How to handle applications and the interview process

You’ve found some great candidates, and now it’s time to interview them.
The goal is to move through the process as smoothly as possible, with the best suited candidates advancing on. It’s important to make sure everyone has a positive experience, including those who are unsuccessful.
A lot of this comes down to organisation and basic manners, optimising your process and treating your candidates with respect. It seems simple, but so many get it wrong! Often to the detriment of making the best hire. Look at it this way, if you take 30 days to get back to someone after an interview, they’re not necessarily going to be thrilled to hear from you.

Here’s a guide for effectively managing your candidates.

1. Leave your employer ego at the door.

 It’s sad, but true. Not everyone wants to work for your business. Most candidates have probably never heard of you before, and you’re likely to be one of several companies they’re looking into. One of the best ways to secure an applicant’s interest is to run a seamless hiring process. If their experience of you is professional and stress-free, they will be much more inclined to accept your offer.

2. Decide on the hiring process and make it clear to everyone involved.

 Before you move forward you should agree internally what the hiring process is going to be. How many interviews will take place and in what format? Which team members need to be involved? When are they going to be scheduled for? Decide on these issues and come up with a rough time frame for the process. Also, make sure you ask everyone involved to be as flexible as possible over this period to accommodate any candidate interviews taking place outside of 9-5 working hours.

3. Receiving and responding to applications.

👍  - we want you to move forward.
If you like a candidate, don’t wait around. Let them know within 24 hours that you would like to take them forward. Go through the process with them on the phone, any interviews, meet the team events, tests, etc. Give them a rough time frame of when they should expect to hear from you, and then make sure you stick to that time frame!
👎  – sorry, you’re not moving forward.
Your unsuccessful applicants are important, too. You should provide feedback to candidates as quickly as possible, without wasting their time or giving them false hope. The more applications you receive, the more difficult it becomes to give personal feedback. You can have a couple of templates to follow, but it is good practice and is more constructive to offer personal feedback.

4. Taking candidates to interview.

 A good interview process will:

  • Send out interview invitations with as much information as possible, and make sure they are sent out sufficiently ahead of time. Include the interview date and time, where it will be held, who will be there and the rough format. If you want them to prepare something, let them know. Also, make sure you give them a number they can call if they have any questions.
  • Run through the format of the interview, first. It’s important to come prepared with questions, as well as encouraging interviewees to ask any questions they have.
  • Alert candidates to any tests. If part of the interview process is a test, make sure you let the candidates know in advance. You need the candidate to buy in to you, so surprising them with a test isn’t a good idea. Engage with them beforehand and you will get a much better response.
  • Following the outcome of the interview, it’s important to get back to your candidates promptly, whether they are a yes or a no. Be constructive to your no candidates, and be quick to alert your yes candidates that you want to take them forward to secure their interest.
  • If it’s a maybe, tell them how long they can expect to wait before they hear from you, and then don’t deviate from that time frame. 

5. Making your offer.

Make your decision, quickly. It’s really important to think your decision through, to make sure you are making a good hire. But, the longer you wait to make an offer, the more chance of your chosen candidate turning you down. It’s much more effective to act quickly.  
Also, be prepared to negotiate. If someone asks for more money, even if it’s a couple of thousand pounds, you should still consider it. A few grand for the business will be very little spread over 12 months, but for the candidate it could be the tipping point. If you are sold on the candidate, paying them slightly more might be a small price to pay for the great work they’ll do.
*Top tip… Invest in an Applicant Tracking System (ATS).
It sounds technical, but an ATS basically functions to keep things streamlined and in one place. They provide a database of your hiring pipeline, making it easy to track all of your applicants online, giving you the ability to filter them according to selected criteria. It’s much more efficient than keeping track of your applicants in your inbox where they are easily lost, and having to sort through them manually.
Workable is a great ATS to invest in, but if you are on a budget, a trello board is also a useful tool for managing the process as well.

The more efficiently you manage your applications and your own hiring process, the better impression you will make on your candidates, which will increase your chances of making a great hire.

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