August 31, 2021

#TuesdayTalentTip: Build a candidate-first hiring process

#TuesdayTalentTip: Build a candidate-first hiring process

Last week, we talked about connecting with talent where talent lives. Those bridges take time and intention to build, but once built, are incredibly valuable. One key concept you will hear me come back to time and again is consistency. It is deeply important to be as consistent as possible across all parts of the candidate and employee journey. If the impression made in the relationship building phase doesn’t align with a candidate’s experience in the interview process, trust is lost and there is a fair chance you will lose the candidate.

Thus, our next step is building a candidate-first interview experience. While this phrase might sound jargony, it’s actually pretty simple. While you certainly need to assess and align candidates to your open roles, you need to do this in a way that makes the candidate feel seen, supported, and recognized. Leaning into a candidate-first interview experience will help you wow everyone you speak with, but particularly those exceptional candidates you want to land.

We will explore some simple, practical steps to ensure that your candidate experience is both strong and aligned with your brand.

Talk to your team — and be ready to adjust

Understand what attracted your current team, and what keeps them coming back, especially your high performers. What did they see in your company that inspired them and made them want to join?

In these conversations, it may become apparent that what you think makes you stand out from other employers isn't a huge factor at all. There may be some easy compromises you can make — like being more remote flexible, a better PTO policy, offering professional development resources — that will help you sign the talent you're looking for. Alternatively, you may realize you already have pieces in place that you are underselling and need to re-prioritize. Maybe you're underselling your culture, the complexity of your technical challenges, or the strength of your customer relationships.  Having your team help identify your strengths can yield both internal buy-in as well as clarifying your external story.

Be open

Strong candidates are trying to research you, your team, and your company so they can make a great impression. But as an early-stage company, you might not even have a careers page yet. Find alternative ways to give candidates the information they’re looking for. This might mean that you structure your first call so that you are doing most of the talking and question answering, rather than focusing only on the candidate. Another option might be to create a “Candidate One-Pager” that you email before an initial call. This could provide an overview of key company information, terms, people, etc.

Be honest

Be upfront and transparent from the beginning; candidates should be told what they’re getting into. Don’t try to make a decision for them by keeping relevant information from them in the early stages. If you are misaligned on salary, tell a candidate that information and let them choose if they want to move forward. If a role is evolving to be different than what you originally pitched, that’s fine as long as you are honest about it.

Be first

You are busy, and rightfully so. However, winning a great candidate might be the make-or-break for success this quarter. For strong candidates, you want to be ahead of their other options. According to Workonic, top talent gets hired by recruiters within ten days on average. This means, if you want that top talent, you need to be first in communicating, proactive in sharing information, and first to check if they have questions or concerns.

Take feedback

At another time, we can talk about a candidate feedback survey, but for now, keep it simple. Leave a few moments in your interviews to ask for any feedback a candidate has on your process. You won’t be perfect at first, so start understanding where you have room to grow.

Coach your team

What is shared in this article applies to everyone in the interview process, not just the hiring manager, C-suite executive or founder. Make sure everyone is aware of and ready to tackle any of these pieces. A candid conversation with a peer might have more sway than a long conversation with a VP.


Interviewing is a pivotal part of building your team. Make that time as effective as possible — focusing solely on candidate assessment is a missed chance to start winning over your next great hire. Start by being consistent, ensure you are prioritizing the candidate, and look for ways to share and celebrate your company’s culture, successes, and uniqueness.

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