Ditch Your “Gotcha” Interview Process. Now.

Avery Francis

How would you feel if an interview process was designed with the sole purpose to throw you off your game? When organizations take advantage of the obvious power dynamic that exists in the interview process, I can’t help but cringe. It’s an interview, not a witch hunt. Recently a woman by the name of Olivia Bland shared a viral post about how she got a job offer — sounds awesome right? Not so much. After what she described as a “humiliating experience” interviewing with the company’s CEO, Craig Dean, the marketing specialist publicly declined their offer and shared her reasoning via social media. In Olivia’s powerful letter she described Craig as “a man who tries his best to intimidate and assert power over a young woman”. Her post went viral and the internet had a lot to say.

So, how can you design an interview process that leaves candidates feeling good and doesn’t put you in the center of a viral lashing?

Train your Team

The #1 skill that Hiring Managers are not trained on is, wait for it….Hiring! Before you have anyone involved in the interview process, train them. They need to be briefed on a few key areas; values, mission, how to pitch your company, what to ask, what not to say, closing candidates and conducting themselves in a way that won’t result in the candidate feeling uncomfortable (or land you in the middle of a lawsuit).

Do this: Create an interviewing playbook that guides hiring managers involved in the interview process on a start to finish approach to interviewing. Pair this with some hands-on training run by your HR and people team would make that much more of an impact. If you don’t have an HR team in place you can engage an external expert to build this for you.

Standardize your Process

No, I’m not saying you need to send all of your Hiring Managers in with a script. Think about what you are looking for though, and how you are going to assess for it through the process. Then, design the interview process to support that. Taking a standardized approach will give your hiring managers the opportunity to stick to a consistent approach as well as remove the potential opportunity for bias (I’ll get into that in a future post). Having a strategic approach with questions to back it up will help the hiring manager to stay on track.

Do this: Create a repository of questions hiring managers can ask in the interview for each unique role you’re hiring for. Leverage your ATS (Applicant tracking system) to support the questions you have developed by referencing them in the interview feedback form.

Stick to the Process

A common interview no-no I see companies make is surprising the candidate in a bad way. I’m a fan of surprises but this is like a jack in the box type of surprise. Adding new people to meet with once they arrive. Changing up the interview location several times. Surprising them with an on-site challenge. Here’s the thing: candidates are already stressed about being judged and assessed by a group of people they don’t know. They often come prepared to interview having carefully studied the roles and backgrounds of the people they were told they would be meeting with. Decide on the interview process, map it out, and share this with the candidate so they know what to expect the day of. A surprise-free interview experience is a great place to start to ensure a positive candidate experience.

Do this: Share an itinerary and breakdown of what candidates can expect the day of. Communicate what the process looks like, share the names and faces of the people involved and add a bit of personality to it by sharing interviewing tips and talking about your company’s core values.

Keep it conversational

Have you ever been peppered with questions to the point of exhaustion? No matter what the situation — it’s never an enjoyable experience. Pick an appropriate amount of questions for the time that you have and prioritize the most important questions at the beginning of the interview. Allow the candidate the time and space to listen, think and respond.

Do This: Block off 10 minutes at the end of the interview for the candidate. Let the candidate know that the floor is theirs. Allow them to ask the questions they may want answered or the opportunity to share something that they didn’t get to cover in the interview that they feel is important for you to know.

Ask for Feedback

The best way to find out how your interview experience leaves people feeling is to ask. Once someone has navigated their way through your interview process, ask them about their experience. Don’t just ask the people who were hired. Ask the people who weren’t hired as well. Be open to the feedback and make the adjustments needed to ensure your interview process is a winning one.

Do this: Have a member of your recruiting team schedule follow up calls within an hour of each onsite interview. A 15-minute call could go a long way. In the recruiting world, we call this the “Feed it Forward” approach. It helps you to get the information on where you can improve as well as helps you to close that awesome candidate. If you are really looking to dive into some data — run a survey! You could include a link to an anonymous feedback form on your rejection letters, and many ATS’s have this feature built in.

If anything this story proves once again that not all heroes wear capes. Olivia Bland, thank you for sharing your story — we do not deserve you.

Happy hiring!

Avery

PS: At Bloom we support companies who aren’t ready for a full-time Head of Talent but need the leadership on an interim basis. We do the nitty-gritty foundational work like implementing the best tech, tools and processes that are infused with your org’s values. If you’re looking to up your talent game but aren’t ready for a full-time hire, get in touch!

Avery Francis

Written by

I work with leading startups to navigate the world of talent + hiring. I write about all things work, talent, recruitment and diversity + inclusion.

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