Optimize Your Recruiting Process by Getting into the Mind of a Candidate


Recruiters are continuously looking for ways to improve how they source, assess, and hire top talent. Using industry best practices and data are great strategies, but few things are as good as getting direct feedback from candidates themselves. At the Greenhouse Recruiting Optimization Roadshow in Palo Alto, recruiters had the opportunity to do just that.

The session, “The Candidate Experience: What Candidates Really Think About Your Recruiting Process,” gave recruiters the chance to ask a panel of engineering candidates their thoughts on what works, and conversely what doesn't, in regards to recruiting. Here were some key takeaways from the session:

The Role of the Recruiter

A clear theme among the candidates is that they view the recruiter as the one who should be organizing and guiding them throughout the process. This included providing clear next steps, answering non-technical questions, and being very responsive. Great candidate experiences they referenced often included the recruiter providing transparency into the interview process and expectations at each step. In addition, the candidates expressed the importance of the recruiter articulating the plan for the role, how it would impact the company as well the company’s history, future plans, and founders.

Also, the candidates wanted the recruiter to have some technical knowledge and be able to speak at a high level to the development stack in place, and if they were being considered for multiple positions. Not providing this information often led to misaligned expectations and a poor overall experience.

The panelist did warn recruiters about using agency recruiters and headhunters. While they are helpful in sourcing talent, they can be bullish on filling a position in order to collect placement fees. Even though they are not employees of the company, they still reflect your brand.

The On-Site Interview

The candidates gave insight into what made for a great on-site interview experience. One of the main takeaways was the importance of the recruiter and the interview team being prepared to conduct focused interviews, and clearly setting the expectations for the day. Candidates were able to quickly identify companies that were prepared and those that weren’t. This in turn shaped their expectations for the role and the company itself.

Candidates also wanted to meet their potential team members, the head of the department, and see the space they would be working in. As much as they were vetting the role, they were also evaluating the team to see if it would be a good fit, and if they could learn from the people or coach/mentor based on their experience.

The little things also mattered. Things like providing a nameplate with the candidate's name in the interview room, giving swag and providing lunch and/or breaks during long or full-day sessions. It was the small touches that left a lasting and positive impression.

When it came to actually assessing candidates, the panel was in agreement on what they found worked well. Their best experiences involved the company asking the engineer to build something from scratch. These exercises provided the best opportunity to display their abilities. Whiteboard coding and automated code tests did not reflect real-life scenarios, or they have been used so much by companies that everyone knows the answers to them!

Compensation & Offers

Regarding the extension of offers there was a good debate on the “exploding offer.” An exploding offer is a job offer that is retracted if not accepted within a very short period of time. Many of the candidates had mixed feelings toward this. While they understood the pressure recruiters are under to close open positions as quickly as possible, they often regretted accepting an exploding offer or it soured their experience.

From their perspective, exploding offers created an antagonistic relationship between them and the recruiter, where each side is looking for leverage over the other. The better solution was to have an open dialogue on timing and the candidate's window for making a selection. Most candidates said they would be ok missing out on an offer if the deadline was too short, but would have a positive view of the company for not pressuring them into a decision.

When the topic turned to compensation, this was another area in which transparency was key. Most of the engineers had a strong idea of their salary range by using sites like Glassdoor or talking to their peers, and they appreciated when a recruiter was upfront about the salary range for a position.

In addition to base salary, candidates wanted to know the present value of any equity or stock included in the compensation package. While this value will change based on company performance, knowing present value helps better frame the offering and total compensation

Culture & Perks

The last topic focused on culture. The panelists often found that assessing culture during a full-day onsite interview is very difficult. You spend hours answering technical and role based questions, and it’s hard to switch gears and have a meaningful conversation on culture. Also, the company may be too large to really get a sense for it.

They found that the best way to really get to know a company's culture is to directly engage with it. One candidate asked to attend a company’s holiday party that was taking place the week of his interview. Another met with his potential team and had lunch with them. A third candidate used LinkedIn to get a sense of the makeup of the company (age range, background, previous work experience etc.). These strategies often provided meaningful insight into the company's culture that they may not have gotten by just asking questions.

As companies continue to compete for the best talent, it’s important to talk directly with candidates to see what works well and understand which tactics create a negative experience that tarnish your hiring brand. Learning these tricks can make the difference between getting the best candidate and missing out.

The Recruiting Optimization Roadshow continues in LA, Seattle, Chicago, Boston and New York. Join us or get more information below!

Recruiting Optimization Roadshow


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