As someone who is neck deep in recruitment data day-in and day-out, I’m often baffled to discover how many people express interest in a job (whether they applied or were headhunted) versus how few people make it to a final interview/offer. There is an abundance of talent here in the Silicon Valley and we are often racing to make priority hires, so why is poor conversion rates one of the biggest challenges that recruitment teams face?
Of course there are many factors that go into making a successful hire but in this article I’ll address the interviewer mindset as a good place to start if you are looking to improve those conversion rates, or have a sneaky suspicion you have qualified candidates falling through the cracks.
Having always worked for very small teams, I’ve been involved in interviewing from a very early point in my career. As a recruiter, you’d think I’d be pretty spectacular at interviewing - it comes with the territory, right? Wrong! Looking back, I was far from great at interviewing, the reason being that I did not go into those early interviews with the right attitude.
Flip the strategy
I was interviewing with the goal of screening candidates OUT rather than IN. I thought I needed to dig out the flaws of those individuals and uncover their weaknesses. I felt like I wasn’t doing a good job if I didn’t discover anything substantial, or I wasn’t asking the right questions or probing enough if I didn’t present some concerns. As an interviewer, your job is to make sure that you cover the positives and negatives of every candidate and focus on making a quality hire, but I find that making the shift to screening people in vs. out can significantly improve your conversions and open up conversations with more candidates that could ultimately be a great fit. To help do this I have started to coach interviewers to assess two main things:
Can this person do the job if they started tomorrow and do it well? If not, can they learn on the job and ramp up quickly? Can I see myself working successfully with this person?
The first question shifts the mindset from judging a person on skills/experience they might be lacking, to what skills/experience they do bring to the table. This small shift has significant impact on the success of an interview. It shifts the conversation from the interviewer grilling and the candidate being on the defense, to the interviewer coming across interested and excited to hear about that individual's abilities and competencies and the candidate feeling more confident in explaining their skills and knowledge.
Ease it up
The second question is a lot harder. Psychologists say humans make sharp judgement calls when we first meet someone new, often based on how personable that individual is, how easy it is to communicate with them and how they present themselves. Unfortunately, interviewing is a high stress situation and we can’t always expect people to thrive under that kind of pressure. Because of that I advise my interviewing team to ease into an interview to put the candidate at ease and give them a chance to warm up and settle their nerves.
The Right Fit
Culture fit is a big factor in making a successful hire, but rather than just deciding if you like someone, I guide my team to ask themselves questions like “Can I form a professional/business relationship with this person?” or “Can I successfully collaborate with this person and respect their professional opinion?” This shifts the focus to more of a professional relationship. I often hear people say things like “Well, I wouldn’t want to eat lunch with that person everyday,” or “They won’t add much to the culture,” which is valid, especially if you are in a small close knit team that isn’t looking to scale/can afford to put hiring by consensus over scaling, but it isn’t effective in building a productive and prosperous workforce.
As I mentioned, there are many factors that go into a successful hiring process, but hopefully this helps interviewers take a step back and look at how they might be contributing to the success/failure of an interview. Happy hunting!