Throughout my career, I’ve observed and participated in many interview processes- mainly as an executive recruiter, but also as a candidate myself. In this article, you will learn four deadly mistakes that companies make with their interview process. Avoid these mistakes, and your organization will hire better leaders faster.
1. Inconsistent messaging from the hiring team.
I was once a candidate for a full-time position with a well-known company in the D.C. area. During an interview day, four different people interviewed me at the company’s headquarters.
However, each person who interviewed me described my potential role very differently. The inconsistency from the hiring team completely turned me off. The following day, I withdrew my name from consideration.
Before your company begins a search, gather everyone involved in the hiring decision. Discuss the following questions, along with any other questions that candidates are likely to ask.
- Why is this position available, and why is the company not filling it internally?
- What is the timeline on filling the position?
- How is the organization structured, and how will this position fit into the organizational structure?
- What will this person inherit and be expected to do?
- What is your company’s business model and who are your customers?
- How would you describe your organization’s culture? What about the personality and style of the hiring manager?
- Where will the role be based, and how much travel will be required?
- How will compensation be structured for this role?
- What are the next steps in this process?
You will likely get different opinions on these questions from the members of your hiring team. It is much better to work through that and come to some agreement before you start your interview process. Candidates will lose interest if they do not think that everyone is on the same page.
2. Poor location for candidate interviews.
I once led a search for a CEO who asked me to help him replace one of his direct reports. When it came time for the CEO to meet with potential candidates, the CEO insisted on conducting the interviews in his office, even though the person he was trying to replace worked less than 50 feet away.
As far as I know, the incumbent never crossed paths in the building with any of the candidates. However, the CEO should never have taken that chance. He should have conducted the interviews at a private, off-site location instead.
Confidentiality is of utmost importance for executive searches, even when someone is not being replaced. Candidates often worry about others learning of their candidacy. As a result, they might not feel comfortable interviewing inside of your company’s offices or at a public location, like a coffee shop or a restaurant. Unless it makes sense to meet with candidates at your office, consider conducting interviews at a private, off-site location where everyone can relax and be free of distractions.
3. Infrequent communication with a candidate.
Have you ever interviewed with a company and been left wondering about next steps for weeks? It’s happened to me several times throughout my career, even with companies who eventually made me an offer. I still remember each situation years later. It’s not a fun experience. However, it’s unfortunately quite common, and it’s probably happened to you at least once as well.
Unless a candidate is on vacation or knows that a search is on hold, there should be some sort of contact every week with an active candidate. If your company is not ready yet to move to the next step, contact the candidate anyway. Share some recent news about your company or industry, or let the candidate know that you don’t have an update yet on next steps.
Candidates lose interest or move on to other opportunities if you leave them in the dark for too long. Infrequent communication during the interview process is a big turn-off.
4. Inconsistent interview process across candidates
Sometimes, companies have different candidates speak with different members of the hiring team first. For example, candidate A meets with John first, while candidate B meets with Mary first. This is typically done because of scheduling challenges, or as a way to spread out the interview responsibilities. However, if candidates don’t go through the same exact interview process, how can you compare them against each other and decide who to advance?
Each step of your interview process should be identical for each candidate. Only then can you make accurate comparisons and informed decisions on how to proceed.
Summary and final thoughts
Many employers think they hold all the power during the interview process. In reality, top candidates have plenty of other options on where to work, and they are interviewing and evaluating your company, too.
An unimpressive interview process will turn off candidates who otherwise would have been interested. Be thoughtful with every aspect of your interview process, and you will hire better leaders faster.
About the author: As the Founder of Stronger Talent, Pete Leibman recruits exceptional leaders for companies that make the world stronger. Throughout his career, Pete has helped clients recruit exceptional leaders at the Board, C-Suite, Senior Vice President, Vice President, General Manager, Managing Director, and Director levels. Pete’s work has been featured on Fox News, CBS Radio, and Fortune.com, and he is the author of two books and over 150 articles on career management, healthy living, high performance, and executive recruiting.