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Hiring Tips & Insights: Guidelines for a Great Candidate Experience During the Recruitment Process
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Guidelines for a Great Candidate Experience During the Recruitment Process

15 November 2023, by Nic Botes

A smooth recruitment process benefits both potential hires and your team. But balancing your team’s needs and the candidate experience can be challenging. Here’s how we approach the process to hire top talent at OfferZen.

Guidelines for the recruitment process

Your goal is to grow your team with developers who elevate your work, add to your culture and bring fresh perspectives to challenges. The purpose of the recruitment process – besides finding the best person for the job – should be to provide a good candidate experience. Here are a few guidelines we follow at OfferZen to help us to do this.

Bonus: Get a full guide on how to cut hiring time, while still providing a great exerience to candidates — backed by proprietary data on what devs want from your hiring process, and insights from CTOs.

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Why your candidate experience matters

Our 2022 developer reports showed that the majority of developers in both South Africa and the Netherlands have discontinued a recruitment process because of a negative experience. Providing a positive candidate experience should always be your top priority as a hiring manager.

A positive experience can be the differentiating factor from your competitors and encourage the candidate to accept your offer. Even if they decline or you find they aren’t a good fit, an enjoyable process could open up opportunities further down the line.

For example, you may interview a developer for a senior role and find that they aren’t quite at that level. That candidate might be a good fit for another role that comes up later, which will help you fill that position. Or that developer might share their experience with others who are better suited and encourage them to apply.

Ultimately, being able to provide a positive candidate experience depends on your process: it’s the candidate’s first glimpse behind the scenes at your company.

How to create a recruitment process that ensures a good candidate experience

Identify what you’re looking for

There are a few steps you need to follow before you can start sorting through CVs and setting up interviews. Having a good idea of the skills your team needs is essential, as is understanding which team members can make the most valuable contributions during the recruitment process.

Create a role scorecard

As a hiring manager, you must identify the knowledge gaps that exist within your team (e.g. could you use more support on the frontend or backend, or both?). You also need to consider the skills available in the market.

A role scorecard sets out what the role involves as well as a portrait of the person you’re looking for. This framework defines who you think would be a good fit for the role. It also gives you and your hiring team an objective set of criteria to assess potential hires. If you have differing opinions in your team about a candidate’s potential, it can guide your decision making. Here’s how one of our hiring managers explained it:

Typically we are all aligned within the team by the end of the hiring process, but there have cases where we weren’t. We fell back on the scorecard (as an objective measure) and found that there was some misalignment between the scorecard and candidate. This helped us make the hard decision.

— Nick van Noordwyk, Hiring Manager at OfferZen

A good scorecard ensures your team is on the same page about the the skills needed for the role. In turn, this will help you avoid approaching developers with a role that doesn’t match their skills — another major pain point for developers in South Africa and the Netherlands.

Choose your hiring team

Give team members specific roles and responsibilities throughout the recruitment process. This will increase accountability and reduce the chance of any balls being dropped.

We believe that the team makes the hire. Rather than hiring for the team, you want to hire with them. Ultimately, this will set you up to make more inclusive hires.

Include team members with different strengths, levels of seniority and ways of thinking. On the company side, having diversity on your hiring panel will bring unique perspectives to the process and help you uncover any blind spots. Plus, you’ll get a glimpse of the developer’s ‘people potential’. For candidates, interacting with other team members will show them what it’s like to work in the team.

At the same time, ensure that your hiring team is representative of what your team and company as a whole actually look like.

Define and streamline the recruitment process

Collecting the right information from potential candidates – about their skills, values and capabilities – will help you to make a decision that results in a long-term, valuable hire. But as much as you need reliable data, you want to avoid a lengthy interview process.

Having too many steps in the interview process is one of the top five interview pain points for developers in South Africa and the Netherlands. What’s more, process transparency was singled out as the top factor for a positive candidate experience in both countries.

The challenge for hiring managers is that each candidate is unique. So while you need to have processes in place, you also need to be accommodating. The key is to establish a broad framework that follows the guiding principles and adapt the process if and when it makes sense.

Structure and transparency

A recruitment roadmap is useful here. It enables you to gather new information as you move through each stage of the interview process. And it ensures that everybody is aware of what’s expected of them throughout.

At OfferZen, each team decides what their hiring process will involve. This allows the process to be optimised for the particular role or team. There are a few elements that are ubiquitous within our tech team, including the screening interview, take-home assessment, panel interview and simulation day. Throughout the steps in the hiring process, ensure you ask questions and set assignments that reflect the tasks a candidate would do on a daily basis.

Let both your team and the candidate know the steps that you’ll follow in the interview process as well as how long each should take.

Optimise for speed

Time is of the essence when it comes to hiring developers. Be cognisant of your time, the candidate’s and your team’s.

Technical interviews and sim days take hours. It’s best to select only a few standout candidates to proceed to these interview stages. This improves the candidate’s experience by reducing any time wastage on their side. Plus, it lessens the load on your team.

In all interview stages, remind the hiring team which hiring stages the candidate has already experienced up to that point and what information you already have. This helps avoid rehashing the same information and respect the candidate’s time.

Additionally, work out a guideline for how many of each assessment your team can feasibly handle in a week. For example, in our team, we never do more than two simulation days per week.

If you overload your team and do more than is reasonable, you risk mental fatigue and giving the candidate a bad experience as a result. You always want the candidate to get the best version of you.

Optimising your structure and speed greatly improves your overall candidate experience.

We’ve also found a few golden rules that help us ensure that we give our candidates the best possible experience irrespective of the approach we take.

Here are a few our golden rules:

Good communication is key for a positive candidate experience. Keep potential hires informed about what the interview process will involve and how long it will take. This will set expectations and help the candidate not waste their time preparing for the wrong things.

Remember that developers are likely interviewing with several companies at once. A lack of clarity about their progress could mean losing out on a strong candidate.

Being open and honest about any challenges will ensure that candidates get an accurate idea of the environment they’ll be stepping into when joining your team, and gives them a better idea of how they’ll contribute to your mission. Remember, this is an opportunity to show the candidate the value that they could add and the difference they can make to your team.

You’ll also gain insight into their propensity to drive change and challenge ideas. What’s more, you’ll reduce the chances of the new hire taking on a job they’re not actually interested in and resigning soon after their start date.

Have a learning mindset. You’ll be spending a lot of time in the recruitment process meeting new people. Going in with the mindset that everyone has an interesting perspective to offer, or new insights you can learn from, will go a long way to ensure you both have a good experience. Even if a candidate doesn’t end up working for you, this will help you both build your network and keep the door open to contact them for future opportunities.

At the end of the day, your goal as a hiring manager is to see your new hire be productive and successful within your team for years to come. You want to see people grow and develop within the team to achieve their goals.

By following the guidelines set out above, it helps us ensure the right information is flowing between both parties to build towards this from the get-go.

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