Hiring managers often forget that the job interview is a two-way street: Not only is the hiring manager evaluating the candidate, but the candidate is also evaluating the hiring manager, their prospective teammates at the organization, and the company's culture. It's important, then, to make sure that each candidate has a smooth and professional experience when they visit your company.
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Here's a checklist of things to do before, during, and after your meeting with a candidate to ensure they have a great interview experience:
1. Be Prepared
Research the candidate in advance. Of course, you should read their resume and prepare your questions, but you should also take a look at their LinkedIn profile and run a Google search to find blog posts or professional articles they may have published.
Also, be sure the candidate receives details about the meeting in advance. It doesn't matter whether the information comes from you, your recruiter, or the HR department. What matters is that the candidate knows whom they'll be meeting with and what they might need to bring with themselves. You should also give them an idea of what the schedule will be like and how long they should plan on being with you. Finally, be sure to include directions to your office.
2. Alert Your Team
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Tell your team a candidate will be visiting, the role the candidate is interviewing for, and what message you're trying to get across. This way, everyone can help reinforce what you're saying if they meet the visitor casually.
3. Have a Disaster Plan in Place
Have a backup plan in case you're unavoidably detained and unable to reach the candidate ahead of time to postpone your appointment. Few things are worse to a prospective employee than arriving on time only to learn that the interview isn't going to happen. Deputize someones else – perhaps someone from the HR department or another manager whom you trust – to hold the interview for you so that you can keep the process moving forward and, more importantly, avoid making the candidate feel as if their time and energy simply don't matter to you.
4. Be Focused
The interview is about you and the candidate getting to know each other. Avoid checking your email or taking phone calls during the conversation. If something comes up that does demand your attention, be sure the candidate understands it's an unusual situation that you have no choice but to address.
5. Listen More Than You Speak
A good interviewer guides a candidate through the conversation and does more listening than talking. Ask open-ended questions and nudge the discussion in a way that gets you the information you need. At the same time, be ready to answer questions about the company and its culture, and try to understand whether the candidate's needs and yours will align.
6. Stay Positive
Avoid the urge to bash competitors or say negative things about former employees or the candidate's current company.
7. Follow Up
At the end of the interview, give the candidate an idea of when they should hear from either you, HR, or the recruiter – and be sure to keep your promise. If you decide not to move forward with an individual, they should get the word from somebody, even if it's only a brief, professional email. Since many candidates want to be proactive about following up themselves, let them know the protocol they should follow. Can they call you directly, or should they go through their contact in HR or the recruiting agency? Don't leave them guessing.
A good interview makes the candidate feel as if the job description that captured their attention was accurate, that their time was valued and experience respected, and that they struck up a positive rapport with you and your company. Such feelings can make a big difference, especially when you're working with a candidate who is highly qualified and may be receiving multiple offers.
Prepare, pay attention, and follow up, and you'll show yourself to be the kind of manager the most in-demand professionals want to work for.
Tonya Salerno is a principal staffing manager/team leader in accounting, finance, and administrative at WinterWyman's Contract Staffing division.