How To Coach Hiring Managers on Candidate Experience

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Hiring managers make or break candidate experience. Here’s how to coach them to deliver an exceptionally positive impression of your company.

Two women in an office looking at a computer screen together.
Photo: Nick Karvounis via Unsplash

Candidate experience management is pointless if you don’t include hiring managers in the conversation. In my experience, most managers have a basic idea of what candidate experience is; they understand that interviews and the recruitment process must keep pace for the sake of everyone involved. But if a manager is hiring, they’re already busy keeping up with a workload that’s necessitating a new team member. It’s not hard to understand why they might show up late to interviews, neglect to give timely feedback or make gut-based, biased, or unrealistic judgements.

And when they behave this way, they’re unwittingly damaging your candidate experience, your reputation as an employer (your Glassdoor rating!), the quality of candidates you attract, and even new hire retention. The data proves it.

But you and me, we’re talent professionals. It’s our job to provide recruitment guidance and support and to help hiring managers understand the value of treating every candidate well. Here’s my approach to coaching hiring managers, and a few other things your talent team should be doing, to create the best possible candidate experience:

Coaching tactics

Start with trust. Coaching only works if both individuals trust each other. This is actually a common problem for many companies; when recruitment is transactional, you fail to establish trust between recruiters and hiring managers. When something goes wrong, fingers get pointed and blame diverted. Trust takes time, but you can start building it by making recruitment a more collaborative process with things like, go figure, coaching.

Use data. You can’t just show up at a hiring manager’s desk and say, “we need to fix this.” That’s a great way to put anyone on the defensive! Instead, you’re better off presenting data that reveals both strengths and weaknesses. Where does that data come from? Your candidate feedback survey, which is a must if you’re serious about candidate experience.

Focus on solutions. Data can reveal challenges, but it can also point out ways to solve or manage them. That’s what you really care about doing, right? Frame your conversation with the hiring manager around solutions, not blame or shame for causing problems.

Create empathy for the candidate. Managers don’t become managers without having been the candidate themselves. That experience usually informs their own interview style; they run them the same way they experienced them. Often, that means a very one-sided, outdated approach. So I’ll often ask managers: “How was your interview process like here, when you joined the company?” And then they’ll tell me “It was good,” or “It was bad” or even “It was horrible.” And then I say “How would our process compare now, to how it was for you as a candidate?” That gets them thinking and reflecting on their own candidate experience. I also ask them to tell me about the best and the worst interview experiences they’ve ever had. The answers usually start off with something like, “Oh yeah, it was 1994, and …” And they realize how memorable interviews are – good ones, but especially bad ones. No manager wants to be responsible for somebody’s worst-ever interview.

Also helpful

Implement a candidate feedback survey. I’ve already mentioned this, but it’s worth repeating: you can’t manage candidate experience without collecting candidate feedback. To get you started, check out these how-to instructions and survey template.

Beef up your interview process and training. Coaching and collaboration will always be critical, but a strong interview process and interview training will help alleviate problems from the start. A well-designed process levels the playing field and compensates for our natural, very human shortcomings. Work with leadership to establish an interview scoring system, so that candidates can be assessed as fairly as possible, judgments reflect the company’s values and culture, and biased decisions are minimized. Create timelines or checklists so managers follow a rational and proven decision-making process. And make sure hiring managers understand why candidate experience matters, and how their actions affect it.

Strive for continuous improvement. When you start hitting a high level of positive candidate feedback, don’t just go, “oh, okay, great. Now we can stop.” See if you can elevate it even more – strive for continuous improvement. You can always get better.

Chad MacRae, founder of Recruiting Social

About the author

Chad MacRae is the founder of Recruiting Social. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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