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Hiring for Digital - The importance of keeping it lean!

It’s been enduring folklore for many years now, how digital brands at the industry apex will go to great lengths to ensure they are hiring the smartest and most capable talent available. The upshot of this being the fabled 8 interview’ process promoted by companies such as Google during which extensive, deep dive data would be collated via a collaborative screening model involving multiple interest groups.

It’s apparent and telling however that this philosophy seems to be shifting. Google, for example, recently examined its past interview data and determined that 4 interviews was enough to make a successful hire with 86% confidence, noting that there was a diminishing return thereafter.

With companies like Google as a standard bearer for hiring best practice, could this herald a shift in hiring practices on a broader basis? I sincerely hope so. The fact is not all companies are governed by the same dynamics as Google and Facebook. Whilst there is so much to be said for forensic style interview processes, supporting well informed, data led decisions, borrowing methodologies from the best, this can also backfire when companies that are less high profile and are having to fight harder for talent, essentially go overboard.

Ultimately candidates are likely to be willing to go the extra distance to join a premiership firm, so such companies can fall back on that. For the lesser known, there will inevitably be a tension between the desire for future-proofed decision making versus candidates’ desire for a swift and non-invasive interview approach.

Clearly candidates will want to feel challenged and part of a meaningful interview process, though there will be a limit. Every jobseeker welcomes an invitation to a second interview, because it implies a company’s interest. A 3rd interview might feel equally positive, as it could be a precursor to an offer. However, beyond this we start to get into a bit of a black hole realistically for most companies and it’s very important employers have the self awareness to acknowledge this.

The internet is awash with similar stories of jobseekers who’ve become frustrated with such processes, particularly in the Digital sector. The question should be: How many rounds of interviews should it take for an employer to reasonably assess a candidate before the process veers into excess? And how long should candidates hold out, if there’s no clarity on how many obstacles they’ll have to cross to stay in contention?

The importance of a lean, efficient hiring process...

A streamlined hiring process really does give a company an edge in a competitive employment market. To achieve this takes forethought and planning. The key people who should be involved in the hiring process include the candidate’s potential line manager, perhaps a trusted peer and then People Operations. As a rule, it’s important not to get too many people involved and this is where sometimes companies go wrong as they confuse the process with mixed messaging.

Companies also need to remember the need for 2 way traffic. It’s a catastrophic assumption to make that simply taking a candidate through your assessment process is enough to assume an acceptance. Clearly a robust interview process sends a positive message around due diligence, but it takes more than this to ensure the candidate is emotionally invested in the potential brand they are joining. This ‘employer branding’ aspect needs to be handled very deliberately, perhaps at the beginning of the process AND towards the end, to ensure prospects have a clarity on topics such as the direction and vision of the business and a projection on what’s in it for them if they invest the next 3 years of their working life. In a deeply competitive market, this is absolutely crucial and failing to address can lead to huge stretches of time and resources being wasted.

Working to a specific time stamp is essential to the hiring process also. Research suggests Over 60% of professionals say they lose interest in a job if they don’t hear back from the employer within two weeks after the initial interview. This is also potentially disastrous in terms of the wider impact on employer branding, as negative perceptions can travel very quickly around the very community of candidates you are aiming to connect with if there’s no update or feedback within reasonable timeliness, especially in the close-knit digital sector.

In short, If a company is indecisive and their interview processes are overly complicated and enigmatic, it can provide a candidate with crucial negative insight into its culture. If a company is not able to ‘pull the trigger’ after 3 or 4 stages and the candidate has done everything asked of them... and they’re still unsure? This then becomes a key indicator of what it might be like to work for that employer down the line.

The reality is for employers is that the types of interview misalignment issues outlined really are causing quality candidates to go elsewhere.

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