The Fair Hiring Process: What Matters Most to Job Candidates

Over 200 people have filled in a questionnaire about what they consider matters most in a job interview, what they deem as a respectable process and what absolutely shouldn’t be done. Let’s see what there is to learn and implement.

A new job is fun and exciting. The way to it… not so much. We were all once in that position— it demands lots of energy and strength to interview at various places, answer endless personal and technical questions, and in many cases get ‘no’ for an answer. So, it may not be a great pleasure but nevertheless, the process can be done in a respectable and sensitive manner. While all companies court the best candidates and try to provide the best terms for employees, many things fall through in the interview process. Cases where applicants aren’t called back at all, technical interviews demanding way too much work, and inappropriate questions asked.

Here are the answers and the conclusions. I must admit, many of them surprised me and raised super valid points I didn’t consider myself.

 What matters most to you in the interview process?

Transparency. The subject that came up the most was transparency. Many candidates feel during the process they have no idea where they’re standing, what the next step is, how much they impressed the company, what the interviewing company considers problematic and so on. Even when we asked about the most successful of processes, the matter of transparency repeated over and over again.
At eye level. True, we are talking about a job interview but still we really don’t want to feel like we’re taking a test. Another subject that came up from most of the questionnaire repliers was that an interview is a two way street—they would like to have a pleasant conversation, rather than being bombarded with questions, and would like to have enough time left to ask questions about the company.
Professional interviewers and seriousness. Many of the negative feedbacks referred to the HR departments. Many shared stories about initial interviews done by HR where the interviewer could not specify the job sufficiently or asked questions that are too generalized. A repeated subject that emerged was that the interviews lacked professional seriousness (not thorough, questions not related to the job) and caused candidates to recoil. The matter of seriousness referred also to the process itself: a clear definition of each step of the process, explanation about the essence of each interview, ending each step with explaining the next one, and if you commit to a timeline- make sure to meet it.

Initial brief Zoom interview— to the point or rather insulting?
In Oribi, like many other companies, the first interview would likely be a brief Zoom interview (in pre-Covid times as well) of 15-30 minutes. We asked whether it’s perceived as a practical move to check for a basic fit or an insulting one that doesn’t allow the applicant to express him/herself.

80% think that a short interview is great, respects the time of both parties and is enough to get a first impression. 20% think it’s degrading and doesn’t leave one sufficient time to present oneself.

Some important highlights that came up regarding the initial interviews:

  • Explain the essence of the interview beforehand. Many supported the brief interview but emphasized the importance of proper communication about it beforehand. They mentioned that if they would show up to such an interview anticipating a comprehensive one, they would feel degraded. As long as it is emphasized that this would be a reciprocal interview for initial introduction and examination of whether the job prescribes to what the candidate is looking for—that’s excellent.
  • Don’t neglect to leave sufficient time for questions. Even though the goal is for this interview to be short and to the point, the candidates too hold the right to use it to decide whether they want to proceed to the next stage or not.
  • Brief interview? Make sure to go over the CV before it. Some of the repliers mentioned that despite the fact that the interviewers had had their CV beforehand, they still insisted to “waste the time” asking them to specify their professional experience. Since it’s meant to be brief, it’s better to ask more practical questions rather than having them read their CV out loud.
  • Zoom rules of conduct. A lot of anecdotes came-up about initial (along with advanced) interviews where basic Zoom etiquette was not upheld. For instance, interviews that didn’t begin on time (if being late is a big no-no for the candidate it should be so for the interviewer as well), interviews conducted with the camera turned-off, and interviewers texting (or Whatapping) while conducting the interview.

How many interviews overall should a respectable process include?
According to the majority of repliers, the number would be 3-4.

A subject related to the number of interviews, which came up several times, is of the optimal time gap between them. The preference was to squeeze them in the shortest amount of time possible. More than few, described processes where all the interviews were squeezed within 2-3 days as very positive experiences. On the other hand, some mentioned that for them the interviewing process in general is very stressful and it would be difficult to have several interviews conducted one after the other. It seems that the bottom line is that compressing the interviews into a short amount of time is the best option, but regarding to holding a few of them in the same day—it’s worth asking the candidate whether it’s something that would work for them or not so much.

How to say ‘no’? How would you prefer to receive a negative response?

Surprisingly (to me at least) 40% said they would rather get a phone call, while 60% said an email would be better. I usually send-out an email since I don’t want to catch them in a bad time to talk and prefer to write down my feedback in an organized manner. Seems that many people feel a phone call is better and more dignified.

Of course, a crucial point mentioned was that it’s best to return with a negative response as soon as possible. Many repliers shared how some companies for which they interviewed never came back with any answer at all, while others replied weeks after the final interview.

A common request was not to get the decline from HR. They had been in contact with people from the company and would like to get the reply (along with feedback) from them rather than receiving an email from just someone whom they had never spoken to.

The most frequently mentioned subject in regards to the declining response was the importance of a detailed feedback. Many candidates view the feedback as an important tool for them and a demonstration of respect for their time. Some also wished generic responses such as “we’ve decided to proceed with other candidates” to be excluded.

I’d like to add my own point of view as an interviewer: I 100% agree that a feedback should be granted and to be as detailed as can be. However, in many cases that could be rough. I often feel that I am highly impressed by some candidates and the good connection is there, but then a slightly more compatible candidate comes along and we decide to proceed with him/her instead. Meaning that there are cases where there is no actual negative feedback to be given, just a better candidate that’s out there. In other cases there are feedbacks that could be difficult to share: lack of chemistry, a sense of lack of seriousness from the candidate, candidates giving long and convoluted answers for each question and make it hard to get a concrete answer. So, even though in some cases giving a feedback is hard, mostly you can and should provide one.

How would you react if you had been asked to give a feedback about the interviewing process after being declined?

70% considered the request for feedback about the process, even if they were not accepted, as a blessed initiative. 30% viewed it as a complete waste of time and even an insult. What was interesting about the replies we got was that each side was very firm regarding the positivity/negativity of such a request. The 70% find it necessary, respectable and lovely, while the 30% were completely against the idea and couldn’t understand how something more could be demanded from them after they were rejected.

 Those who were for the feedback stated that they expect the form to be short and concise and that obviously- the candidates should receive a feedback in return.

Another subject mentioned was that particularly for the companies where the process was the worst; no one would bother to give a feedback. That’s probably because they believe that the companies with the truly terrible processes wouldn’t use their feedback to improve anyway.

A Practical interview. How long should it last?
A sore subject in the interview process it the technical section or the home assignment/exam. Many interviewees tell us that they have been asked to fulfill an assignment that is estimated to take several days, something that’s nearly impossible for those working full time in addition to the interviews and of course, only increases the frustration for the rejected candidates. We’ve asked how long a respectable home assignment should last. The average of the replies comes around to 3 hours. The feedback stated that a practical interview lasting one day and above indicated a company with low focus and quality. That is to say, that a company that’s incapable of constructing a concise exam is probably one you wouldn’t like to work for. Same goes for degree related questions. Some mentioned that an exam that includes basic theoretical questions designed to check what the candidates remember from when they attended University would be received with disregard.

How, if at all, do you limit the time frame? At this time, when most of the interviews are done online rather that at the office, it is unclear how you limit the time they take. Meaning that a candidate can spend days fulfilling a task the interviewer thinks should only take a few hours.  The majority of repliers said they believe the best way to do so is to provide a limited time frame for the task, meaning that if a task should take-up 3 hours you should send it on a particular day at 10AM and ask for it to be sent back 3 hours later. This method should guarantee equality between the candidates and revoke the possibility of one spending a few days on a task estimated to last a few hours while the other would finish it in only a few hours. Some repliers said that they were accepted to the company after spending A LOT more time than defined without knowing that’s the case.
Feedback, feedback, feedback. If I mentioned the importance of feedback in general—then in the matter of the home exam it is important many times over.  Many stated how important it is for them to get a concrete feedback as to the reason they didn’t pass the exam.
Respect for one’s time? How about a gift? Some shared that in certain companies in case they weren’t accepted they received a gift certificate for the time they have “wasted” on the home exam. This was highly regarded even though the sum of it was of course minimal, but it showed the recognition for the time and work that was put into it.

Meaningful tips
Some more important and practical points that were raised:

  • Don’t turn the interview coordination into a living hell. Many of the candidates work while looking for a new job and that significantly limits the amount of free time they have to interview. The received feedback said that you should enable scheduling the interview using Calendly (for those who aren’t familiar, it’s a sort of calendar that allows to schedule a meeting out of a few time-frames given. That is instead of engaging in an endless email ping-pong battle).  
  • The matter of salary should be discussed right from the get go. People share that only after a few interviews they received the salary offer that was significantly lower than what they have requested. Have you asked what their expectation are and you cannot fulfill them? Mention it at the beginning of the process and allow the candidates to decide for themselves whether they want to proceed or not. If the asked salary is appropriate- mention it as well. Many candidates do not know if that is a reasonable salary for the interviewing company or not and don’t feel it’s appropriate to ask. You shouldn’t go into in depth salary discussions right from the get go, but you should make sure both parties are on the same page.
  • No “surprise over-the-phone interviews”. Interested in conducting a short interview over the phone? Make sure to schedule a time for it via email or a text. Many of the repliers said they were called in an uncomfortable time, they initially didn’t even realize that it’s a phone interview and that caused discomfort. Let the candidate schedule a time when they would have a serene surrounding and vacancy.
  • Yeah Covid etc., we still want to see what the office looks like. A super valid point I hadn’t considered before. Many said the way the office looks like is an important parameter in choosing their workplace (how crowded the rooms are, how are everyone seated, where do you eat, what’s the office’s appearance). That could reveal a lot about the company and in normal times, it’s the first thing you see when interviewing. A great suggestion is to send the candidates a video of a virtual-tour in the office.
  • 1 vs. 100? Better not. An experience that is conceived to be very unpleasant is an interview with over two interviewers. More than some mentioned interviews with 3,4, or even 5 interviewers, as a highly negative experience.
  • Don’t ask me to “tell you more about myself”. A good point I occasionally transgress. Where should I begin? The professional or the personal? In a nutshell, ask exactly what it is you want to know.
  • Don’t be on your cellphone during an interview. Repeated stories about negative experiences mentioned interviewers that answered a phone call or texted while conducting the interview.
  • Don’t conduct home exams or ask questions that might be perceived as seeking free consultation. One of the emerging feedbacks, especially regarding home exams, is that at times it seemed the company is “using” the candidates to solve actual problems in it’s behalf. I want to add my personal view as an employer. I actually believe that it’s preferable for the exam to be about the actual product/tech of the company. It allows the candidates to experience something somewhat closer to the actual work. It is hard for me to believe that there are many companies who would abuse candidates so cynically, or that it is at all possible to get work free of charge through interviews.
  • Many candidates are stressed during the interviews. Allow it, ask about it, refer to it, and give extra time if needed.
  • Most importantly- be humane and conduct a process you would like to go through yourselves.

This post was written as a part of our project at Oribi to define what a ‘Fair hiring process’ is, one that makes sure to respect the candidate’s time and take their feeling into consideration. I will be going further into it later on. You are more than welcome to check out our available positions.