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Poor interviewer behaviours hamper business recruitment drive

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 10 Nov 2021

There's a war for talent raging across the UK, with vacancies soaring to record levels. But even though an interview is the perfect opportunity for employers to entice candidates to work for them, organisations desperate to recruit good people are falling at the first hurdle, with poor interview behaviours putting candidates off accepting jobs.

Three-quarters of respondents to a survey by CV-Library cited an arrogant or unfriendly interviewer as a reason for turning down a job opportunity. Half of those surveyed said they were put off by an interviewer who hadn’t looked thoroughly at their application and didn’t know much about them. Interviewers who are distracted and don’t pay full attention during the interview ranked third in the list of candidate gripes.

The survey of 1,500 UK professionals went on to reveal that four in 10 applicants would be discouraged from applying for a job with a lengthy interview process; more than half of candidates feel the interview process should last no longer than one to two weeks.

Lee Biggins, CEO and founder of CV-Library, said with 1.2m positions currently on offer to UK job seekers, the candidate experience is more important than ever before. “It’s vital that hiring professionals heed the results of this survey and make any necessary changes to their recruitment strategy, now. If not, they simply won’t fill job vacancies and will drive top talent to key competitors.”

Get on the candidate’s agenda

“The old phrase ‘you only have one chance to make a first impression’ rings true in the current war for talent,” agrees Simon Roderick, managing director of financial services recruiter Fram Search. 

“Interviewers need to get on the candidate’s agenda more. Will there be opportunities to train? Will there be interesting project work? Will there be flexible working? What’s the vision for the firm for the next five years?” 

Recruiters also need to take a real interest in the individual, Roderick says. “Many of us have passions outside work and firms need to understand the candidate as a person, rather than just through the lens of someone with a particular skill set.”

Short-circuit interview bias

Khyati Sundaram CEO of recruitment software company Applied, says asking each candidate the same set of questions not only ensure that every candidate is treated fairly and equally, it also prevents internalised human biases from creeping into decision making, or the way in which interviewers engage - or fail to engage - with candidates. 

“Traditional interviews are fertile ground for these biases. So ultimately, they’re not that helpful when it comes to deciding whether a candidate is a good fit for a role,” Sundaram says. Interviewer bias impacts candidate experience, too, she warns, and if candidates don’t like the line of questioning, or don’t like the ‘vibe’ you’re giving off as an interviewer, this will impact their impression of your organisation and whether they accept your job offer.

Interviewer patience is a virtue

While you might think you have a candidate sussed out in the first few minutes, resist the urge to form an opinion until the end of the interview, says Jonathan Moss, Senior Manager at Sellick Partnership’s Manchester Finance team. 

Interviews are undeniably nerve-wracking, no matter how confident a candidate may seem, there’ll always be an underlying element of anxiety or nervousness. “Sometimes it takes a short while for the candidate to warm up to the questions at hand, so give them time and be patient.”

Focus on the basics

Liz Sebag‑Montefiore, a Director and Co‑Founder of 10Eighty, an HR consultancy and career coach, urges employers to remember that an interview is a two-way process that must work for both parties and that interviewer behaviour can impact on employer brand. “There are huge benefits of using a question bank so as interviewees go through the different stages, they're not repeating things a million times!”

Interviewers need to interview with respect but it’s also about focusing on the basics, Sebag‑Montefiore adds, from being on time to making sure the room is ready, briefing interviewers, organising who will ask which question and being prepared to ‘sell’ the organisation and answer the interviewee’s questions.

Show your individuality

Don’t be afraid to show your professional individuality, Moss says. “Don’t be robotic and just sail through the interview questions without showing that you have listened to what your candidate is saying.” And avoid being informal or using slang, even if the candidate themselves uses this type of language.

In a candidate-short market it’s essential that you don’t come across as domineering or arrogant. Remember, you need this person as much as they need you, so ensure that appreciation comes across, says Chris Goulding, Managing Director of specialist finance and accountancy recruiter, Wade Macdonald. Make the effort to ensure they are comfortable and put them at ease – offering a cup of tea with some informal conversation at the start is a great way to do this, he says.

“Approach each and every candidate with the mind that will be successful, and you’ll be surprised at how much this changes not only your tone but your whole demeanour – including body language,” Goulding adds. Ask lots of open-ended questions and don’t forget to smile.

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