Improving the Interviewing Experience

One of the great things about getting honest and timely feedback is the ability to use that to improve things. So how about the interviewing experience? Can we get enough useful feedback to improve in the right ways? I recently tweeted

and wanted to expand a bit on what I was referring to in this context.

When you’re interviewing a candidate, you have power: you decide which questions get asked, how the candidate should answer them (whiteboard? laptop? paper?), what an acceptable answer is, and, ultimately, whether you’ll recommend the candidate to be hired. Expecting the candidate to push back on any aspect of the interview (“I’d rather do this on a computer, if that’s OK”), or expecting honest and useful feedback after the interview (“How’d that go? Anything you’d suggest we do differently in the future?”) is asking for quite a lot from someone who’s sole purpose during the interview process is to impress you and make you, the interviewing team, feel good so that you’ll hire them. You may get honest and useful answers from the rare person who is either unaware of the power imbalance, doesn’t care, or is super-confident, but it’s not something you can count on.

If you want real feedback for your interviewers, you can ask the people you’ve hired, but that’s a bit biased, because I think it’s important to make sure the experience is good for all candidates, not just the few who are hired. Asking those candidates to whom an offer was made, but not accepted, can be useful, as well as those who ended up not getting an offer, but none of them have any incentive to take the time and provide the feedback (and there might well be some negativity from those who feel the process was in some way unfair).

In my experience, a useful way to get better is through mock interviews. Practice being both the candidate and the interviewer in as realistic a setting as possible. It can be hard to get into the role-playing aspect, but it’s important to simulate the real thing as much as possible. You can also bring in friends to provide a more outside-in opinion on the process (and then take them to lunch/dinner/drinks at the company’s expense for their time).

I don’t see enough attention being paid to the whole interview experience (IX?), when that’s the main — if not only — way that candidates will be evaluating your company. We generally are better at evaluating and improving the user experience of our products and services, especially by doing usability testing, so why not pay as much attention to your candidate’s experience?