Best Practices for a Truly Effective Interview Process

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Roughly 46 percent of new hires fail within their first 18 months on the job. It’s not always because you hired someone who couldn’t do the job. Often, it’s because you hired someone who wasn’t the right fit.

How can you determine whether your candidate is a good match for the role beyond a simple hard-skills match? Reexamine your interview process.

Interviewing doesn’t begin and end with the interview itself. The interview process should be a strategic, deliberate process designed both to yield a holistic picture of the candidate and to communicate the role’s responsibilities and expectations. Creating an interview process that accomplishes these goals takes a lot of preparation, planning, and follow-through. Here are some best practices for creating a truly effective interview process:

Before the Interview

1. Define the Role

First and foremost, your job description should be crystal clear. Vague descriptors and lists of generalized responsibilities leave room for unqualified candidates to flood your funnel.

Before you publicly list the job opening, carefully consider exactly what you’re looking for. What specific skills are required? What level of experience will a candidate need for this role? What tasks will they carry out every day? Be as specific and explicit as possible about every aspect of the role. The more applicants you can weed out before they even send a resume, the more you can focus on the quality candidates.

2. Align the Role With Your Business Goals

It’s also important to build roles around your specific business goals. What are your organization’s priorities, and how will this role directly support those priorities? What would you like this role to accomplish, what do you need this role to accomplish, and how do you marry the two? When you know exactly what you want the role to accomplish, you can more clearly define the role’s responsibilities. Make sure the hiring manager and any other leaders involved in the decision-making process provide their own input concerning their expectations as well.

Additionally, it’s good practice to be transparent with the candidate about how they would be contributing to the company if hired. The better an employee understands how their job fits into the business, the more engaged and productive they are likely to be.

3. Align the Role With Your Company’s Core Competencies

As you craft your job listing, also consider the mission, vision, and values of your organization. How do your employees reflect those elements in their demeanors and their work? Your job ad should articulate the kind of person who would fit in well with your company culture. This information helps candidates self-select in or out of your funnel based on how well they align with that criteria.

Remember, you don’t simply want a candidate who is capable — you want one who is a good culture fit. Candidates who can thrive within the organization are more likely to be confident, comfortable, long-term employees.

4. Train Your Interviewers

Your interviewers are part of the process for a reason, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they know how to interview effectively. After all, interviewing isn’t as easy as asking a few questions and gauging the candidate’s responses.

Your interviewers should know exactly what kinds of questions to ask to elicit valuable information, as well as how to put a nervous candidate at ease so they can get a more accurate picture of the candidate’s qualities. Supply interviewers with guides before the meeting to help them plan ahead. After the interview, give your interviewers score cards they can use to share immediate feedback on the candidate. Make sure everyone involved is comfortable and confident before they enter the room in order to get the best results.

5. Get Tools That Help

You don’t have to do everything yourself. Look for tools that can automate as much of the interview process as possible. For example, automated schedulers and text reminders help streamline, standardize, and expedite the tedious aspects of the interview process. That way, interviewers have more time to focus on what matters: a high-quality candidate experience.

During the Interview

1. Be Prepared

Interviews are a two-way street. They’re not just about the employer deciding whether the candidate is a good fit; the candidate is evaluating you, too. Remind your interviewers to put their best feet forward by having their questions organized and ready to go ahead of time.

Interviewers should also pay close attention to candidates as they speak. Candidates should feel that interviewers are really listening and intent on getting to know them. Give candidates the opportunity to ask questions in return. When a candidate feels that the interviewer is being open with them, they’re likely to reciprocate.

2. Be Transparent

It’s important to be open and honest with candidates. Interviewers should clearly lay out the expectations for what someone in the position would be required to do, manage, or participate in. Candidates need to have a holistic view of the day-to-day so they can decide whether the role is something they can see themselves in. The more transparent you are up front, the less room you leave for surprises. As a result, whichever candidate you hire is unlikely to leave right away. They knew what they were in for.

After the Interview

Don’t leave candidates wondering. Promptly send a follow-up message that thanks the candidate for their time and outlines the next steps and the anticipated timeline. It can take weeks for a company to extend an offer after an interview, so it’s important your candidate knows what’s happening while they wait. Otherwise, they might assume that you’ve chosen another candidate and accept another job offer instead.

Let the candidate know what stage you’re in of the hiring process. How much longer will you be interviewing? How many rounds of interviews can they expect? Does your HR have to conduct a vetting process? All of this should be clear to the candidate.

Having a well-defined plan for your interview process that is based on larger business objectives ensures you hire the right person for the right job. The more thorough and thoughtful the interview, the higher satisfaction you’ll see on both sides of the table.

A version of this article originally appeared on the ClearCompany blog.

Sara Pollock is head of the marketing department at ClearCompany.

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