The quality of a candidate’s hiring experience significantly impacts an organization’s ability to attract top talent.
I have had a number of bizarre hiring experiences which, supported by research and leadership experience, have led me to reach a number of conclusions about hiring, namely that it is an often undervalued and overlooked area which can have a profound impact on an organization.
Along with many of my generation, my entry to the corporate world was through the fairly traditional graduate selection process. As graduation approached, I bought a suit (mid grey) with my mother’s help, and participated in a number of 1-2 day selection centers held by my target companies.
At one, I was asked which area of business I would like to work in and politely said that I did not want to work in marketing. The offer I received was to join the marketing department. To this day I am convinced the selector wrote down the words marketing when I said not marketing and either forgot the X or overlooked it during the placement discussion. This experience taught me the importance of listening, and more importantly, hearing, during an interview. If you do not later take into account, or at least refer to if you decide to ignore it, something important that is raised by a candidate during an interview you damage your credibility as an employer. For top candidates who have a very real choice about where they work, this can make the difference between them accepting your offer or one from your competitor.
At another, one of the selection team (we were doing a full selection center over two days) took against me. He kept ascribing to me poor actions/behaviors that were made by other candidates. Luckily, I already had a good job offer so I could view this as amusing rather than debilitating but it was wholly unprofessional and nothing on this earth would have made me take an offer from that company. Something I told them at the wrap up interview. This experience taught me that very real importance of treating all candidates with dignity and respect. A less ‘independent’ graduate might have been significantly damaged by that selection process and nobody in an interviewing position has the right (or need) to do this. Taking this learning, later in life, I require all interviewing managers to give a minimum amount of time and attention to all candidates. An example of poor practice here would be cutting the interview short having made the decision that the candidate is unsuitable in the first 10 minutes. Even allowing that the decision on unsuitability after 10 minutes is legitimate, if you do not treat the candidate with respect, ignoring for a moment their right to be respected, they will not take the turndown well and they will tell others (some of whom might be your ideal candidate).
Making an unwarranted negative assessment is no worse than making an unjustified positive assessment. Not surprisingly the interviewer who ‘took against’ me also ‘took for’ another candidate. He was not a strong candidate, and was in fact a graduate from the previous year who had still not landed a job. Pretty much everyone in the center thought he was weak but this selector loved him. Just to complete the story, I took the opportunity in my wrap up interview to suggest to him that I realized that he loved this guy and was making a mistake. This was after I told them I would not wish to join their organization. A key lesson here is that mitigating against the ‘halo effect’ is critically important when hiring. We all have prejudices (even if they are sometimes unconscious) and need to ensure that our hiring and selection processes are robust enough to ensure that we are making hiring decisions based on quality data and not gut instinct.
Another example later in my career was the instance in which an organizations processes were so poor that I felt compelled to join, just to fix them; this was for an HR position (not my first). I had to travel to the interview and the flight was late so the day was a bit rushed as a result. I was taken to a room and given a 2-hour battery of psychometrics which took me to 2:00 pm. I was then taken to meet a potential future colleague (and handed a plate of sandwiches as I was walked to his office). I was told that this was a chance for an informal chat to learn more about the company. The person I met was doing the same job that I was being interviewed for, so he would be a peer of mine should I have been hired. The ‘chat’ started with him holding my CV and asking me questions from it – I was seated, and he was still standing (quite bizarre). He also ate my sandwiches (but to be fair asked me first if I was going to eat them). Track along another few hours and some more interviews, I am now being put into the car to take me back to the airport and as my potential new manager is shutting the door (I am sitting in the car) he says, “oh, I forgot to give you a tour, do you want to do this now?” I suggested that perhaps we do this at the next stage of the selection process. As an HR professional, I was left with an overwhelming desire to fix their problems but if it had been for any other role I might have been less convinced. The learning here is easy; ensure you have a quality hiring experience and if you offer your candidates a chance to informally meet their potential peers keep candidate’s CVs out of their hands.
To summarize, rightly or wrongly, candidates will draw conclusions about your organization from their hiring experience and these conclusions will not always be favourable. Therefore, if you are to attract top quality talent to your organization you need to ensure you offer a high quality hiring experience.
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