Interviewing is awful. Here’s how to fix it.

Employers and candidates have been interviewing for millennia. During these years jobs have changed, industries have been created and they’ve evolved. Yet, one thing remains the same: Interviewing has always been awful.

Interviewing is often painful for both candidates and employers.

Interviewing and finding the right job is hugely important. Next to our spouses and families, we spend massive amounts of time with our colleagues and managers. Some of us spend years finding the person that we’ll marry and the home we’re going to live in. We’ve failed to place the same kind of importance and attention on interviewing.

Managers are expected to choose a candidate and a candidate is expected to choose an employer in a few short meetings. In the case of software engineering roles, they’re often relying on an inconsistent, cobbled together technical assessment or whiteboarding exercise as an indicator of true talent and skill.

As leaders, we’re finding that highly skilled knowledge workers — in particular tech talent — are increasingly hard to find and hire. Yet, they are critical to our success. Likewise, employees are learning about just how much power they have and they’re demanding change in the hiring process. As leaders and innovators, we should seek out and implement the most effective way to fix interviewing.

Since founding Karat four years ago, we’ve conducted over 20,000 technical interviews. During that time we’ve learned a lot about interviewing, hiring, candidates, and companies. There are four things that really stick out as requirements for an effective and positive interviewing and hiring process.

Treat interviewing as a specialization

One of the most common failings in the hiring process is treating interviewing like a side job. Most often, the effect of treating interviewing like a side job is inconsistency.

Over the years, many clients have come to us looking to solve this problem. Usually, they express it like “I think my interviews are inconsistent, but I’m not sure” or “my interviews may not be consistent across offices, but I’d like them to be.” If you haven’t equipped your interviewers with the questions, formats, and tools to be consistent, then it’s impossible for them to do so.

One time training isn’t enough. Like any craft or job, being a skilled technical interviewer requires training and re-training, quality control, and continuous improvement.

Engineers who are entrusted with the task of interviewing should be equipped and ready to do so. This means they should be trained on best practices, selected because they have technical skills as well as a high degree of empathy, and be prepared with questions that are known to be appropriate for your hiring bar and seniority of the role.

Make interviewing flexible and low-stress

Do you remember the last time you had to lie to your boss about where you are going in the middle of the day so that you could do an interview? It may have been a long time ago, but chances are you still remember how awkward and stressful it was. If you were interviewing for a technical role — like software engineering — you probably also experienced the added anxiety of a technical assessment or test.

Nobody likes this. Candidates like it even less if they have to do it during work hours and have only one shot at success.

But there is another way: We’ve found that when given the option to interview outside of office hours, lots of candidates will. In fact, 60% of candidates will choose to interview outside of the 9–5 timeframe. Likewise, when given the option to redo their interview, 14% of candidates will do so.

Be inclusive

The average company only assesses 10% of the candidates in their applicant tracking system (ATS). Leaving 90% that could be great candidates, but were never given a shot. This is often the result of team members relying on resume bias to filter out candidates because they feel that they simply don’t have the resources to interview more candidates. But what if your engineering team did have the bandwidth to technically interview every candidate they wanted to?

Assessing more of the candidates in your ATS means you’ll be less likely to filter out candidates based on biased criteria like university or even assumed gender.

It might sound overly simplistic, but it’s true: If you interview more candidates in your ATS your hiring process will be more inclusive and your teams will ultimately be more diverse. One client of ours actually increased the amount of female software engineers on their team by 5x this way. If your culture truly does embrace inclusion like theirs does, your teams will be more diverse as well.

Use data to get smarter and more predictive

The clients that recognize the need for consistency in technical interviewing are also the ones that realize there are hugely valuable insights to be gained from the interview process.

These insights can include understanding your hiring bar, how to adjust your hiring bar, understanding the effectiveness of certain questions, getting a true picture of the efficiency of the entire hiring funnel, and much more.

Companies that gain insights from interview data also end up improving the effectiveness of their sourcing, decreasing the time it takes to complete the interview process, and most importantly they end up being the ones that achieve more of their hiring goal.

Interviewing is awful, but these changes can make it better. Take it from a candidate.

“I enjoyed the interview process and appreciated the online experience. I believe that this is the new way to interview and truly allows each candidate and company to get to know if the person is a good fit or not.
Regardless of the outcome, I enjoyed the experience and got better today.
Thank you.”
- Anonymous candidate, August 17th, 2018

There’s nothing like like starting a new hire off on the right foot, ready to succeed — they’ll thank you for it.

To learn more about Karat, visit us at Karat.io.