7 Tips to Improve the Interview Process

Eric Mochnacz
February 4, 2021

The job market has changed.  Thousands of qualified professionals are looking for work in a time when job openings don’t match the demand.  If you’re a company looking to start building (or rebuilding) your team, we provide some tried and true guidance to improve your interview process in an ever-changing job landscape.  

Move Quickly and Efficiently

Candidate experience is key, so moving quickly and efficiently is essential to improving the interview process.  Being timely with your interview process allows you to fill the vacant position in an expedient manner while being respectful of the candidates’ time.  To be efficient, before bringing a job to market, Human Resources should develop the process steps and a timeline for the interview.  Also, identify the key stakeholders who will need to meet with the candidates and assure their buy-in and availability.  Don’t find yourself in a position where your hiring process is halted because a vice president who insists on interviewing candidates is on a three week island vacation during a critical period in your recruitment cycle.

With the job market wide open, businesses can’t afford to lose top talent to other companies.  To remain competitive in attracting qualified candidates, HR needs to communicate openly and frequently with applicants in their pipeline.  And although HR’s goal is to engineer a thorough interview process, there is no reason to force applicants to participate in more than two or three interviews.  If you believe you can’t get to know a candidate over the course of a few interviews, your process is in need of a serious revision.  

Moving speedily (but effectively) through the interview process is critical to maintaining a positive industry reputation.  Job hunters know that only one person will receive an offer, so an interview process that respects their time may still leave them saying good things about your company, even if you don’t hire them.  However, an interview regiment that drags on for months without clear communication and timelines could cost your business its next great hire while also damaging your external reputation.  A common belief in the HR world is how you’re treated during the interview is how you’ll be treated as an employee.  So, it is essential you treat candidates’ time as valuable and reflect that in how your process steps and how quickly you move through them. 

Write a Better Job Description

Think of your job description as free ad space on a job board.  It’s the best way to make a strong first impression with job seekers in a saturated job market.  So, a better job description is one that tells applicants everything they need to know about the position and does so in a way that is unique to your company and helps it stand out from the boring, standard templates you see across the online job sites.

The market is full of savvy job hunters who will be able to sense if a job description hasn’t been revised in years.  Before bringing a job to market, HR should review it for timeliness and accuracy.  Remove any outdated terms or job responsibilities.  Review with the position’s manager or other people in the same position to make sure the JD is an accurate description of the job responsibilities.  Use feedback from exit interviews to improve the content of your job listings. Good job descriptions clearly outline the key responsibilities of the position in a specific but succinct manner.  This is not the time to be general and vague.  A job description is a tool for the candidate to use to formulate their responses to potential questions, and if there isn’t much substance, they may lose interest in the role or come across as unqualified or unprepared in the initial interview.  If you don’t put effort into the JD, why should they put effort into applying for a role with you?  

This is also a unique opportunity to demonstrate your culture to prospective employees.  If being a culture-driven organization is one of your selling points, you can adjust the tone of the job description to reflect how you’re different from other employers.  Reflect a conversational and colloquial tone rather than the boring standard we see everywhere else.  If your company is unique then so should be your job descriptions.

Build Your Brand Recognition

As you begin to develop your workforce plan for the future, think about what applicants can learn about you from the information that is readily available with a quick Google search.  You can begin being intentional with the content you produce for your website.  You can encourage employees to become more active on LinkedIn so that job seekers can learn more about the company from an employee’s perspective.  Be proactive in cultivating your Glassdoor presence.  Respond to negative critiques and encourage employees to post their positive observations of the company.  Make sure your website is functional, up to date and accessible.  It should clearly state what your company does and what type of business you are.  It’s a resource for the job hunter, especially since your website is the first place they will go to research your company.  Get your name out there, so that candidates want to apply for a job with you once they see you are hiring.

Utilize Social Media

There are a number of ways HR can leverage social media to get the right eyes on your job vacancies.  If you have an active presence across social media, integrate the fact that you have job openings as part of your content schedule.  If you regularly post videos that are related to what’s happening in your industry, focus your videos around your business, its benefits and why people want to apply and work for you.  Encourage members across your team to share the job posting and activate their networks to identify top candidates.  And although LinkedIn is a great way to get the word out that you’re hiring (they introduced an “I’m Hiring” frame for profile photos), identify not so traditional social media channels to market your job.  Our firm made a hire after our managing director posted the job to a local Moms Facebook group.  

LinkedIn does offer an impressive suite of recruitment tools, including Corporate Recruiter and TalentHub.  They do come with a considerable price tag, but if you have an extensive recruiting plan, they may be tools well worth the investment.  Corporate Recruiter allows you to actively reach out to candidates who are #OpenToWork while also receiving resumes from applicants whose skill and experience align with the job specifications.  It’s beneficial to source candidates from the social media site whose purpose is to connect professionals.  

Use Behavioral Interviewing 

The best indicator of future performance is previous behavior.  Behavioral interviewing frames questions in a way that requires candidates speak specifically to their past behavior, allowing the interviewer clear insight into how they will act in the role.  The questions are intentional, and they provide the candidates plenty of opportunities to speak on their past experiences.  Additionally, the questions are asked with the intention of inviting the interviewee into a conversation rather than it feeling like a rapid fire interrogation.  

Behavioral interview questions are a more effective way to get to know candidates and how they will perform in the job.  Asking hypothetical questions aren’t effective, because you will most likely receive hypothetical answers.  If you ask “How would you deal with conflict on your team?”, the candidate will answer hypothetically and potentially say what they think you want to hear.  You haven’t learned anything valuable about their behavior because they weren’t required to provide a specific example of how they managed conflict.  Rather, asking “Could you tell us about a time you managed a conflict on your team” sets them up to provide a real life example. 

Interview questions should clearly relate to the position and the candidate should feel like their answer has a bearing on their candidacy.  Sometimes, hiring managers or leadership feel the need to ask “fun” questions like “If you were a fruit, what fruit would you be and why?”, even though the answer will have zero bearing on the individual’s candidacy.  Don’t ask superfluous questions that won’t impact the hiring decision. The candidate’s time is valuable – so ask purposeful questions that demonstrate a respect for that time.  

Recruit the Best Candidates

“Best” can be a subjective term, but you can implement key processes as part of your recuirtment plan that will better help you define what good looks like to your organization and ensure that everyone is working with the same definition of what makes a candidate the best for the job.  

Before going to market, identify the core competencies of a position.  These are the essential skills a candidate needs to have and be able to speak to as part of the interview process. Include the competencies in the job description as an initial way for applicants to self-identify their qualifications for the job. Using behavioral interviewing techniques, the interviewers are able to ascertain if those they interview possess these core competencies.  

Additionally, when you make the hire, the talent management team is in the position to identify how they will set the new hire up for success.  Managers can contribute to a new hire’s success by understanding a candidate’s communication style and driving forces.  Introducing DISC assessments for candidates of choice, and a debrief as part of their onboarding, is an effective tool to helping support your new employee as they transition into their new role.  

Be Transparent and Clear

Honesty is the best policy.  We’ve already addressed ensuring your job description is accurate.  Candidates should not arrive to the interview, or even worse, the first day of work, to discover the job they are doing is absolutely nothing like the job they applied for.  No one likes a bait and switch, especially when it comes to career mobility.  

Another recommendation is being upfront about the salary budget for the role.  Post the salary range in the job description.  If there is hesitancy to adopt that practice, the introductory phone call with the candidate should clarify their salary expectations.  This allows the hiring manager to understand the candidate’s expectations and can confirm if they align with the HR’s budget for the role.  If you aren’t honest about salary, you run the risk of having people go through the entire hiring process, and when you offer them the job, it all falls apart because they were expecting to get paid an amount that the business can’t afford.  And, again, from a candidate experience perspective, you haven’t wasted your or the candidate’s time. 

Finally, have a clear timeline for the role and set a reasonable goal for time to hire.  Communicate often with candidates and be able to outline the entire process with them during your initial conversation.  Don’t ghost candidates or wait weeks to update them on the progress of the interview process.  

Your Recruitment and Interviewing Experts in NJ

Among the Red Clover team, we have years of professional leadership and people management experience.  We work with the business owner or your current HR manager to build a progressive recruitment process that focuses on candidate experience while also meeting your business goals.  We offer Behavioral Interview training for managers and are DISC-certified to help your new hires understand their assessment.  We can leverage LinkedIn Corporate Recruiter and video interviewing through Spark Hire to shorten the gap between job posting and hire.  If you just don’t have the time to devote to implementing a thorough recruitment process, Red Clover is the consulting team that can do it for you.

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