How to improve candidate experience by debiasing your hiring process

November 19, 2021

Record levels of vacancies mean that it’s currently a job seekers’ market, and first impressions count. Candidates’ experiences during hiring processes could be the difference between a job offer being accepted or rejected. But there’s more at stake than the talent war. 

Traditional hiring processes – which subject candidates to a string of different assessments often with little to no feedback – are not only unfair in that they leave interviewees feeling deflated and frustrated, but also in that they are prone to bias. 

Instead, every candidate must be given a fair opportunity to showcase their fit for roles through more transparent and structured recruitment processes. A de-biased, skills-based approach enables employers not only to identify talent for the right reasons, but to optimise the candidate experience in order to secure said talent. Here’s how… 

  1. Cut back on unnecessary assessments

Hiring processes are made notoriously lengthy by phone interviews, group tasks and reference checks. These endless hoops waste candidates’ time, money and patience. And since none of these assessments are accurate predictors of performance, they waste yours, too. 

Group assessments give way to group-think rather than giving insight into individual abilities, whilst candidates only ever name employers and experiences they know will give them a glowing review, making the credibility of the interview and reference process questionable at best. Even CVs lead hiring managers to focus more on information like hobbies and schooling – and what they have in common with candidates – rather than whether they’d be a good fit for the job. 

Start by stripping away all these unnecessary stages. 

  1. Instead, use a skills-based approach

Before anything else, have all applicants complete the same set of ‘work sample’ questions. Just a few online questions is all it takes to objectively compare and whittle down candidates to only those who it will be worthwhile progressing further – for their sake and yours.

Designed to test how individuals would think and perform in scenarios which they would legitimately come up against in the role they’ve applied for, work samples are the single most predictive candidate screening method. Three times more useful than CVs, in fact. 

For candidates, it’s also a far more engaging line of questioning than the classic, ‘tell me about yourself’, and offers a realistic sense of what can be expected from the role. Ensure that any subsequent interviews remain centred around testing for role-relevant skills, and that the questions are consistent between candidates (what we call a ‘structured interview’).

It’s the best way to get the most out of candidates, and it’s the only way to determine fairly and objectively who amongst them will be best for the specific job at hand. 

  1. Ensure candidates know what to expect

Recruitment processes vary from company to company. So in order to give candidates a fair chance to prepare and put their best foot forward during any assessments, they need to know upfront exactly what to expect. 

In particular, be mindful of the fact that not everyone is familiar with skills-based assessments. Take the time to explain what anonymous applications and work samples entail, and how they work in candidates’ favour. 

Candidates have come to fear personality contest style assessments, and interviewers out to trip them up. You can put candidates at ease by explaining that these assessments are designed to judge their skills and aptitudes fairly and objectively – nothing more and nothing less. 

  1. Be open minded

We all have internalised biases, hiring managers included. Whilst skills based assessments remove opportunities for these biases to feed into hiring decisions, interviewers must still make a conscious effort to treat all candidates equally. 

Be accommodating and inclusive of all interviewees, and listen carefully to what each has to say. It may sound like basic etiquette, but it’s the surest way to settle candidates’ nerves and empower them to present their best selves.

And if that’s not reason enough, bad behaviour can cost companies more than the candidate on the receiving end. 1 in 3 jobseekers will tell a friend about negative encounters, and 12% will talk about their experience on social media. 

  1. Communicate throughout the process

Even if you’ve streamlined your hiring process to include only the assessments that really count, there will undoubtedly be different stages, and there’s always potential for candidates to feel neglected during the down time between them.

They may have questions about upcoming assessments, want feedback on what’s come before, or simply be looking for an update as to whether or not they’re progressing. To prevent needless worrying, ensure a contact is available to provide answers and keep candidates in the loop about next steps at all times. 

  1. Offer feedback

The ultimate sin when it comes to candidate experience is failing to give feedback, yet professional ghosting is worryingly common. Vague or generic comments aren’t much better. It leaves candidates feeling demoralised and less likely to apply in future or recommend the company to others. 

Having invested time and effort into applications and interviews, all candidates deserve to know whether they’ve been successful or not, and why. Besides, if you’ve adhered to skills-based assessments throughout, specific and objective feedback comes naturally; determining the exact degree to which candidates’ skills lined up with those required for the job, compared to other applicants. 

And when you can automate the whole process, there’s no excuse not to offer feedback to each and every candidate at every stage of the process, and to do so promptly.