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I've always believed that interviews are a two-way process: the interviewer evaluate whether the candidate can help the company success, and the candidate evaluate whether the company is a good working environment for him/her. I've been on both sides of the table. One thing I think I'm not doing very well (meaning it's not bad, but not certainly not excellent) is, how do I promote a good impression of the company to the candidate?

The advantages are obvious:

  • If the candidate likes the company, he is more willing to negotiate a lower salary package
  • If the candidate's impression of the company is not good, he may reject the offer
  • Even if the candidate is not selected, words of mouth will spread; they may recommend friends to here

The problem is, all my planned actions during an interview is geared for me accessing the candidate. We are looking for smart people, and I will be expecting smart candidates to be accessing me during the interview as well. How should I design the interview process, or what should I look out for, to leave a good impression of the company?

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Here's a few ideas:

  • Set a conversational tone to the interview. Some interviewers are definitely "on the offensive" and act like the interview is more of an interrogation. Being friendly, and allowing for just a little bit of light-hearted conversation can work wonders. It simply shows people that you're willing to treat them as an equal.

  • Honestly ask the employee what it is they're looking for in a workplace. A lot of people might think this is some kind of trap and answer in a very canned manner. However it is also an opportunity for you to list some of the things which you feel make your company superior to other employers:

You: So John, what do you look at in an employer?
John: A good work/life balance, of course, and the opportunity to grow professionally.
You: Oh? Well then you'll be pleased to hear that we offer a flex time schedule here at Company X. How it works is that you have to work X hours ... We're also very understanding of employees who might need to take off during the workday for an appointment every once in a while, as long as you make up the hours!

Some employers don't bother explaining some of these aspects to potential hires until they actually sign the contract, and come in for orientation.

  • Actually make an effort to answer their questions honestly. For example, many employers try to side-track employees with useless information. I've been contacted by recruiters who flooded me with information such as: "did I mention we have a ping-pong table and offer snacks in the cafeteria on Friday's?" when the question I asked was "What resources do you have to help me grow as a developer?". Had this recruiter honestly said "We don't have any resources in place, but we might be open to signing you up to a learning web-site such as PluralSight" I would have been satisfied. When picking a job my priority is not having a ping-pong table in the lunch room, dammit!
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Many of the same rules apply on your side of the table that apply to the candidate.

  1. Show your best self. Be competent, expert and knowledgable. Nobody wants to work for someplace where the staff comes across as "not too bright."
  2. Show respect for the candidate. Too many interviewers treat candidates like they're Oliver Twist asking for "more?" and you want to treat him like you would a colleague. Make him (or her, obviously) feel like he would want you as a colleague.
  3. Give the candidate the opportunity to demonstrate his knowledge as opposed to challenging him as to the truthfulness of the resume. Yes, you want to validate that he is truthful on his resume. But don't make him feel like you assume he's lying. I've had interviewers do that before.
  4. Show your passion. If you enjoy working there and enjoy your job, share with him why. Let him see what excites you about working there and why it's great.
  5. Show an interest in him on some interpersonal level. You're representing the company but he's representing himself. If you (genuinely) seem interested in him as an individual as opposed to a tool, it gets him one step closer to seeing the company as more than a J.O.B.
  6. If you have concerns, share them and give him an opportunity to clarify or explain.

As for the process, I don't think there's anything in particular that helps more than any other except I will say that having a certain way you do things shows that you're not making it up as you go, which is another way of showing your own competence which in turn makes the company look better.

The most important item I can think of though is to follow up as soon as possible. Candidates are always encouraged to follow up, but the other side is usually neglected. This gets back to the "oliver twist" scenario I met earlier. Making someone wait unnecessarily tells him he's not as important as he's probably treating you. In other words, it's an unequal relationship again. You want the candidate's respect, include him in where the process is going and give feedback as to how it went. Follow up as soon as you reasonably can. It will earn appreciation and some respect as well.

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