6 Things Your Company Can Do To Stop Turning Off Candidates


[A guest blog post for Geeklist by Gayle Laakmann McDowell. Gayle is the founder / CEO of CareerCup, and the author of Cracking the Coding Interview (Amazon.com’s #1 best-selling interview book) and The Google Resume. Gayle has worked a software engineer for Microsoft, Apple and Google, and served on Google’s hiring committee. You can follow her on TwitterFacebookQuora, or her blog.]

I talk everyday to candidates who are confused, overwhelmed, and frustrated by the technical interview process. I won’t lie; some of this is the candidate’s fault. They should be prepared and a lot of their questions could be answered from their recruiters (or from their friends).

That said, recruiters and companies can do a lot more help their candidates than they do. What’s in it for them? Better prepared candidates. Happier candidates. Candidates who will refer their friends. Less work on the recruiter’s end answering silly questions. All of this means one thing ultimately: the company will have an easier time hiring. Isn’t this what you want?

Here are six ways you can improve the process for your candidates, and in turn for yourself.

#1 Tell Candidates What Types of Questions Will Be Asked

Many candidates have no idea what to expect in an interview (especially technical interviews), so they waste their time in preparing unnecessary topics. The better prepared the candidate is, the better you can assess them. If you’re going to be asking technical questions, tell them – and tell them what sorts of topics will be involved.

Even better – give them some direction on how they can prepare.

#2 Explain How They Will Be Evaluated

For technical roles, many candidates think that they will be evaluated on some absolute basis or that they think they must get every question correct. Then, when they make some mistakes in the interview, they panic and think they’ve suddenly failed.

Tell the candidates that perfection isn’t required for an offer, and that their performance will be judged relative to other candidates on the same question. Let the candidates know that even the best candidates make mistakes, in part because technical question are supposed to push them to think.

Do you really want candidates panicking because they made a single mistake? This doesn’t help anyone.

#3 Tell Candidates When They’ll Hear From You (And Do It!)

Don’t leave candidates hanging. Before going in for an interview, the candidate should know the recruiting timeline. When will they hear back from you? Who do they contact if they haven’t gotten a response? Ideally, give your candidates at least two contacts they can follow-up with.

Many candidates, for some reason, think that if a company doesn’t respond to them within X days, then it’s means a rejection. (“My friend heard back from this company next day, and it’s been three days for me. I guess I’m rejected.”) Yes, I know that’s not true, and you know that’s not true, but the candidate doesn’t. So tell them.

#4 Give Feedback

If you’re doing first three things (and are you? Are you really?), here’s one you’re probably not doing: giving candidates feedback. Rejecting them? Tell them why. What did they struggle with? This is an excellent way to set yourself apart as a company. Candidates will appreciate this and be better prepared if they re-interview in another year – and they may even tell their friends to apply to you.

And, if you do this between phone screens and onsite interviews, you’ll wind up with better prepared candidates. All the better for you!

#5 Tell Them and How They Can Reapply

Just because you reject a candidate once doesn’t mean you’ll never want to hire them. Maybe they had a bad day. Maybe they were just too inexperienced. Maybe your interviewers made a bad call. Who knows? A not-ideal candidate could easily turn into a great one within a year or so.

If you reject a candidate (or if they decline your offer), let them know when and how they can reapply. How long do they have to wait? In what cases might you consider them earlier than this? Do they re-apply online, or do they reach out to their recruiter? What happens if their recruiter has left the company by then?

Let the candidate know the answers to all of these questions. More clarity here = more candidates.

#6 Ask the Candidate for Feedback

What else are you struggling with? Are some of your interviewers turning off candidates? (Let’s be honest: if you have developers doing interviews, they may not all be the most, uh, “social” bunch. That dev lead of yours might be a “really nice guy once you get to know him,” but he might also be coming off negatively in an interview. You need to know this information.)

You’ll never know what is going wrong until you ask. Give your candidates a way to provide (anonymous and non-anonymous) feedback on your interview process and on their interviewers.

When you improve your recruiting process for candidates, you improve your ability to get the right candidates. No one – not even the hottest companies – can afford to be turning off candidates.

The best part? It’s really easy to do this. Create a document – I’ve helped companies do this in the past (please contact me if interested) – that you send to all your candidates about how to prepare, what to expect, and answers to other common questions. This is perhaps the best bang-for-your-buck change you can make to your interview process. 

Gayle Laakmann McDowell

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