Etiquette 101 for Hiring Managers

This article appeared as part of Dennis Wolff’s quarterly column in the HR supplement of Business In Vancouver (October  26 – November 1, 2010; issue 1096). To view the print version, please click here.

How applicants’ experiences during the hiring process have a substantial impact on the employer’s brand in the candidate community

In my role as a recruiter, I spend a lot of time in interview situations. Like most hiring managers, I sure have my share of anecdotes when it comes to the topic of etiquette. There are numerous examples of applicants blowing their chances by ignoring the simplest rules of first impressions, ranging from being late to casually bringing along a cup of coffee to the job interview. However, basic etiquette (or the lack thereof) is not only a pet peeve for employers but also a hot topic in the candidate community. When asking job seekers about their experience applying for jobs, many are disillusioned and frustrated after having had poor experiences. The recessionary climate has put some hiring managers in a deceivingly comfortable spot where opportunities are scarce and applicants are plentiful. Qualified candidates complain about companies not responding to their applications, about poor interview experiences or a breakdown in communication after having gone through a formal interviewing process with a company.

What many employers seem to forget is that the interviewing and hiring process speaks volumes of the company’s brand as an employer. Smart companies know how important it is to treat every applicant respectfully and to offer an interviewing experience that reflects the company’s brand and values. It’s not just about courting the best candidates; job interviews can still be tough, intense situations. In fact, high potential applicants will expect a tough interview process which enables them to display their accomplishments and abilities which will make them stand out from the pack. A high performing, no-nonsense producer will want to feel reassured that the company they are interviewing with shares their sense of professionalism, respect and effectiveness. Here are a few ideas how your company can improve their brand in the candidate community:

  1. Set expectations properly: One of the major frustrations applicants experience is the complete lack of communication after an initial application has been submitted. If you are not planning on contacting every single applicant, at the very least include a disclaimer in the job posting indicating that only qualified applicants will be contacted. Ideally, you will also include a specific date by which an applicant can expect a response. At least they will know to move on if they haven’t heard anything by then.
  2. Communicate effectively: Most companies have applicant tracking or HRI Systems in place that allow them to properly track applications and to send out personalised emails to large groups of recipients. Why not set up an automated response thanking applicants for submitting their resumes and advising them of what they can expect moving forward? Even if your company doesn’t have a proper system in place, a basic email client has the ability to send automated responses or customised emails.
  3. Consider some advice from the dating world: As with any first date, a first impression is a lasting impression. When conducting the first interview, remember the basics: Be polite, be respectful, and be on time. Be an active listener but also be prepared to give an elevator pitch as to what an employee can expect from your firm. As the labour market improves, top candidates end up with multiple job offers and you want to make sure that your company is at the top of their list.
  4. Nothing trumps professionalism: I’ve heard numerous hiring managers say that they don’t really need to “interview” a candidate. They simply “know” when they see the right fit. While this may be true, the applicant is left with a disappointing experience. A strong candidate will want more from an interview than just a pleasant conversation. They want to feel that the hiring manager has a keen interest in their work history and previous accomplishments. In the worst case, a top candidate may not want to proceed after a weak interview experience as they presume it is a reflection of the company’s lack of focus on performance.
  5. Be smart when releasing applicants: At the end of the day you can only hire one person per job. It’s very tempting to focus entirely on that new hire. Sadly, taking down the job posting marks the end of the hiring process for most companies. Making an effort to not leave other applicants in the dark is more than just good karma: Those applicants who have been interviewed should receive personal feedback. Be constructive and explain your hiring decision. Thank them for their time and interest and encourage them to keep in touch should you feel that they may be of interest for future openings. Sending out an email to the other applicants who could not be interviewed offers a great opportunity for employer branding. By advising them that a hiring decision has been made and thanking them for their interest in your company, you are sending a clear message that speaks volumes of your professionalism and thoroughness not only during the recruitment process but also in how your company conducts its business.

As with any experience in an open market, negative news travels exponentially faster than positive. In a time when people can vent publicly about a negative experience, disgruntled job seekers can leverage the powerful world of social media networks by openly commenting on their experience with a particular company and an employer brand can suffer substantial damage. With every new job your company recruits for, your brand is put to the test over and over again. A lot can be gained from offering a great hiring experience. Much more can be lost by having a particularly bad one. What is the impression you think your organization is leaving in the candidate community?

~ Dennis Wolff

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2 responses to “Etiquette 101 for Hiring Managers

  1. Great article. Excellent tips for any employer

  2. It’s nice to see that there are some employers that care about the hiring process. I’ve experienced many interviews, not all of them comfortable, because of employer actions.

    Use the interview to interview your potential employers. Interviewees tend to forget that its their chance to be the interviewer as well.

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