As any employer will attest, there has been a power shift in the labour market in recent years. How acute that change is will depend on the sector you inhabit, but fundamentally we are in an environment where quite often the candidate, not the employer. is king. The result is employers scrambling to devise the best talent acquisition and retention strategies, while candidates sit back and assess the deals on offer.
No great revelation, that, but it is striking how many employers fail to adapt their recruitment approach to this new environment. While they are open and creative in devising benefits packages to appeal to candidates, when it comes to the job interview itself little has changed. This is despite the fact that the interview is without question the best forum, not just to assess candidates, but to entice them to opt for your employment over another’s.
In today’s market, employers need to invest the same preparation time in the job interview as the candidate sitting opposite, albeit in a different way. First step – how do I use the occasion to win over a candidate?
Start with the waiting area. What does the welcome and the décor say about your company? What about the magazines on offer? (I recall being more than a little impressed at being handed Empire and Variety to read prior to an interview in a professional services practice some year ago). Why not spend the first 5 minutes doing a whirlwind walk-about of your jaw-dropping workplace rather than directing the candidate straight away to an insipid interview room? Surely it’s a better way to bond than across a table.
Break down barriers. If your company professes to embrace diversity, make sure this is reflected at interview. For example, don’t just bring in the seasoned HR veteran, have them accompanied by a staff member of a different age and gender – maybe someone working closely to the role on offer. Put yourself in their shoes (literally) – what dress code is likely to convey the right message?
Secondly, there’s the more personal stuff. You expect the jobseeker to have read up on your business, so make sure you’ve read up on them, both through their CV and LinkedIn. (Nothing is more frustrating for a candidate than to have an interviewer ask something that clearly shows their CV hasn’t been read properly.) Take five minutes out of your day to prepare for the interview so that it feels less formal and reflects the overall job experience. Avoid making the candidate feel like a number. Be guided by their interests and career to date in trying to pre-empt the questions they may ask.
Thirdly, think ‘next job’. Generation Z are ambitious, so be clear as to job progression within the company. They also want to make a difference, so emphasise how meaningful the work can be, not just to the organisation, but beyond. Don’t be slow in spelling out benefits. Today’s candidates have a real ear for flexible hours, free lunches, gym etc.
Speak about management styles, giving the candidate the chance to tell them how they would like to be managed. Resist the temptation to play up the long hours and hard work. This might well be part of the job, but it’s not part of selling the job, and is unlikely to win over the best people!
Finally, the ‘sell’ doesn’t stop at the interview itself. Make sure the candidate is kept informed the whole way throughout the process. Stick to your timelines, provide feedback and keep the communication up. Make sure everyone is in line with the process – hiring managers, recruiters and candidates. Candidates often talk amongst themselves and you can quickly garner an unwelcome reputation for being unresponsive.
Increasingly, the term ‘job interview’ is something of a misnomer. This needs to be less a test, more an open exchange of needs and expectations between parties. Devote some thought as to how, where and with whom it should take place. For all the time and money you will invest trying to beat the competition to the right talent, this is where you really get to stand out from the crowd.