Are Your Tough Job Interviews Discouraging Top Candidates?

Are you putting your candidates through an “Ironman” interview process? Source: Syracuse University

Editor’s note: This blog post was written as a collaboration between Sudip Verma and Katy Smigowski.

Are Tough Job Interviews Discouraging Talented Applicants?

Recently there was a feature in the Boston Globe highlighting the results of a survey on some of the toughest places to interview. Reading that article got me thinking about some of the tougher interviews I’ve had and how counterproductive it was in the end.

Case in Point: When I was first starting out in consulting, I interviewed at a boutique consulting firm in the Boston area. They had a decent reputation and very experienced partners at the firm. Their recruiting process however, was one of the most frustrating I have ever experienced. I will avoid making this post an ‘airing of the grievances’ and focus on the aspects of it that gave me such a negative impression of the company.

1) The tone of the interviewers was beyond haughty

They were very unprofessional and made it sound like they would be doing anyone a favor if they gave them a chance to work there. Given their decent but rather ho-hum reputation and small size it just didn’t seem credible. It’s hard to take someone seriously when they have so much hubris.

During the same interview cycle I had a chance to interview with what is considered the gold standard of consulting firms — McKinsey and Company. Everyone from the partners to the analysts were really kind, professional, and down to earth.

2) An excessive number of rounds

Most consulting companies have two rounds, some three. This company had four and expected you to fit to their schedule.

3) Last-minute hoops to jump through

At the end of the multiple rounds, they threw me a curve before making an offer. They demanded I complete a 12-page case study and write up an essay to “prove” my writing ability. Most consulting firms ask for a writing sample up front or let you know ahead of time what the process looks like.

At this point, I simply told them I was going to consider other firms. I felt the whole process had been unprofessional and disrespectful. While everyone has to prove themselves to earn a job, this company seemingly went out of the way to make it as difficult as possible.

Tips for Improving Your Candidate Experience

If you find your interview process is generating negative feedback from prospective candidates or on online forums like think about the following:

1) Review and streamline your processes

First ask yourself — what do you need from a candidate in order to vet them properly? Whether the answer is a panel interview, five rounds of interviews, or a case study, once you have determined how you would like candidates to interview, try to streamline the process as much as possible.

Top candidates are most likely already working full-time, so be respectful of their time. Ex: If you decide a candidate needs to meet with five decision makers, attempt to schedule a full-day interview rather than meetings here and there across the span of a month or more.

2) Set clear expectations at the beginning of the process

This is absolutely key when it comes to in-depth, lengthy interview processes. Once you have determined and streamlined the process, let the candidate know what the steps are as soon as possible.

During OpenView’s work on recruiting initiatives for the portfolio, we have found this tends to be the biggest complaint when candidates are going through a lengthy interview process. It is not necessarily the number of people they need to meet with, or even asking them to provide additional materials — it is not allowing the candidates the opportunity to be mentally prepared for the next step before it happens that is the true problem.

Let candidates know exactly what will be expected from the interview process — if they are not willing to put in the time, perhaps they are not all that interested in the role.

There is absolutely no reason to be unprofessional or condescending when interviewing candidates for a position at your company. Even if the company culture is long, vigorous workdays, ideal for “tough” candidates, this can be explained in a professional manner in an interview, without intimidating candidates.

katy-smigowski-100x100Katy Smigowski is responsible for recruiting initiatives for both OpenView and its portfolio companies.

What are some of the toughest/most frustrating interview processes you’ve experienced? Share them in the comments below.

Corporate Strategy, Sales Operations
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