Walking with Candidates: Stewarding a Better Hiring Experience

By Brett Kunsch

Hiring managers, let’s talk about candidates aka the people who could be a part of your organization one day. They are people who could potentially end up leading your organization, and regardless, will likely talk about your organization and their experience interviewing with you. They may have applied and didn’t advance, but they are more than likely in a similar sector, geography, and/or network.

  • Do you treat them with respect? With dignity? 

  • Does your organization’s diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging commitment bear out in the candidate’s experience? How do you know? 

This article was not written to call anyone out. Instead, we want to call everyone in. Let’s all take a walk alongside candidates; not to “wear their shoes,” but to listen to them, believe in them and build trust and relationships with them. 

Think about your own experiences as a candidate. When was the last time you were a candidate for a role you were really excited about? When was the last time you were a jobseeker by choice or due to external circumstances outside of your control? How were your experiences?

Candidates want to authentically connect with the people at organizations they’re interested in contributing to and joining. They want to be seen and given an opportunity to showcase how their skills and experiences are a match for the role. 

Stewarding a strong and consistent candidate experience is simple, but not easy. Here are five things to keep in mind: 

Help the candidate make an informed decision about applying in the first place.

  • Would you buy a car if you didn’t know the price,  mileage,  consumer ratings, vehicle’s reliability, when you could drive it off the lot, where you could drive it, or who was selling it?

Be up front about what you are offering and what you are looking for in return. Include the salary range and summary of benefits. Help the candidate better understand your organization and what matters to you, your team, and those you serve. There are many ways to do this, and every organization should take some time to think about the content of their job descriptions, their online presence and how they show up to someone less familiar with them. 

Clearly lay out the expectations, steps, and timeline.

  • What should the candidate expect in terms of the number of rounds of interviews, logistics, and when decisions will be made? What else do you anticipate candidates wanting to know? As you hear more of the same questions from candidates, take a look at where you can add more clarity. Consider building a simple FAQ document or webpage, so you can have more time to talk through a candidate’s deeper questions. 

If you have a question about a candidate’s career transition or something on their resume you want more details about, ask the question.

  • It’s better to give the candidate the opportunity to share their story than to make an assumption. Many times, our assumptions are wrong. At best, they are incomplete. 

In one interview experience when I was the candidate, I could tell that the VP had a burning question and fumbled with directly asking me about why I wanted the role given the “more senior” titles on my resume. I helped her out and offered “You want to know, given my experience…what’s up?” I was then able to articulate that I was looking to solve a different set of problems using my skills and to work at a national scale vs. a regional one. But what if I hadn’t offered that question? What assumptions would folks have made about my candidacy for that role? 

On a related note, as tempting as it can be, don’t conduct “informal” reference checks if you know someone at a candidate’s current or previous organization. Honor confidentiality at all times and in all situations. 

Keep your commitments.

  • If you say you’ll be giving the candidate time to ask their questions at the end of the interview, hold that time sacred. Answer honestly.
  • If you say you’ll have an update by a certain date, be in contact even if it’s a “the update is delayed but is coming later” update. If you say the process is three rounds, refrain from adding an extra step.

Be a human first, a hiring manager second.

  • Interacting with candidates is emotional and complex work. You’re both navigating a situation where you want more information from one another to make a strong and informed bet on the future. You both want a successful interaction, not a perfect one.

Keep in mind this insight from Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

What came up for you as you read through these guidelines? Give yourself permission to investigate whatever that was some more, even if it feels uncomfortable. Did you uncover some gaps that may exist at your organization or in your experiences as a hiring manager? If you’d like to talk more about your organization’s hiring practices, we’re here to help! Reach out to Edgility for support.

Set Your Team Up for Success

A strong candidate experience is foundational to the long-term health of any organization. It is essential to understand the experience you are offering candidates in a holistic way. Putting in the time and effort to create a better experience creates stronger outcomes for the organization and any future colleagues you may gain from this process.

Brett Kunsch Edgility Author

Meet the expert:

Brett Kunsch

Senior Recruitment Consultant
  • Executive and Leadership Search
  • Recruitment Campaigns
  • Hiring Process Design & Implementation

Put your values to work. Act on equity.

We believe equity isn’t a box to check. It’s a daily action. Someone’s unique identity isn’t something to overcome–when paired with the right opportunity, it becomes one of their greatest professional assets. We exist to empower social impact organizations to recognize and overcome unconscious bias, racism and sexism so they can build a workforce that reflects and strengthens the communities they serve.