Helping candidates feel at ease during the interview process is the single most important task for hiring managers. In this article, we explain why candidates never forget how you make them feel.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou, the American civil rights activist, might not be the first person who springs to mind when thinking about the interview process, but this quote goes to the heart of excellent candidate management.
How you make a candidate feel has everything to do with the little things. Do you make yourself available for interview at a suitable time for the candidate? Is your reception area warm, clean and comfortable? Is the receptionist pleasant and polite?
Beyond that, hiring managers need to consider how they make candidates feel during the interview process. Interviews should challenge candidates in a positive way; they should be more about seeking out candidates’ assets and less about their shortcomings. Let’s face it, most quality candidates will be seeking jobs that will stretch their capabilities so you’re always going to have a gap to contend with.
When a candidate is invited for interview, it becomes their sole focus. The course of their career, and ultimately their future, hangs in the balance. The hiring manager, on the other hand, could have several people to interview; the day job could be hectic if the team is down a person; and the HR department may have dozens, if not hundreds, of such candidates to deal with at any given time.
If you interview someone on Tuesday, it’s very tempting to say “We’ll be back to you by Friday”. But what if that doesn’t happen? The candidate will likely spend the weekend ruminating resentfully and, come Monday morning, will have convinced him or herself that they didn’t really want the job anyway. It’s a classic case of the psyche protecting itself from disappointment. So what should the hiring manager do instead?
Control the Process
First, add a week. If you think you can get back to a candidate this Friday, say Friday week instead. It’s much better to under-promise and over-deliver, and an early phone call will be a very pleasant surprise for the chosen candidate.
Second, own the entire process. See yourself as an air traffic controller who knows the status of every aspect of the hiring process at all times. Yes, that involves a lot of time and effort on your part as the hiring manager – but nothing is more important than hiring the best person for your team because, at the end of the day, your team is your own route to success.
If you outsource the entire recruitment process to your colleagues in HR, your vacancy will be one of many and may fall between the cracks. Instead, view HR as a service provider and follow up with your colleagues as relevant deadlines loom to ensure that offers are made and contracts dispatched at the earliest opportunity.
The Finishing Touch
And finally, follow up with the candidate once the offer has been accepted. A quick phone call to congratulate them and reiterate your belief that they are the right person for the job will minimise the risk of the candidate having a change of heart before the contract is signed.
Offer to meet them for lunch with a few fellow managers to help break the ice before they join the firm. Your relationship with your new hire has already started, so make them feel welcome before they set foot in your office.
The Right Way to Make a Job Offer
Too often, the offer process descends into anarchy. Use these tips to make the right offer to the right person at the right time.
1. Make Your Best Offer
If you’re trying to under-offer a candidate, you aren’t serious about attracting the best talent. Make your best offer following an analysis of various factors, including the candidate’s current salary, market rates and the degree of learning involved.
2. Use the Sandwich Technique
The offer should be book-ended with feeling. Open with why you’ve chosen the candidate and outline what you believe they will bring to the table. Then, make the offer and close with a re-affirmation of your belief that the candidate is the right person for the role and that you look forward to working with them. Remember, it’s about how you make them feel.
3. Follow up With HR
Without demonising the HR department, it is possible for contracts to be delayed for a variety of reasons. Make sure your candidate receives a contract as soon as possible after verbally accepting the offer. Time kills all deals and this is particularly true in recruitment.
4. Be Willing to Walk Away
The offer process should not be like horse trading. If you have gone in with your best offer, and believe it to be reasonable given market rates and so forth, you ought to be ready to walk away if the offer isn’t accepted. There should only ever be one offer, one that is a fair representation of the value the role creates within the business.
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