Improve Your Hiring Results… By Increasing Transparency In Your Interview Process

Unnecessary stress hurts interviewee performance. However, increasing transparency reduces most candidate stress. 

Stop Treating Interviewees Like Adversaries By Increasing Interview Transparency

Let me be blunt. Most recruiting organizations seem to enjoy making their interviews highly stressful. In fact, throughout recruitment history, job interviews have been highly adversarial and exclusively one-sided. Historically, candidates came into their interviews mostly blind about the upcoming interview process, the interview content, and the interview participants. Even with the introduction of the “candidate experience” movement, few organizations have attempted to measure candidate stress levels, no less systematically reduce them. Fortunately, there is a new transparency model that has become prominent across many business disciplines. When applied to the interview process, it transformed it into a low-stress exchange of information between two professionals and less like a process designed primarily to find “faults” rather than exceptional positives in the candidates. Fortunately, a recent combination of four independent factors has begun to pressure recruiting leaders to make their interview process significantly more open and two-way. Those change factors include:

  1. The growth of employer review sites – like glassdoor.com makes it relatively easy for any outsider to learn an organization’s typical interviewee ratings, how long the total interview process takes, and their typical questions and answers. Currently, significant negative comments about their interview process will measurably hurt a company’s employer brand and its future job applications.
  2. The growth of the “transparency” movement – where users and multiple functions worldwide are increasingly demanding access to previously secret “insider-only” corporate and government information.
  3. Record low unemployment rates – prior to the Covid unemployment spike. The demand for talent was so great that more and more recruiters realized that “the power had shifted” to the in-demand candidate. Expect the power shift to return in many industries later this year.
  4. SEC HR reporting requirements – recent additions to 10K corporate reporting requirements will force HR to provide more metric results around the important aspects of recruiting.

Data Reveals That Stress Degrades Interviewee Performance 

Failing to provide “interview transparency” means that the high uncertainty levels created by your interview process unnecessarily create significant amounts of anxiety and candidate stress. And there is a direct connection between candidate interview stress levels and their interview performance. Yes, recruiting executives have noted that “Stress hinders interviewing performance, negotiation ability, and when it gets to a certain point, it can result in people wanting to postpone and ignore the hiring process altogether.” Academic research has similarly shown that “interview anxiety and interview performance are negatively related, indicating that more anxious interviewees received lower scores on their interviews.

A List Of The Top 10 Recruiting Damages Caused By Unnecessary Interview Stress  

When you are calculating the costs resulting from a lack of interview transparency, you should calculate damages from problems in each of the following recruiting results: 

  1. Applications will be discouraged – when potential applicants that already like your company read on the Internet about your extremely hard or lengthy interview process. Many potential applicants will individually decide not to apply at all (and they will also likely pass that message on to their friends). 
  2. Employee referrals will also decrease – once your employees become aware of the difficulty and the stress levels within your interview process. They will be much more reluctant to use this #1 most effective recruiting source.
  3. Anxiety increases the frequency of candidate dropouts – even though they initially applied, candidates may get discouraged when they find that little information about interviews is forthcoming. The resulting anxiety and uncertainty may cause them to be reluctant to schedule interviews or drop out of the interview process prematurely. 
  4. Anxiety and stress will alter a candidate’s interview answers – overly stressed candidates are slow to answer, and their interview answers are likely to be less than definitive. This job search-related stress may also limit their memory about future accomplishments during the interview. 
  5. Anxiety may also alter their attitude – high levels of anxiety may change how confident they appear, the voice levels, and their response time to questions.
  6. Stress changes their body language – how they shake hands and how they enter the room and sit. All of which may lower their interview scores from individuals that focus on attitude. 
  7. During the interview, interviewers will waste time trying to lower candidate stress levels – once the interviewer realizes that candidates are highly stressed because they were kept in the dark. The interview will have to wait a significant time upfront due to lowering their stress to perform normally during the interview.
  8. Candidates may react angrily to unnecessary stress – Candidates that are smart enough to realize that the interview-related stress is almost completely unnecessary will likely become either angry or resentful. And, if that becomes visible, it will lower their interview scores.
  9. Without knowing where to focus during interview prep, candidates will waste a lot of time  –  by not providing the candidate with guidance on what areas they should prepare for.   

If candidates find out during the actual interview, they wasted a great amount of time preparing in the wrong areas, resulting in an immediate high level of frustration.  

  1. Realizing that the stress level was unnecessary may lower candidate offer acceptance rates – if a frustrated candidate is provided an offer after the entire process. They are more likely to turn it down if they judge how they were treated during the interview as an indication of future mistreatment as an employee.

Results of unnecessary stress in almost every aspect of interviewing would likely be some bad hires. Directly measure the impact of interview-related stress on applications, candidate dropouts, and artificially low interview scores to find out. Unnecessary stress may also cause “the missing out” of many on-the-job top-performing candidates (if only they had performed better under the unnecessary levels of stress that occurred in and around their interviews.)

Interview Related Transparency Tools That Will Reduce Stress

Organizations that have proactively moved to increase their interview process transparency have normally taken one or more of the following TA actions to reduce unnecessary interview-related stress. So consider implementing one or more of these proven tools.

  • Provide a detailed “how we hire” section covering the details of your interviews – here’s a link to Google’s excellent example that publicly discloses their interview steps and what skills they are targeting. 
  • Use your transparent interview process to differentiate your firm – it’s a good idea to build your employer brand and differentiate yourself from other firms in the industry (on the interview stress issue).  Communicate your corporate transparency goal clearly in all recruiting materials, websites, blogs, and social media. Ensure your transparency practices are clear when someone searches through your job postings.
  • Provide a strong business case – you can expect to get most hiring managers to cooperate on transparency if  you first “show them the money.” So, each manager sees the many dollarized benefits they will receive after reducing candidate stress.
  • Let them know who they will be interviewing with – one of the biggest fears of many interviewees is not knowing who they will meet. Reduce the stress levels in this area by letting the candidate know in advance about the interviewers. Increase their comfort level with these individuals by providing the candidate with a short bio of each person they’re scheduled to meet. 
  • Let them know the types of interview questions to expect – in many cases, you simply can’t let a candidate know their specific interview questions in advance. However, you should at least consider making candidates aware of the types of interview questions they are likely to get from each hiring manager. Including behavioral questions, brainteasers, line by line questions from the resume, “walk me through the steps,” or standard questions (strengths/weaknesses, your goals, where would you like to be in __ years, tell me about yourself, etc.). Suppose the individual will undergo multiple interviews with different purposes. In that case, you might also consider letting them know the specific focus (what is being assessed) for each separate interview (i.e., the first interview will cover technical skills, and the second interview will cover “organizational fit). A few recruiters even remind their candidates that glassdoor.com and other similar sites may help give them some idea of the typical interview questions used and this firm. 
  • Let them know if you’re looking for organizational values – if you’re seeking individuals that share your organization’s values. Be sure to provide each candidate with a list of those values with examples.
  • Provide candidates with team profiles – when appropriate, allow the candidate to know as much as possible about the team that they will be working with. At the very least, consider providing the names of outstanding team members with direct links to their LinkedIn profiles. 
  • Help candidates accurately understand the corporate culture – many companies ask interview questions related to the company culture. And if that’s true, let them know so that they can prepare. While in other cases, they expect the candidate to know more about their products and customers. So, in either case, make it easy for any candidate to click on the relevant links that provide the required level of information about the company’s culture, business model, customers, and products. 
  • Guide candidates on the interview dress code – especially when you’re going to assess how a candidate dresses as part of the interview process. You can alleviate a lot of interviewee concern and stress by telling them (with examples) the expected interview dress code. If you’re using Zoom remote interviews, provide them with advice on dressing for these types of interviews.
  • Educate them on the length of individual interviews – because many candidates work, they will want to know their relative expected length for each interview day. Also, educate interviewees about whether you expect them to arrive early for any security sign-in. 
  • Educate them on the entire interview process’s length – career planning is much more stressful when you don’t know the target hiring date the firm has in mind. Transparency requires that you give candidates a reasonable estimate on the number of weeks before a hiring decision is likely to be made so that they can better plan their job search and the rest of their life.
  • Ask candidates, “Who would you like to speak to?” – under the adversarial model, the company is the sole determinant of the interviewers. However, you can reduce stress levels if you provide them with some opportunity to interview specifically “who” they need to talk to and what information they need to make their decision to accept this job. It’s important to note that, even if the candidate doesn’t take advantage of this option, they will appreciate the offer and your consideration of their needs.
  • Provide foolproof directions to the interview – unless you are assessing their ability to navigate, provide the candidate with a precise map, as well as foolproof mass transit directions to the relocation. You might also let them know where they can find available parking.
  • Include frequently asked questions and answers – survey previous interviewees to determine which questions about the interview process arise with almost every candidate. Post the complete list of common questions (and their answers) to minimize the number of total questions a candidate must ask during the interview process. You can also provide them with a list of areas where specific questions will usually not be answered (i.e., salary comparisons, promotion rates)
  • Alert candidates about required skills tests — if the applicant will be required to take any technical skills, certifications, or other tests. Let them know as much as possible about the test in advance. 

Implementing An Interview Transparency Process – The Six Primary Implementation Steps

If you are going to implement a comprehensive interview transparency process. Normally you must take implementation steps in each of these six areas: 

  1. Set maximizing interview transparency as a strategic recruiting goal – make it clear to everyone that stress reduction through interview transparency is a corporate goal. Then add transparency definitions, process performance metrics, and reporting and rewards to ensure that process success is measured and rewarded.
  2. Provide a step-by-step “user guide” covering your interview process – start your transparency process by providing on your website an overview of your complete interview and recruiting process. Then, list each major step along with its goal and its description. Here is an example of J&J’s interview guide. Where appropriate, it also includes pictures, videos, and examples of what will occur during each step and why it is necessary (this last element is the most important). For each interview, where possible, let the candidate know who they will be meeting with and why. And, if possible, that the candidate knows which individuals are the hiring decision-makers.
  3. Know and meet your candidate’s information expectations related to interviews – next, survey a sample of previous and current applicants. To learn what most candidates want to know and what actions they expect from corporate during each major step of the interview process. Think of your candidates as your customers and use surveys and interviews to determine what they expect and demand.
  4. Make candidates aware of what the company needs – at each major step, make it clear to each candidate what categories of information, documents, and licenses the company is seeking and why. When necessary, also make it clear what types of information that the company will not normally seek.
  5. Make candidates aware of common interview process issues – make each candidate fully aware of past interview process issues that created unnecessary stress. Gather that information using candidate surveys and interviews. Make the candidate aware of these potential issues so that they are not surprised if they do occur. 
  6. Schedule a postmortem follow-up – make sure that there is a formal process after each job is closed for learning what went right and what didn’t. Also, survey candidates on their interview process satisfaction levels and any new problems they might encounter.

Final Thoughts

A glassdoor survey listed the top things job candidates want from organizations during their hiring process. Not surprisingly, the top four on the list covered transparency-related issues that can create candidate stress. Those top factors included: regular two-way communications, clearly setting out expectations, getting feedback from the company, and clearly explaining each step of the interview process. So, this means that once your recruiting organization fully understands a candidate’s expectations and their information needs, the only remaining major obstacle to reducing unnecessary stress is the strong resistance from HR professionals and the hiring managers that savagely defend the status quo.

Author’s Note: This article was designed to make you think. If it succeeded, please help others by sharing it widely among your team and network. 

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About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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