How to Help Hiring Managers Impress Today’s Candidates

Hiring managers can make or break the candidate experience.
By: | December 10, 2018 • 4 min read

Having spent 20 years within the recruitment industry, I can tell you for certain that we’re facing a new reality when it comes to the search for talent. Unemployment is approaching the lowest rates in decades and the competition for good candidates is as fierce as it’s ever been. This change in the hiring landscape should prompt organizations to reflect not only on their hiring strategies and compensation packages but also, very specifically, on how they interview job candidates.

As an employer, your goal is to not only find the best talent but also ensure the best candidates are sold on your company so that they accept your offer with enthusiastic commitment. If they decline your offer for reasons beyond your control—such as salary considerations—or if they simply aren’t the ideal candidate to be hired, they still need to leave your office feeling good about their experience.

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Recruiters have an important role to play in creating a positive experience, of course. Yet ultimately, hiring managers are at the center of it all.

Making a Good Impression Should Go Both Ways

Putting your best foot forward isn’t advice that’s meant solely for candidates. Interviews are a give-and-take process, and the giving and taking occur on both sides of the table. It’s paramount to understand that the interview isn’t just a way to determine if the candidate is a great fit for the job and the company, but also serves to position the company brand in a positive light to the candidate. This is especially critical in situations where a candidate may be weighing simultaneous offers from competing companies.

Hiring managers need to be aware that certain behaviors and actions on their part can create a poor impression of the organization and its hiring process. For instance, while business can certainly interrupt interviews, a series of rattled-off questions that only require short answers—rather than those that are open-ended and more conducive to conversation—could put the candidate on the defensive. Failing to adequately prepare for the interview, not making eye contact and answering the phone for unnecessary calls during an interview can also be interpreted by candidates as disinterest from that hiring manager. Each of these actions could result in turning off the prospective employee—to both the position and the company itself.

Another reason hiring managers benefit from impressing candidates involves the power of social media. If a candidate finds a company’s interviewing process to be cold and impassive, it’s so easy for them to communicate their impressions via social media and popular job-hiring sites. By the same token, creating a positive interview experience can pay off in many ways. Hiring managers—and everyone else involved in the hiring process—must understand that candidates are potential company ambassadors who help brand the organization in the marketplace. Even if a candidate isn’t hired, the hope is that they have a positive experience, one that has them hoping to be considered for other opportunities and telling their friends to consider joining the company’s talent community as well.

Help Prepare the Candidate for a Positive Experience

Interviewing for a job can be a stressful experience. Recruiters and hiring managers can create value for the company by helping candidates prepare for the interview. For instance, if taking a writing exam will be part of the interview, the recruiter should convey this in advance. If a case study evaluation will be presented to the candidate, let her know that, too.

In addition to ensuring that candidates receive a positive image of the organization they’re seeking to join, a constructive interview experience can put them at ease at the very same time that they’re being evaluated. A candidate who feels comfortable is much “easier to read” and is likely to leave hiring managers with a much more realistic impression of what he or she is really like under normal working conditions.

There are many things recruiters and hiring managers can do to help the candidate feel at ease during the interview. For starters, this should include communicating in advance with the candidate to let them know how much time they should expect to spend at the interview—and then, barring an emergency, being on time for the appointment! Considering that many interviews are conducted during the workday, running late by either party can create unnecessary anxiety for the candidate, which undermines a positive interview experience.

Another thing to consider: A little small talk can go a long way. When a hiring manager engages the candidate in small talk, it can help to make the candidate feel more comfortable and possibly elicit more candid commentary. If the hiring manager notices that the candidate appears nervous, it’s OK to let them know that it’s all right to be feeling this way (so long as this can be done without creating a more awkward situation, of course). Each attempt to understand the human element of the interview process is likely to go a long way toward creating a positive impression of the company, regardless of whether you end up hiring the candidate.

When candidates are at ease, they’re more apt to be open and honest when responding to a range of questions from an interviewer—concerning everything from their professional accomplishments to personal interests and achievements. Doing away with an overly formal interview format allows companies to elicit and evaluate more candid responses that can permit more of the candidate’s true self to shine through.

Showcasing an organization’s positive culture during an interview will also help bring out the best in interviewer and candidate alike. Consider having other team members meet the candidate, or give the candidate a brief “lay of the land” of what the company is like. Providing them information about a few key things the company does for its employees, giving an overview of the hiring process and describing the corporate culture—along with what the company does to preserve that culture—can go a very long way toward making a lasting, positive impression.

Training Hiring Managers = Better and More Productive Interviews

In this competitive marketplace, the organizations that equip their hiring managers with soft-skills training will be the ones that stand out to candidates.

For example, it can be productive for a hiring manager to explain to the candidate why her specific resume and professional experience was of particular interest, rather than act as if it’s the first time they’ve laid eyes on the resume. What was it about this particular individual’s background that caught the hiring manager’s eye and led them to be called in for an interview? Sharing these insights with the candidate can make an important and lasting impact on her. Who wouldn’t want to be welcomed to an interview by someone happy to be meeting with them for clear and specific reasons?

Such a level of preparation also gives a positive impression about the company’s core values while showing candidates that they—and their time—are highly valued. It may also be what convinces candidates that this company, rather than a rival, offers the right culture and has managers who are worth working with long-term.

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Time is a precious commodity, of course, and many hiring managers simply don’t have that luxury. However, if a hiring manager hasn’t had the opportunity to review a candidate’s resume prior to the meeting, admitting this to the candidate—and conveying some regret for not having been able to better prepare—can also humanize the interaction. Many hiring managers say, matter-of-factly, “I’m sorry I haven’t had time to review your resume, so why don’t you just start by telling me about yourself.” Tone and intention must be kept in mind. They may be subtle, but can have a powerful impact.

With so much time, effort and resources dedicated to the hiring process, why not increase your chances of hiring the best candidate and get the maximum return on your investment of time and resources? Creating a welcoming and productive interview experience can be rewarding for applicants and companies alike.

Rebecca Cenni-Leventhal is the CEO and founder of Atrium, a staffing and contingent workforce solutions firm that offers clients a consultative and personalized approach to their talent management needs. Atrium services high-profile startups, mid-sized companies and Fortune 500 companies in nearly all industries.