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How to Improve Interview Quality and Find the Best Candidates

  • by: Sunette Van Aarde
  • On: 29, Jul 2020
8 min read

Following the coronavirus pandemic and during the changes resulting from Brexit, employers are faced with complex challenges that will impact hiring processes for the coming months and years.

Covid-19 saw over 8million workers furloughed, with a large proportion expecting to be made redundant when the Government’s Job Retention Scheme finishes in October 2020, over 60,000 contractors have lost assignments or seen work cancelled in the past few months, and unemployment is predicted to soar to unprecedented levels in the year ahead.

Whilst an abundance of job applicants can be beneficial to companies looking to grow their employee base, a wider talent pool places further strain on leaders, HR and recruitment departments to accurately assess hundreds of applicants for each post – making an excellent interview process more important than ever before.

Here are five ways employers can improve the quality of interviewing processes to identify, engage and secure the best possible candidates.


5 Ways to Upgrade Your Interview Process

1. Build Your Employer Brand

Google, Microsoft and Nike were all featured high up on this year’s Best Places to Work list compiled by Glassdoor from existing employee ratings. Whilst these companies are well-known throughout the world as exciting brands that create fun and innovative products, other companies with a much smaller global reach selling products that are traditionally much harder to market – such as pest-control provider Rentokil and tile retailer Topps Tiles – and companies in industries that traditionally struggle with diversity – such as construction company Mace and pensions provider Royal London – also made the top 25.

A positive employer brand is much more than popularity or perceived social and cultural capital. The best places to work received their titles, and attract and retain the best talent, by building a unique, welcoming and inclusive employer brand that engages applicants from their first interaction with the company.

A positive employer brand begins before the job application process, where active and passive candidates will see digital content from your brand and may have purchased or engaged with you offline previously, and carries on throughout the interview and offer process.  active and passive candidates. Stand out amongst competitors by carefully crafting the image of the ideal place to work, by telling the story of how you brand came to be and the role of existing and new employees in your purpose and vision. Distribute this message across every touchpoint your applicants will come into contact with, including:

  • Social media channels – tailor content to the demographics of your applicant group; for example, do they use Instagram more than Twitter, and are they likely to prefer WhatsApp messaging over Facebook communication?
  • Website, blog and press releases
  • Employee review sites such as Glassdoor – encourage reviews and photos from existing employees to provide a personal insight for applicants who research your company
  • Job adverts – express the personality of your company and the benefits to its employees to stand out amongst the millions of job adverts circling on job boards.

Emphasise your employee benefits, Learning & Development opportunities, company culture and the positive experiences and successes of your staff, and promote testimonials from individual employees across the business as unique recommendations.

By building up a positive image of your workplace, applicants will build their own relationship with your company and will develop trust and positive associations that will set the stage for a positive, informed and engaging interview experience. Continue this messaging in your interviews by training hiring managers on your employer brand and supplying interviewees with digital and print booklets that complement your digital content.

2. Create a Candidate Persona

In the same way that marketing professionals create buyer personas to target their ideal audience, HR and recruitment departments can create an image of the candidate that they are trying to attract. Personas build up a picture of the perfect candidate, not only in terms of skills, experience and knowledge, but also their background, interests, career goals and personal and professional challenges, in order to tailor every aspect of the hiring process to meet the needs of individuals in this group. Taking care to account for diversity and stay inclusive of all minority groups, interviewers can use their personas to inform the communication and structure of job adverts, employer brand content, recruitment campaigns and interview processes.

Hiring managers can build a persona by asking themselves the following questions:

  • Where is the candidate in their career and what are the next steps in their development? (e.g. professional training, mentoring, self-study, soft skills
  • Where are they in their life and how would their ideal career match their personal goals? (e.g. salaries and bonuses to help buy their first home, flexible hours to look after children or dependents, health and wellbeing benefits
  • What would they most value in an employer? (e.g. morality and ethics, well-known brand, international growth, transparency and efficiency internally
  • What type of interview process would the candidate most enjoy (for example, panel, group, individual face-to-face or remote) and what questions and forms of communication would get the best out of them?

Taking care to account for diversity and stay inclusive of all minority groups, interviewers can use their personas to inform the communication and structure of job adverts, employer brand content, recruitment campaigns and interview processes.

3. Conduct Flexible Interviews

Shortening interview processes can dramatically reduce time spent hiring each employee and will significantly improve the experience for interviewees. Candidates who undergo a lengthy interview process are not only more likely to find and accept another job offer during this time period, but are also likely to resent the amount of effort and time involved, damaging their relationship with their new employer if they do accept after a long interview process. Operate with a two-interview process – three at an absolute maximum – even for the most senior roles. Review your interview practices to ensure you fully utilise the time that you have with your candidates.

Take advantage of technology to ensure your interview process is as smooth, accessible and enjoyable as possible. During Covid-19, video interviews have often provided the only available form of candidate assessment, and the thousands of new starters currently undergoing virtual onboarding has assuaged any doubts. Even after the easing of lockdowns around the world, remote interviews are the preferred choice of millions of candidates. Video and phone interviews require applicants to take far less time away from work and/or travelling, allowing the interview process to work around the candidate’s personal and professional life. Remote hiring processes also benefit employers by delivering interviews days or even weeks faster than would be possible with face-to-face interviews.

Technology also supports your employer brand as a company that values the work/life balance and diversity of its staff. Being more flexible around candidate’s schedules, family and caring responsibilities, disabilities and health requirements can open up opportunities to a wider and more diverse pool of candidates than ever before. Flexible interviews accommodate diverse groups or demographics that your business may not have worked with before, such as people with a range of disabilities or single parents, and make it easier for them to apply to work with you.

4. Personalise the Experience & Get to Know Your Candidate

Whilst most hiring managers will operate with a set list of requirements on which they will want to assess applicants, a personalised interview process will both make a candidate feel valued by their potential employer and provide HR and recruitment consultants with a full view of the candidate as a professional and as a person, revealing technical and soft skills as well as development potential.

Ask interview questions that tap into the passion of your candidate. As each applicant tailors their CV to the role they apply for, tailor your interview questions to the CV of and any previous conversations with each individual candidate. Pay attention to the personal and professional areas they emphasise in their application and when speaking with you, and work these into your interview conversation. Adapt your required interview questions to reinforce their strengths and captivate their specific interests, and respond to their questions around company culture and working responsibility by promoting aspects of the company and role that you know will be particularly interesting and important to the candidate.

For individual-based questions, get your candidate talking about their passions and excited about the role on offer by asking questions such as:

  • Who in your life most inspires you/who do you most admire?
  • What motivates you to succeed?
  • Can you give an example of something that you are focused on at the moment?
  • How have you helped others outside of work?
  • What projects and activities do you most enjoy out of work?
  • What are your greatest personal and professional achievements?

Interviewers and interviewees will learn far more about each other by utilising tailored questions and tapping into company and individual personalities. Informed, enthusiastic candidates who have built up a unique level of trust and rapport with their interviewers will be far more likely to continue in the hiring process and ultimately to accept a job offer.

5. Ask for Candidate Feedback

Whilst exist interviews often generate the most honest direct feedback for employers, feedback from unsuccessful applicants will provide the closest insight into the candidate experience. Ask applicants during a phone conversation or ask them to fill in an anonymous survey (taking no more than 2 minutes of their time) on questions such as:

  • What did you enjoy most about the interview experience?
  • Did you receive enough communication?
  • Was your experience consistent?
  • Did the interview process match your expectations?
  • What could the company have done to improve your experience?

A positive interview experience that is not matched by a positive employee experience will not retain new talent for long. Whilst HR teams and hiring managers will be keen to sell the company as much as possible to potential recruits, and will naturally highlight positive aspects of the business rather than any weaknesses, interviewees need to be aware of the full picture before joining the firm. Interviewers should hone in on any worries expressed by candidates and proactively discuss these, and actively welcome difficult questions, to ensure there are no unwelcome surprises when a new starter joins the organisation.

Existing employees are an excellent resource to tap into regarding their previous perceptions of their employers and how closely this matches their real-life working experience. Current workers can also provide an insight into what they most value in their employer and any improvements that could aid them in their day-to-day jobs, which could further improve the experiences of new starters joining the company in the near future. Request feedback from your current staff to ascertain the information gaps between interviewing and onboarding, and utilise this feedback to improve communication in the hiring process.


Discover How to Reduce Recruitment Costs or read more about Improving Employee Engagement During Difficult Times.

Find out more about our award-winning recruitment solutions.

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