Nailing the On-site Interview

Under the old paradigm of interviewing, the onus of making a good impression was almost entirely on the candidate. Most companies put little thought or effort into their interview process or employer brand. Today, however, the skills gap and war for talent means that every company needs to focus on the impressions they’re giving candidates and treat their hiring process as an extension of their marketing efforts. One of the most important elements of this process is the on-site interview.

Smart companies have a well thought-out strategy for on-site interviews and use them as an opportunity to impress candidates and showcase whatever it is that makes their organization unique. They know that on-sites can be a marketing tool that leave every candidate — regardless of whether they get an offer — with a favorable impression. Its worth looking to the tech industry for some ideas on how to make on-site interviews memorable and effective, as the war for talent in this arena has forced many companies to up their game and think outside the box. Read on for some of their best practices.

Interview Prep

Providing a great on-site experience starts before someone even walk in the door. Individuals who are relaxed and confident will feel more like themselves, ultimately giving you a better sense of who they are and how they’ll perform on the job. You can aid this process significantly by preparing them ahead of time and giving them a sense of exactly what to expect during their time on site. At a minimum, this should include basics like a list of who they’ll be meeting with and for how long, as well as directions to your office and specific instructions on how to get access to the building.

Companies like Netflix, Stripe and Google already go above and beyond here. Netflix gives prospective employees its culture deck and employee testimonials. Google directs candidates to its website, which is packed with tips and tricks, detailed information on how their hiring process works and the characteristics they’re looking for in potential employees. Stripe shares a comprehensive guide with candidates that includes background on the on-site process, links to recommended reading and a blog post from a Stripe employee about the kind of questions she asks during interviews.

Attire Advice

Another key piece of information relates to suggested attire. More and more, startups and companies with relaxed dress codes are telling visitors that it’s fine to dress in jeans or other casual attire for an interview. Not only does this take the oftentimes stressful decision of what to wear off their plate, it also makes it much easier for candidates who are coming from their current jobs and don’t want to worry about finding a bathroom to duck into so they can change.

Morning Of Reminders

Going the extra mile to help put a candidate’s mind at ease on the morning of an on-site interview is a great way to make yourself stand out. Sharing clear directions to your office, parking tips and a heads up on tight or time-consuming security are the bare minimum for helping candidates get to your office on time and without getting lost, but there are plenty of little touches as well. LinkedIn goes the extra mile by sending out reminder text messages the morning of an interview along with traffic notifications for candidates who are driving. Uber provides candidates traveling to one of their offices with a special code for a free ride to and from the office.

Nailing The On Site

All of this is a lead up to the moment the candidate first sets foot in your office, and there are some very easy ways to make a killer first impression. At Hired we have a giant whiteboard welcoming everyone who is interviewing as soon as they step outside the elevator. They are immediately greeted, offered a drink and directed where to wait for their first interview. This seems minor, but it’s a good way to set someone at ease and show that you are as excited to have them as they are to be there.

Candidates who are coming in for several hours require special consideration. One of the biggest mistakes we see many companies making is forgetting to provide food or a break for lunch. If someone is going to be in your office for four hours or more, you should absolutely provide snacks or a meal or, better yet, set up a time for them to go out to lunch with other employees. This often allows people to be themselves, let their guard down, and get to know people on a more personal level.

If you have a spacious office or large campus, consider giving candidates a tour. Airbnb’s beautifully designed office space is understandably one of their biggest assets and they take time out of every onsite to show candidates around, but even companies without super flashy digs should show candidates where their potential team works and other interesting office features.

Post Interview Follow Up

On-site interviews are typically the culmination of hours of work and preparation on a candidate’s part and it’s important to respect this, even if you don’t intend to extend an offer.

Be very clear about next steps at the conclusion of an on-site interview, either verbally through the last interviewer or an email that’s sent within 24 hours. If you decide to make an offer, it’s best to move quickly to underscore your interest and capitalize on the positive vibe in the interview. If you decide to reject the candidate, be as thoughtful as possible in your response. Even if you have a company policy against providing feedback, try to avoid sending something that feels canned. A personalized note or call from the recruiter, or better yet, the hiring manager, will go a long ways towards leaving the individual with a good impression. Airbnb goes above and beyond by sending coupons to rejected candidates who get past a certain stage in the process.

Aside from respecting the Golden Rule, there are strategic reasons for leaving candidates with a good feeling about the company. They might be a good fit for a role down the road or they might share their experience with friends or professional contacts who could be interested in your company.

Attracting great talent is one of the most difficult feats for any business, and putting care and thought into your interview process is essential. The best companies think of the interviewing process like an extension of their marketing and branding efforts, and treat every person that comes through their doors the same way they would a valuable customer or prospect. If you’re not already subscribing to this philosophy, there’s never been a better time to start.