From recruiting for the financial services industry for over 10 years, there have been numerous changes to the industry and how organisations recruit talent. Social Media and LinkedIn have become key parts of organisations recruiting strategy and often provide a good route to candidates. Video interviewing has been introduced as part of organisations recruitment processes and employers are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of employer branding. Sites such as Glassdoor allow potential employees to gain an insight into the culture and working environment of a firm before going to an interview. However, one issue which continues to impact organisations is the competition for candidates.
For Analysts and Associates looking to make a move out of Investment Banking and into Private Equity, employers usually find significant competition to secure the candidate. I have known Analyst/Associate candidates who have interviews with 5-10 different firms. As a result, it is quite common that employers will move very quickly through their recruitment process in order to have the best chance of hiring their preferred candidate. At Director and above it is more likely to be a situation where the candidate is not actively looking and would only be tempted if an opportunity arises that is perfectly aligned with their career aspirations.
Both are challenging for different reasons and organisations have tried to gain an advantage on competitors with excellent financial benefits, bonus and carry schemes. However, one factor which firms sometimes don’t pay enough attention to, is the candidate experience during the interview process. The candidate experience has a significant impact on the candidate’s interest in a position and the eventual outcome of their decision.
On numerous occasions over the years, I have had a candidate who was very enthusiastic about the role prior to interviewing, become disinterested as a result of the interview process. Therefore, implementing the following tips will help increase the candidate’s engagement/experience, reduce candidate frustration and increase your chances of securing your preferred candidate
Allow the candidate to ask questions
A candidate usually prepares 3-5 questions they would like to ask towards the end of the first-round interview. Questions which are focused on the role, responsibility and organisation. Perhaps answering the candidate’s questions provide additional information on the position, which results in the candidate realising the role is not going to be the right fit. Surely this is better to understand after one interview, rather than proceeding with another two-three rounds of interview before this information is disclosed? It could have the opposite impact, where the answers to the questions increase the candidate’s interest and highlight an attractive part of the role, they were previously unaware of.
Not providing the candidate with an opportunity to ask questions, leaves the candidate feeling it was a one-way interview. If a head-hunter is not involved with the hiring and as a result the candidate has not spoken to anyone about the position - due to applying online, the first-round interview is going to be their first opportunity to ask questions. The best firms realise the candidate is also interviewing them and by not allowing candidates the opportunity to ask questions, you are missing a valuable opportunity to create a positive candidate experience and reduce time interviewing unsuitable candidates.
Provide regular feedback
Candidates understand a firm is likely to have several candidates to interview, which might take place over a couple of weeks. At the end of the first-round interview, provide the candidate with a timeline to receive feedback even if it is going to be a couple of weeks. Managing the candidate’s expectations with a realistic timeline can really help with their impression of the company. If a candidate does not know when they will receive feedback and it has been weeks since their last interview, the candidate will start to assume they have been unsuccessful.
If you have had a positive interview with the candidate and would like to invite the candidate to the next round, most companies will simply contact the candidate/ recruiter with the timing for the next interview. However, a common question a candidate will ask even if they have been successful is “was there any feedback from the first interview?”. Whilst they understand it obviously went well, it is a good opportunity increase the candidate’s interest by giving detail on what went well in the interview. It is understandable that an employer doesn’t want to disclose every reason they liked the candidate or appear to be overly keen, nevertheless candidates really appreciate understanding what a potential employer liked about the first interview.
There is also consideration needed to candidates that are unsuccessful during the interview process. I have had candidates attend numerous rounds of interviews, committing substantial time over several interviews, case studies and some instances travelling internationally for in-person meetings, to receive no feedback at the end of the process. These individuals will talk between peers and within their network and providing negative feedback on their experiences can ultimately mean that other candidates have a negative impression of a prospective employer too.
Have a defined process and timeline
Inform the candidate and/or recruiter about the number of stages and what is likely to be included in each stage. Agree with your hiring team about when the interviews are likely to happen. I appreciate this is difficult given the travel requirements and work commitments in financial services. However, starting a recruitment process without an idea of the hiring teams schedule is likely to result in a lengthy or delayed process. Some firms don’t even have a set guideline on what their recruitment process is. How many stages, who is involved, what is included and what is the expected time taken to complete the process.
If you assessed your current recruitment process and documented the answers, it might highlight flaws or gaps which need addressing. For Analyst/Associate hires, I have known candidates finish an interview process in under a month. Even in my business, a couple of years ago we realised our recruitment process was too long and included too many stages. We were losing good graduate candidates because we didn’t have a defined and realistic timeline to recruit.
Candidates can also become frustrated if additional stages are added into a process. Common questions from a candidate include “How more stages?”, “Is this the last stage?” and “When can I expect a decision?”
Having a defined process with a clear timeline helps keep the momentum with the candidate, avoid big gaps between interviews and will reduce the risk of missing out on the candidate.
Finally, consider when is the most appropriate time to ask for references. Most offers of employment will state the final offer is subject to satisfactory references, so there is really no need to ask for references early on in a process or until an offer of employment is made. I have known some firms ask for references before having a final stage interview or confirming if an offer will be made and what the offer is. Whilst I understand from a firm perspective you want to have references in place, if this is an Analyst with 5-10 opportunities, it is not realistic to provide references to all those firms. Also, for a Director candidate who was not actively looking, they are unlikely to provide reference information until they have an offer of employment. Candidates in high profile roles are not going to want to inform their network/previous managers they are considering accepting a new role until they have seen an offer of employment.
In summary, for the benefit of your employer brand and to increase the chances of securing your preferred candidate, it is crucial your interview process is well defined, realistic and allows the candidate to interview you.