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When Sarah Breiner interviewed for a prestigious post-college program at General Electric (GE) in the fall of 2004, she figured she'd spend the majority of her on-site meeting discussing her internship and academic experience. Boy was she wrong.
One recruiter she met with asked hardly any questions about her and, instead, arrogantly talked about his own work experience and how he achieved his career goals. "He was tooting his own horn," says Breiner, a graduate of New York University's Stern School of Business. "I got a bad taste in my mouth. So throughout the day, while meeting with other people, I asked more probing questions."
Because of Breiner's negative interviewing experience, GE lost her to investment bank JPMorgan Chase (JPM). At JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs (GS),where she currently works, Breiner feels that teamwork and her background were valued more highly during the interview process.
Contrary to popular belief, the employer isn't always in the driver's seat. And, as the job market continues to improve and more candidates receive multiple offers, companies have to work harder to attract a large, high-quality pool of applicants (see BusinessWeek.com, 5/15/06, "Never Too Late to Find the Right Job"). In fact, many candidates have increased confidence about receiving choice job offers, so they're conducting a more focused search and forgoing back-up options, according to WetFeet's 2006 Winning Campus Marketing Strategies Report, which came out this summer. Unfortunately, some organizations are still forgetting to factor in job-seeker satisfaction when playing the hiring game.
Hiring is never a one-way street, and applicant happiness should be considered from initial interaction until the end of the process, whether it leads to employment or not. Often a candidate isn't contacted quickly enough after an interview, which can lead the person to assume the manager is uninterested. "There's a need for urgency. Candidates today have multiple offers on the table. One possibility could be very compensation-focused. Another opportunity could offer a different variable," says Erin Barriere, vice-president for staffing at Monster Worldwide. "If you don't close, the candidate could go to another company" (see BusinessWeek.com, 3/21/06, "The Jobs Come Looking for Grads").
During an interview, a recruiter may fail to create a warm atmosphere and opt instead for a condescending or unprofessional tone, sometimes without even realizing it. Lauren Kossak knows that scenario all too well. When interviewing for a sales position at a computer company, Kossak says the recruiter treated her more like a friend than a potential employee. "The office was located near my apartment, so he asked me what I did the night before and where I hang out," says Kossak. "He was very intrusive."
Kossak's recruiter didn't make her feel comfortable in the work environment—a common mistake. So what can companies do to make candidates feel more at ease? Fostering communication tops the list. During the interview process at Deloitte & Touche USA, entry-level candidates meet with all types of employees, from recent college graduates to senior members of the organization. That way, the company ensures that potential hires get relevant information on a wide range of subjects from diverse sources.
"A candidate might ask a staff person about policy on vacation and might hesitate to ask the same vacation question of a partner," says Bill Ziegler, director of recruiting for the Big Four accounting firm. "Candidates relate to different people on different levels"
That communication should continue right through the employee's first day on the job. Often, there's a long gap between the time when a person accepts an offer and follow-up from the employer. "It's a strange dead time. You've got a candidate who is pretty sure he has a job but doesn't have anything in writing or a start date, and feels very vulnerable," says Marcie Schorr Hirsch, partner of HirschHills Associates, a Newton (Mass.) boutique management consulting firm.
WORD OF MOUTH.
Even if a company is not interested in a candidate, recruiting personnel should make some type of effort. A poor impression of a company can only translate to one thing—a candidate sharing a negative perception with friends and co-workers, all of whom are potential employees. "The PR part of the job is a continuous thing whether or not you like a candidate," says Bob Eubank, president of the Harvard (Mass.) Swift Murdock, a general management and human resources consulting practice.
These and other mistakes can be avoided through preparation and training. "Most managers will sit there and do a decent job of verifying surface-level information from a resume. 'OK, you were a tech consultant. How'd that go?' That's not digging. That is really almost an administrative job," says Dan Kilgore, director of talent acquisition for North America at Getronics, an IT services company. Preparation can come in the form of weeklong intensive classes, daylong seminars, or simple run-throughs with higher-ups to identify exactly what is needed from a candidate. Kilgore says the minority of hiring managers go through training and it is often outdated.
Mistakes like these are just the tip of the iceberg. Check out BusinessWeek.com's slide show on 12 common hiring mistakes and ways to avoid them.