The digital sector is a talent led industry, and as much as I dislike the idea of the 10X developer, the difference a great hire can make to your business is huge. So I’m always amazed to hear about the shady, sloppy or downright atrocious recruitment practices we inflict on prospective candidates.
In a time where team diversity is an increasingly important consideration, overly combative interview processes that favour certain personality traits like aggression, ego and resilience, seem like an especially bad way to go.
While some hiring managers may be impressed by one candidates ability to bullshit their way through a series of essentially random questions, it’s not an especially good indicator of future success.
This brings us nicely around to the issue of interview tasks. Now I’m actually in favour of tasks in certain situations, particularly when you’re hiring junior roles where people have talent, but lack a broad portfolio of work to show. It can also help level the playing field between agency designers with lots of exciting bands in there portfolio, and people who have been in-house for a long time working on a single product. However I also admit that in most cases, tasks are planned and delivered poorly, and can have a negative toll on the recipients.
One big problem with tasks is when they focus on a real problem the company is facing, and end up feeling little more than spec work. Here is a poorly stated problem, and the person who comes up with the answer we like the most wins. Another common problem are tasks that are set a week in advance, and given fairly tight deadlines. Some people will be able to fit this work around their existing work and family commitments, while others won’t. As such, I tend to prefer whiteboard tasks that take place during the interview process itself. Even then, these things are often dropped on candidates without any notice, a process which borders on abusive in my book.
As product people and technologists, we’re meant to have empathy and understand the human condition, yet little if any thought goes into the candidate experience. I guess this wouldn’t matter so much if you had hundreds of qualified candidates knocking down the door, but this often isn’t the case.
It’s easy for hiring managers to forget that candidates are assessing you as much as you're assessing them.
Often more so. I’d argue we’re in a supply driven economy at the moment, where the best applicants will be choosing between 4 or 5 employers. In this situation, it’s your job to sell candidates on your company, and no glossy vision deck or lists of aspirational values will subvert a painful and broken interview process.
It’s also worth remembering that the digital industry is highly networked and super tight. If an applicant puts a tonne of work into an application, undertakes a remote task, and comes in for an interview, only to be ghosted by the company, you better believe they’re going to tell their friends. The old marketing adage goes that a happy customer will tell one of their friends, while an unhappy customer will tell ten. The same is true of the recruitment process.
I know a surprisingly large number of influential people who feel aggrieved towards certain, well known companies, because of the way they were treated during their recruitment process. They’ve told their friends over coffee, shared their experience in closed networks, and put dozens of people off of applying in the future. This isn’t where you want your brand to be.
Even if the experience wasn’t so bad as to be noteworthy, a lot of candidates will feel so bruised and battered by the experience they they’ll be put off from applying again. This is a huge loss as, just because the candidate wasn’t right for you now, doesn’t mean they won’t be right for you in the future.
Not wanting to blow our own trumpet, but at Clearleft we regularly have repeat applicants. Why? Because we try and make the process as humane as possible and give good feedback.
We explain what we liked about the candidates–and what they needed to work on–while making it clear that we really valued their time and would gladly consider them for future openings.
So rather than ghosting or hazing candidates, and leaving a bad taste in their mouths, we need to try and create the best recruitment experience possible. So even if the candidates aren’t successful, they leave thinking that you’d be a great company to work with, will recommend you to their friends, and jump at the chance we a future job opportunity comes along. This isn’t just a case of playing the long game—It’s the fair and decent thing to do.
This was originally posted on my blog