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Red Carpet Candidates

Have you ever gotten this email? “We wanted to remind employees that we will have visitors from the corporate office tomorrow. Please make sure your space is presentable. Feel free to introduce yourself…” In other words, VIP’s from the mother ship are coming so clean up your cube, dress up, and most importantly, don’t embarrass your manager.

Have you ever gotten an email that says this? “We wanted to give everyone a heads up that we will have some prospective employees stopping by the office tomorrow. Please make sure you introduce yourself…”

I’d wager that you have seen a version of the first one and have never seen anything like the second.

Why is that?

Companies are much more likely to roll out the red carpet for bigwigs within the company than people considering coming to work there. That needs to change if you expect to recruit the best employees.

We routinely debrief candidates on their interview experiences in interviews which makes a big impression and often will determine which company they choose.

In the war for talent, the candidate experience plays a HUGE part in winning the best candidates, from how they were treated through the process through their onboarding. Today, we wanted to focus on the candidate experience during the in-person interview.

Here are several best practices:

1. “We’ve been expecting you.” If you have a receptionist at your company, brief them on who to expect and when. They should be welcomed as a guest and offered a beverage (water, coffee, etc.) and have a place to sit or use the restroom (they are probably nervous, which makes some people have to pee). Whoever has been their primary point of contact up to this point should appear as soon as possible to greet the candidate. Even if they are early, they should be thanked for coming and let them know you will be with them shortly. Ideally other employees coming through the lobby will be friendly, by smiling and greeting them vs. ignoring them.

2. Be prompt. If a candidate has the courtesy to be on time, you should be ready too.

3. Have a designated host. Someone should be their guide throughout their visit – especially if there is a series of interviews. A friendly face that keeps things rolling.

4. Have a plan, follow the plan. Have a schedule to follow and people assigned specific tasks well in advance - like who is giving the tour, who is responsible for taking the candidate to lunch, etc. If you wing it, it will show and kill your chances. I realize that the schedule can flex when an interview goes long, but having a candidate wait for 30 minutes “because Phil is on a call” could be a deal breaker.

5. Conduct interviews in a professional setting. A conference room or private office is ideal.

6. Be mindful of their needs. Candidates should be offered beverages (they'll have to talk a lot), give the opportunity to use the restroom between interviews and fed if they are interviewing through lunchtime.

7. Give them a tour. Whether an office or factory, the candidate should be shown around so they can envision themselves in the space where they would be an employee. Introduce them to future teammates and executives they might not be interviewing with. Any amenities like a breakroom, fitness facilities, or walking trails, should be shown off. Remember that you are trying to sell them on working for your company.

8. Respect their time. Employed candidates often cannot take time off from work to interview. Or if they do, it’s often at the expense of their PTO bank. Don’t jeopardize their job because the interviews went long. Don’t make them have to take more time off than necessary. If a tertiary stakeholder (like a department head in another department) is unavailable, either skip that interview altogether or set up a phone call for later. Nothing annoys candidates more than having to rearrange their calendars multiple times for a lengthy interview process.

9. Don’t be cheap. If a candidate is traveling in for an interview, make arrangements that work for them. Rent them a car or have them picked up at the airport if they are flying in. Offer to fly them in the day before so they can be fresh for the interview. Have their host meet them for dinner the night before or pick them up in the morning and take them for breakfast.

10. Don’t over-promise and be honest about the process. If the interviews went well, tell the candidate when they can reasonably expect feedback. Ideally, have a feedback meeting on everyone’s calendar right after the candidate has departed. If you have other candidates scheduled for interviews, tell them so and when you will be ready to make a decision. Don’t promise you’ll call them Monday and don’t. Don’t tell them an offer is coming if one isn’t.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of best practices. There are plenty of other ways to make a candidate feel welcome and that your company has its act together, which is the goal.

Unfortunately many of these best practices are the result of companies behaving badly our candidates have experienced. From the candidate who interviewed for eight straight hours without a bathroom break, water, or food, to the one that was interviewed by the owner’s cocky son in the break room during lunch hour.

Done well, you can win with some spectacular candidates - often over tremendous competition. For example, one candidate we worked with recently turned down an offer that was $50,000 more than the one he accepted because the winner did such a good job selling him on why he was a fit for them.

Having the best talent will pay dividends in many ways including increased growth & profitability to the ability to attract more A-players. Running a great hiring process is an easy (and relatively cheap) way to stay one step ahead of the competition.

If you are struggling to hire the right talent for your team, we can help – either by managing the search on your behalf or consulting with you on how to do it better. Let us know how we can help!

If you are ready for your next challenge, we’d like to hear from you. We can be found at

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