Employer Actions That Turn Off Top Candidates
By Nancy Schuman, CSP, Chief Communications Officer, Lloyd Staffing
There is nothing more disheartening than watching a promising candidate slip through the cracks after the initial interview. Employers are dismayed when their prospect suddenly loses interest and too often they don’t realize that it is their own behavior that led to this derailment. Drawing on Lloyd’s extensive 52 years of recruitment success, we can offer some invaluable insights into the pitfalls that can lead to candidate dropouts and practical strategies to revitalize your hiring approach. This information comes to us straight from conversations with our candidates and we think it is essential to share with you.
Why does great talent disappear after the first interview?
Well, it could very well be your own fault. Yes, that’s right – YOU. While you don’t mean to offer a poor interview experience, there are actions that candidates tell us just turn them off. This is particularly true when a sourced candidate was referred for a role – someone who was not actively looking to make a job change and was subsequently recruited and made aware of the position by a recruiter. These passive candidates are “gold” and usually they are the very ones employers want their staffing firm to identify and refer.
The hiring challenge has become a two way process. It is no longer just candidates who have to “sell” themselves to an employer – the company needs to do some “selling” of its’ own. You want your firm to be an employer of choice AND you want the people you interview to walk away saying that the process was both efficient and pleasant. In an age where everyone offers up uncensored reviews on social media, negative interview feedback can hurt your employer brand. So, where are some of the ways things go wrong?
A Symphony of Preparation
Close your eyes and imagine a hiring manager fumbling through the interview, unsure about the details of the candidate’s role or worse the position they applied for. The interview chain is important and that first person needs to be on top of their game – while it is good for more junior employees to get interviewing practice, if that first person is not properly trained or informed, their gatekeeping skills will shut the door in your own face. A disorganized interview not only reflects poorly on the manager, but also on the entire company. Before each interview, take a few moments to familiarize yourself with the candidate’s resume and the specifics of the role. Be sure you know who this candidate will meet during the hiring process – are you all in agreement about what the job is and what you are looking for? It’s a small investment of time that pays off in the form of a more polished, attractive company image. Perception matters – especially at the onset.
The Interrogation Dilemma
Picture a hiring manager firing off questions like rapid-fire rounds, leaving the candidate feeling more like a suspect than a potential team member. While it’s crucial to ask insightful questions, there’s a thin line between thorough and overbearing. Instead of turning the interview into an interrogation, aim for a conversational flow. Allow the candidate room to breathe and share their experiences. For instance, rather than poking holes in their answers, make a mental note for follow-up questions later in the process. It’s a small shift that can make a world of difference. Be a human first, a hiring official second.
Interviews are like delicate dances; missteps can lead to a stumble. Sometimes, in the quest to know the candidate better, interviewers unwittingly delve into personal territories. Questions about family, marital status, or future family plans can be uncomfortable and, more importantly, are irrelevant to the job at hand. Sometimes they are even illegal! Keep the conversation focused on the candidate’s professional journey and aspirations. Your goal is to build a connection based on their skills and experiences, not their personal life. Make sure everyone who interviews, even line managers know the right and wrong questions to ask.
This happens a lot – the hiring manager assures the candidate of a swift decision, only to leave them hanging in uncertainty. When this happens the candidate calls us for updates. We need to be in the loop too. If you are undecided, share that with us so we can help you overcome obstacles. A simple email acknowledging the delay goes a long way in maintaining trust and keeping the candidate engaged. Remember, trust is the currency of the recruitment world. If it is unlikely you will hire them, let us know so we can professionally release them.
A Candidate Support Mindset
Consider this — a candidate sends in their application, and it disappears into the digital abyss. Radio silence ensues. In the world of customer service, that’s a cardinal sin. Candidates are, in essence, your customers. Treat them with the same respect and responsiveness. Leverage technology to acknowledge applications promptly, and establish a team-wide protocol for communication. Imagine the impact of a candidate receiving a warm acknowledgment within 24 hours of applying—it’s the first step in building a relationship.
Crafting Memorable Interviews
Now, envision an interview that feels like a dull monologue rather than an engaging conversation. To captivate the candidate, treat the interview as a collaborative dialogue. Before the interview, provide them with the names and titles of the individuals they’ll meet, even perhaps their LinkedIn profiles. It not only adds a personal touch, but also helps the candidate feel more at ease and sometimes shared connections are beneficial to both sides. Designate someone to greet them warmly and offer a tour of the office. Transform the interview from a mere assessment to a memorable experience that leaves the candidate excited about the prospect of joining your team. Get them hungry for the offer (or next step)!
It is very typical for a candidate who is interviewing with multiple team members to receive different insights into the role and the company culture overall. That disconnect is a total turnoff. It’s like trying to piece together a puzzle with mismatched pieces. Consistency is key. Ensure that all interviewers are on the same page regarding the role, expectations, and company values. Mixed messages create confusion and may drive away even the most enthusiastic candidates.
Too many people are guilty of this because they don’t place significant value on the candidate’s time or simply forget their manners. When an interviewer takes a call during the interview (especially a personal one on a cell phone), it leaves the candidate feeling disrespected. It’s a breach of professional etiquette that can sour the entire experience. It can be even worse if it the interview is being conducted by phone or zoom from a car or some setting not in line with the company culture. Stress the importance of uninterrupted interviews to your team AND let the candidate talk! If you are the employer and you are talking for 15 minutes – you are talking too much! A candidate should feel like the center of attention during their interview, not an afterthought.
If you don’t have a PLAN, how will you ever succeed in hiring great talent and not wasting your time and their time? This means you should have in place a meeting and a plan on who at your organization will interview for what skill or personality style or situation etc. Everyone needs to know what their role is in vetting the candidate. At Lloyd we are always surprised that a client partner wants to meet us and discuss the job description in depth – why are you not doing the same for your internal interviewing strategy? You can have all the job descriptions and hiring plans you want, but if you do not ATTRACT and EXCITE the TALENT right in front of you and the talent you need to achieve your visions and missions than you are going at this process the wrong way.
How you conduct interviews can be the defining thread that either attracts or repels top talent. As you refine your hiring strategies, remember that it’s not just about ticking off checkboxes; it’s about creating an experience that resonates with candidates. With a warmer, more authentic approach, you’ll not only secure the talent you desire, but also cultivate a reputation as an employer of choice. Let your hiring process become the difference that resonates with the best and brightest in the job market.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nancy Schuman, CSP is the Chief Commuicatioins Officer for LLoyd Staffing. A recruitment and career specialist, Nancy has 43 years in the staffing industry 27 of them with LLoyd. She is an advocate for career education and has advised thousands of candidates on their resumes and job searches while serving as the Careers columnist for a large weekly Long Island newspaper and writing 11 popular books for job seekers and business professionals. You can find her Author’s page and books on Amazon.