Interview Overdose

It’s a candidate’s market and time to rethink how to vet talent.

By Astrid Burr

Time to hire has always been a key metric in assessing how well talent organizations are meeting their hiring targets. It’s also important to business stakeholders who depend on high performers to keep their departments productive. But Glassdoor Economic Research shows average hiring times in the U.S. actually increased from 12.6 days to 22.9 days between 2010 and 2014. The bottom line is: The longer an organization waits, the less likely it is to land the dream candidate.

There are a number of factors at play here, but interviews are among the main drivers. How many rounds of interviews do candidates need to endure before receiving an offer? Over-engineered interview processes are killing modern hiring practices, and it’s time for a change.

A recent study by MRI Network shows the average candidate attends between three and four interviews. But that doesn’t really add up.

• First, most talent acquisition teams hold a telephone screen to review a candidate’s resume and application and ask some role-specific questions to determine if they’re suitable to progress to the next stage.

• Next, a telephone or video interview covers relevant behavioral and technical questions, and helps form an larger view of attributes such as communication style.

• If the candidate is deemed a good fit, they’re usually scheduled for a face-to-face interview with the hiring manager.

Wait a second—that is already three interviews. But other interviews often come into play with key stakeholders, team members, and again with the hiring manager before an offer is made.

Interview processes can drag on for weeks with candidates attending five, six—or even 12—interviews before being hired. Every stage requires tedious coordination and scheduling, which causes delays.

HR and talent acquisition (TA) teams have a reputation for making candidates and hiring managers jump through too many hoops. Too often the big picture around hiring is forgotten. Each candidate is an opportunity to bring in a person who will add real value to the business.

This overly cumbersome assessment process has a number of consequences. The administrative work involved in managing interview schedules increases costs without delivering additional value. Top candidates may drop out and tell their friends about the experience or share it on social media and networking sites such as Glassdoor. While hiring the right employee is a critical decision, if the process takes too long, the best candidates may walk across the road to competitors.

Today’s labor market is candidate-driven, and organizations must sell themselves to high-quality potential hires just as much as candidates need to promote themselves to employers.

Learning a Lesson from Entry-Level Hiring

Entry-level hiring is an outlier to this new norm, and provides some valuable lessons. Consider graduate programs, in which an entirely different strategy is necessary to handle the sheer volume of applications. 

Today’s entry-level candidates have grown up in the digital age. The way they seek employment, interact with organizations, and make decisions about their careers are far different than the traditional hiring process.

Forward-thinking companies are deploying more sophisticated tools and solutions—such as gamified assessments, video interviewing, and virtual or augmented reality—to identify and engage top young talent. They’re designing online and mobile-friendly assessment platforms and hosting digital assessment centers.

These interactive tools are often overlooked when it comes to hiring more experienced candidates. Instead, TA teams revert to the tried-and-true interview, which is seen as the easiest and lowest-cost way to assess an individual’s experience and alignment to a role.

To help focus interview and assessment processes in a way that benefits companies and candidates alike, organizations should consider focusing on five principles:

1. Quality of candidate. It doesn’t take long for top candidates to wonder whether interviewing multiple times for a role is a good use of time and to attribute this to the employer’s inability to make a decision.

Organizations need to focus efforts on quality candidates. A long process may end in a short list, but it will consist of low quality candidates—the only ones willing to turn up for interview after interview.   

2. Quality—not quantity—of interview. Quality, in terms of both interviewing and decision-making, must be prioritized over quantity. Set a limit for the number of interview rounds by position. The number will vary depending on the level or strategic importance of a role, and HR should also take into account the other types of assessments that are used along the way. Make each interview matter with specific questions that are complementary, not duplicative. The candidate will feel like they’re cared for, and hiring teams will learn more about them.

In organizations that hire many people for the same role— roles such as customer service representatives—interview content should be standardized for each stage and be structured around areas that are most relevant to the role.

3. Quality of decision-making. Too often, the final interviewers or hiring manager assume that the candidate must be good because they made it this far. But, that’s no way to make a smart call. Interviewers should meet to compare notes, validate findings, and agree on a winning candidate. Why hold complementary interviews if the information isn’t integrated to create a complete picture of the candidate slate? 

4. Candidate pool size. Every candidate should have a positive experience, but those who make the final cut should have the best experience. With the way processes function currently,  in all likelihood, finalists have a worse experience than those who are rejected weeks earlier.

To avoid this, don’t just cut down on the number of interviews—cut down on the number of candidates. Organizations are better able to deliver a consistent, positive experience for each. In the time it takes HR to realize that there’s no perfect candidate, a near perfect hire could be trainied to deliver at or beyond expectations.

5. Reduce time to hire. Glassdoor found that adding phone interviews increases the hiring process by 8 to 8.2 days on average to the hiring process. One-on-one interviews add 4.1 to 5.3 days, and panel interviews lengthen the process between 5.6 and 6.8 days. Compare these amounts to simulation-type exercises such as presentations, which add just 2.7 to 4.2 days.

Strategically select the types of interviews or assessments that are necessary for each role to significantly shorten time to hire. If multiple interviews are required, try to hold them all on the same day. Focus on quality over quantity.

A New Life for Interviews

The smartest companies recognize that a positive candidate experience is paramount. TA teams must understand what is expected from them, as well as the potential impact—losing a top candidate—of veering from the process.

Interviewing has been around for centuries, and will always have a place in the process. But there is plenty of room for improvement around the basics. The good news?  Making these changes is neither difficult nor costly.

Astrid Burr is client partner for Talent Collective, an Alexander Mann Solutions company.

Posted August 17, 2017 in Talent Acquisition

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