Recently I have been seeking employment. I've submitted dozens of resumes and applications. I do not expect to hear from the recipient of each submission. I understand the digital age and applicant screening well enough to know that such courtesy is a moot point.
I have been somewhat perplexed, however, at the arms-length responses from organizations that have actually given me an interview.
On several occasions I have been fortunate enough to be invited for a face-to-face interview. I've prepared myself by researching the job, company and individuals with whom I'm meeting. I've taken special care to dress appropriately. I've arrived early, sometimes traveling a good distance, and spent 60 - 90 minutes in thorough conversation with the company leaders. After the interview I've taken a few minutes to send a note of thanks for the opportunity.
I know the potential employers have also invested significant time into the process by developing job descriptions, researching candidates, holding interviews, and evaluating their prospects. They seem, however, to have given little thought to what happens once the interview is over.
After each interview, there have been long periods of undefined silence, silence during which I find myself singing over and over in my head that catchy little chorus by Indie pop artists A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera: Say something. I'm giving up on you.
I have also been on the other side of the interview process, hiring excellent employees and turning down other quality candidates. Here are six simple things I've learned that make the tail end of the process go better for the candidate and strengthen the candidate's perception of you as a potential employer, whether or not they ultimately end up working for you.
- Know your timeline and share it. When the interview concludes, say definitively to the candidate, "You will hear from me no later than the end of the day on .........". And then get back to them by then! Block out that afternoon to make those calls. If your process has become delayed, let the candidate know. If you still have questions or need more information from the candidate, schedule a time for additional conversation. But give them a timeline, and stick to it.
- Make the phone call. While email or text are convenient ways to contact your candidate, they are cheap and disrespectful. When a candidate has committed time and energy to a face-to-face interview, they deserve a live voice sharing the news of whether or not they will be offered the position. These calls aren't always easy for either party involved, but a quality manager will take a deep breath, pick up the phone, and do what's right. Then you can follow up with an official letter or summary email.
- Be prepared to offer feedback. Assuming you have interviewed quality, thoughtful candidates, be prepared to answer their questions. A candidate might ask: "Are there any specific areas of training or experience that could better prepare me for a job like this?" or "Was there anything during the interview itself that I could have done better which would have improved my candidacy?" or "What specific skills, experiences or knowledge are you looking forward to me bringing to this position?"
- Be honest. When you're offering feedback, make sure you're telling the truth and being as forthcoming as you can be within non-discrimination practices. If the candidate asks for feedback on their interview and you felt they said something off-putting or exhibited an uncomfortable demeanor during the interview, tell them; perhaps they had no idea they came across in that way and would be able to correct it in the future. And don't make up excuses. You're interviewing smart people; they'll see right through your platitudes.
- Stay focused on who's in front of you: Your candidate, especially one that is being rejected, doesn't need to hear how good all of the other candidates and interviews were. Frankly, if you haven't selected me I assume that at least one other candidate must have been a rock star! They also don't need to hear how difficult the decision was for the employer. "We have chosen to go with another candidate" or "we are going in another direction at this time" or "we will not be moving forward with your application" are sufficient. If there are specific things you can say to the candidate about their candidacy, say them (points 3 & 4 above). Otherwise, reserve your process observations for conversations with your colleagues, coach, or counselor.
- Say "Thank you.": Saying "thank you" should be natural and heartfelt. Hopefully it is for you. Be sure to express your appreciation for the candidate's interest in your company/organization, the time that they have devoted to this process, and their willingness to undergo the scrutiny of an interview. Say it on the phone. Put it in writing when you follow up.
The last impression a candidate will have of you and your organization in the interview process is what will stick with them. Make sure their experience is professional and transparent the whole way through to the final "no" or the hallelujah "YES!"