Is your interview process slick or slack?

Written by
Changeboard Team

17 Jan 2014

17 Jan 2014 • by Changeboard Team

Attracting HR talent

The best people in human resources have worked hard to build their professional reputations. More than likely, they enjoy their current role and are well looked after by their existing employer. They’re cautious about moving in the current environment, they know who their peers are and they talk to one-another. All these points need to be taken into account if you want to stand a chance of attracting high calibre HR professionals. This was vividly brought home to me recently when we were briefed by an existing client seeking a new global HR director. We found five engaged candidates, all currently employed, and we were well into the interview process when a raft of previously unidentified stakeholders based outside the UK came to light. The resulting delays while the client arranged travel, conference calls and diary slots meant only two out of the original five lasted until the end: one got fed up and pulled out, and two others were snapped up by more decisive organisations.

Are interview processes slowing down?

It can be hard to strike the right balance between too fast and too slow: move too quickly and you risk candidates feeling like they’re being steam-rollered into making a decision before they’ve properly thought it through; too slow and they may lose interest, after concluding your culture is indecisive and snail-paced. The latter, an increasing phenomenon, is the result of more cautious decision-making and a desire to reduce the risk of making a hiring mistake by exposing candidates to many more interviewees than would have been the case previously.

It would appear that people are seeking refuge through safety in numbers. This trend conflicts directly with the considerable time and money organisations spend to achieve ‘preferred employer’ status. The irony in all this is that, for most organisations, the current operating environment makes it all the more important to secure the strongest HR talent quickly. So what can you do to up the ante and increase your chances of hiring the best talent? Here are five ways to slicken up your interview process:

1. Plan ahead

A typical search can take 6-8 weeks to produce a candidate shortlist. Before you begin the search process, identify who all the interested parties are and agree who will form the interview panel. Once agreed, block out their diaries for the number of weeks ahead when you expect to be starting the interviewing phase.

2. Set limits

Limit your interview process to a maximum of three rounds. If there are eight stakeholders, block-book everyone for all three stages. Remember, the candidates you are trying to attract are probably already doing high-pressure, high-commitment jobs. Asking them to devote more time than is really necessary to your organisation’s sub-optimal interview process is going to leave a bad impression.

3. Manage candidate expectations

Make sure candidates know what is ahead with up-front, clear communication: if the interview process is likely to take five weeks, tell them. If you want to prevent candidates from withdrawing, the last thing you need is for them to feel stuck in a never-ending, ‘recruitment-by-committee’ cycle.

4. Find out about your competition

If you are using a search firm, ask them to try to establish what other options the candidate is considering. If a competing interview process is moving faster than yours, be prepared to speed up. This has the effect of making the candidate feel valued by your organisation and it could be a crucial factor in getting them over the line. 

5. Keep in contact with candidates

Manage buyback by keeping in regular touch with the candidate post-acceptance. Senior HR professionals often have long notice periods. During this time it’s not uncommon for their current employer to realise that they have no succession plan. They will then try to persuade your preferred candidate to stay put. One way to combat this is to arrange dinners or lunches with relevant senior leaders in your organisation to keep the candidate engaged and reinforce the reasons why they have made the right decision to move.   

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