreement.
Bottom line: respect and courtesy are well worth the effort
Being in a position of power should never make us forget how we like to be treated, and to treat others, especially those who are in a more needy position, in that way. This is not just ethical behavior; it is also wise professional conduct. Employers who treat job candidates with courtesy and respect will find that the most talented and sought after professionals want to work with them, and will come to stay.