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The Best Practices You Need to Create a Candidate-Centric Interview Process

September 20, 2022
Parker Pell

Delivering a positive interview experience isn’t just about filling a vacant role. Instead, creating a candidate-first interview process can directly influence your employer brand — and your ability to recruit top talent now, and well into the future. 

Recently, Abode Co-Founder Parker Pell sat down with two early-career recruiting professionals on how best to prepare candidates (and your own, internal team members) for the interview process. With a combined 30+ years of experience, Bryan Quick, Global University Relations Director of Abbott; and Rubén Colón Velázquez, Early Careers Program Lead for Mondelēz International, spoke on how they create a meaningful, honest, authentic experience for candidates.

“The way you treat a candidate in the interview process says a lot about how you’ll treat them as an employee of your company,” noted Bryan. Regardless of whether you hire a candidate, rest assured the individual will speak to classmates and future colleagues about their experience — which directly impacts your employer brand for years to come. 

Below, Bryan and Rubén share best practices for preparing early-career candidates and hiring managers for their next round of interviews. They speak on the importance of leading with your company values, investing in long-term relationships, and delivering high-quality content to best prepare both parties. 

Preparing Your Team: The 3 C’s of Early-Career Interviews 

Today’s early-career recruiting landscape looks significantly different than it did pre-pandemic, let alone five or ten years ago. As Rubén puts it, “Your company name is no longer enough to engage a student,” referring to the divisive shift to a candidate-hot labor market. “We need them more than they need us.”

In other words, hiring managers are no longer free to sit back, relax, and allow candidates to do all the preparation prior to interviewing. Creating a positive experience starts with interviewers doing as much prep work as the interviewees — with a key understanding of objectives, company values, and the interview format.

If your team is at a loss as to where to start, revert to the core purpose of your internship program. “Internships are more than just summer jobs,” says Bryan, “We feel as though we’re preparing students to work long-term with us.” Case in point: Abbott, a global health technology company and Bryan’s employer, uses their internship program as a pipeline for full-time talent. In fact, 60% of summer interns convert into full-time Abbott employees each year, and many executives got their start as company interns.

Once you’ve reviewed the key objective of your internship program, Bryan encourages hiring managers to refer to the “3 C’s” to guide upcoming decisions:

  • Clarity: Be as clear as possible when engaging candidates, and let them know exactly where they are within the process.
  • Consistency: Stay consistent with each candidate, following the same interview format and giving the same amount of touchpoints to all parties.
  • Candidate-centric: Keep candidates top of mind, making decisions swiftly, eliminating waiting periods, and holding important conversations over the phone.

Best Practices for Preparing Candidates and Teams for Your Interview Process

Remember: Every interviewee, regardless of whether they’re offered (or accept) a role, has the power to influence your employer brand in the future. Therefore, you need to ensure each candidate comes away with positive impressions of your company.

“We want our brand to be associated with a flawless candidate experience,” says Rubén, a former Mondelēz International intern himself. Below, he and Bryan share their best practices for implementing a candidate-first interview process: 

1. Lead With Your Company Values 

As you invite potential summer interns to interview with your company, refer back to your values. This, in turn, will determine how you represent your employer throughout the experience.

“Let your values be your guide throughout the interview process,” says Bryan. If your team prides itself on open, honest communication, then you need to keep communication lines open with your candidates — regardless of whether they’re the right fit for the role. Or, if your company values authenticity, then your team of interviewers need to stay vulnerable throughout the experience, sharing their personal experiences with the candidates. If an interviewer is a former intern (like Rubén) have them share personal anecdotes as to how their summer internship helped shape their career path.

2. Invest in Long-Term Relationships 

Failing to extend an offer doesn’t necessarily mean a candidate isn’t a good fit for your company. They may just not be a fit right now. 

In the past decade, there’s been an increase in both job hopping and “boomerang” employees (employees who leave an organization only to rejoin that company at a later date). Therefore, it’s important to cultivate long-term relationships, as you could engage with a candidate down the road. Bryan suggests creating a candidate experience that starts engaging candidates in high school and extends post-college-graduation, therefore creating deeper, more developed relationships with your talent community. 

3. Re-Calibrate Your Team for Interviewing Early-Career Talent 

Recruiting for summer interns looks quite different than interviewing for mid or senior-level roles. You’re not simply reviewing their prior experience, but determining whether they have the potential to be a successful marketer, engineer, or IT person in the future.

Rubén advises doing a kick-off call with all interviewers to align on goals, formats, and expectations. He also likes to remind his team that many Gen Z candidates had internships that were 1) virtual or 2) canceled altogether in recent years. As this might result in a lack of technical skills amongst candidates, he encourages team members to look for students who share a passion for the role, are eager to learn, or align with company values. 

4. Address Unconscious Bias When Hiring 

Research shows that the overwhelming majority (83%) of Gen Z candidates state that commitment to diversity and inclusion is key when choosing an employer. Therefore, you need to bring your DEI initiatives to light throughout the interview process.

“Biases exist,” says Rubén. “We all have biases — whether conscious or unconscious.” To recruit a diverse pool of talent, Mondelēz International puts each hiring manager through bias training. In addition, Rubén suggests making your interview panel as diverse as possible, representative of the pool of talent you wish to recruit. 

5. Make it as Personal as Possible 

Consistency is key throughout the interview process — providing the same interview format, feedback loops, and access to prep materials for each candidate. However, staying consistent isn’t the same as being generic. 

Instead, you should personalize the interview process for each individual candidate. Send rich content — such as videos, interviews from former interns, or even small, targeted events — to paint a clear picture of what candidates can expect from their specific role. Avoid generic email blasts sent to your entire talent community, instead personalizing communications to the candidate’s specific role, experience level, stage in the interview process, or department.

In addition, Rubén and Bryan agree that when the time comes to extend an offer or inform a student they won’t be moving forward, that conversation needs to be a phone call. “You want to see [the candidate] succeed, whether it’s at your company or somewhere else,” notes Rubén. Therefore, use that final phone call as an opportunity to provide guidance and feedback, helping them land their next role. 

Leverage the Abode Platform to Prepare Candidates and Teams for the Interview Process 

In a candidate-hot labor market, you need to prepare both candidates and internal team members for the interview process. While you prep candidates with rich content and feedback loops, interviewers should be up-to-date on goals, expectations, and bias training.

As our two experts put it, how you treat interviewees translates to how you’ll treat them as full-time employees. Fortunately, the Abode platform helps you create a candidate-centric interview process by creating personalized journeys at scale. As a platform created by Gen Z candidates for Gen Z candidates, it helps you recruit and retain top early-career talent.

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