In an ideal hiring pipeline, a candidate is happy that they got the job, while the company is happy because they’ve found someone who will help it achieve its goals. Even rejected candidates can be happy if they leave with a good feeling about the company and its hiring processes.
But in practice a hiring pipeline can be leaky; qualified candidates are lost at some stage of the pipeline. This is a major problem for several reasons:
Finding and vetting qualified candidates is a substantial investment. Costs add up quickly.
Leaky pipelines disproportionately affect minorities and other underrepresented groups.
Negative reviews about the hiring process of a company can dissuade others from applying.
To learn more about the causes of pipeline leaks and what can be done against them, the authors of this paper conducted an empirical investigation of reviews on Glassdoor, a website where current and former employees anonymously review companies and where candidates share their experiences with technical interviews at those companies.
The hiring pipeline consists of five stages (contact, preparation, interviews, hearing back, and offer and negotiation). The paper describes the resulting themes for each of these stages, and gives examples of positive and negative experiences.
The hiring process starts with first contact between a candidate and a recruiter.
Problems can occur when recruiters make critical mistakes in matching the candidate to a position (e.g. a mismatch in skills or willingness to relocate). Candidates appreciate when recruiters listen to their preferences.
Moreover, candidates expect recruiters to respond in a timely manner. Companies that respond slowly or even ghost candidates risk are seen as unprofessional, which may have an affect on others who otherwise might have considered applying. Candidates appreciate when recruiters make an effort to keep in touch throughout the process.
After initial screening, an interview is scheduled with the candidate.
Glassdoor reviews show that candidates were not always available to proceed with the interview, for instance because the interview is at an inappropriate time or because they company repeatedly tried to reschedule the interview. Candidates appreciate when companies provide multiple time slots or offer to accommodate special scheduling circumstances.
Candidates need to know how they can prepare for the interview (what will the interviewers be looking for?) and what they can expect during and after the process. Unclear hiring criteria or processes make candidates perceive rejections as unfair and arbitrary, and can lead to negative word-of-mouth to peers.
During the interview itself the interviewers and the candidate try to determine whether they are a good match for each other.
Interviewers can act as shepherds through a long and stressful series of interviews. Unfortunately, many things can go wrong:
Interviewers who are distracted or clearly don’t want to be there are off-putting to candidates;
Several Glassdoor reviews mention interviewers who are rude or hostile to candidates;
Interview questions that are irrelevant or inappropriate (e.g. unrealistically hard questions) add to a frustrating interview experience;
Poor experiences related to a company’s culture, its campus, or other aspects (e.g. a lack of passion from interviewers) can change candidates’ minds.
Instead, companies should probably take cue from reviews that praise enthusiastic interviewers who make candidates feel more comfortable by providing hints, make the interview “fun”, and who are respectful to candidates – even when they’re bombing the interview.
Candidates reported many instances when they had no idea what the status of their application was due to being ghosted by companies. Fortunately there were also examples where recruiters do a great job at keeping candidates up-to-date and were swift in moving along the process.
When candidates are rejected, they appreciate constructive feedback that helps them understand why they were rejected and what they can do better next time. Not offering feedback lowers their opinion of the company.
Once a candidate has passed the interview, they’re almost there… However, if anything goes wrong during this stage, the whole process becomes a massive waste of time for everyone involved.
Companies that take too long to make a decision, match candidates to a team, or refuse to negotiate risk losing candidates (and their peers) to rivals.
These observations led to the creation of the following five guidelines for hiring processes:
Recruit widely from diverse backgrounds and tailor communications to candidates. Companies should be visible in venues that acknowledge, promote, and bring together people from different backgrounds. Details also matter. For instance, gender-imbalanced presenter roles and geek culture references may deter women from applying, while phrases like “whatever it takes”, “all-star” and “high-performance” may inadvertently attract more applications from men.
Help candidates prepare for interviews by providing them with information about the skills they should emphasise, the topics that they are expected to know, references to relevant materials, representative interview questions and, if possible, sample interviews so that candidates can become acquainted with the interview experience. This puts all candidates on equal footing and makes the hiring process fairer.
Develop standards and train interviewers to ensure that candidates have a consistent experience, regardless of who they interview with. For example, Google lets trainees shadow experienced interviewers to ensure consistent ratings among interviewers, while interviewers at GitLab receive training on recognising different forms of unconscious bias.
Keep candidates informed throughout the process and afterwards, regardless of whether they receive an offer, e.g. by giving candidates constructive and timely feedback, telling them what specific areas or skills they would need to improve, and providing candidates with a reason for their rejection. It’s important to keep rejected candidates happy, because they (or one of their friends or colleagues) may want to apply again in the future!
Negotiate not just the immediate offer, but invest in long-term career growth. Forcing candidates to accept an exploding or low-ball offer results in higher attrition once they find a more suitable position elsewhere. Companies can manage expectations by publishing salary ranges and career guides that outline responsibilities for each level and the pathway for growth within the company.
Treat candidates as people
Ensure that all candidates have the opportunity to properly prepare themselves for the interview
Train interviewers so that candidates have consistent, pleasant experiences
Keep candidates informed throughout the hiring process