Staying ahead of offer rejections
Hiring after Covid feels different. On one hand – having interviews virtually is significantly more convenient for both the interviewers and the interviewees. Gone are the days of needing to take an afternoon off for every round of the interview process because "your kid has a thing at school" or "a surprise specialist appointment opened up". As a result, candidates are interviewing more, and companies are getting even more applications than before. On the other hand, it seems that offer rejections are at an all-time high. Having your offer accepted no longer means that the candidate will show up on day one. Don't get me wrong, this happened before the pandemic too, but in conversations with folks in the marketing and advertising community, it seems like these instances are more common now.
One factor that has accelerated this volatility is the shift to online interviews. This is due to a decreased ability to form an emotional connection between the company and the future employee when not meeting face to face in person. Marketers know how important emotions are for human behaviour, and with virtual (often shorter) interviews, candidates' ability to connect as humans to the folks they are about to entrust their careers has lessened.
Even once hired, not being in the office together and forming human connections is impacting retention – some employers feel like there is more job hopping now than ever before. Moreover, by removing barriers to interviewing, virtual interviews made it easier for people to "shop around" to see what their worth may be out in market. As a result, offer rejections are more common since in those instances the candidate didn't have a strong intent to leave anyway – just wanted to see what they can use in negotiations with their current employer.
Increased activity in the talent market also leads to higher competition. As many recruiters will tell you, closing a candidate was never a given, but it is more challenging now. The closing process takes longer; signing bonuses, once common at the more senior levels, are now being used to bring candidates at all levels over the line. Many employers are getting creative and coming up with customized employee solutions, such as adjusted working hours, locations, or benefits such as childcare or eldercare support.
But there are some positive knock-on effects of these change as well. Raunica Ahluwalia, a marketing professor at Seneca College, says that she is seeing a significant increase in companies hiring international students because of this labour market volatility. Perceived barriers like the lack of Canadian experience are becoming less of a factor and students are seeing more offers that are now more likely to be permanent versus contract or part time. Accessibility has also been positively affected - folks with different abilities are facing less barriers to employment as employers uncover talent they have overlooked before whether due to location or bias.
What can marketers do to minimize the risk of losing a candidate, whether pre or post offer stage?
While virtual interviews are likely here to stay, at least in some capacity, there are still steps managers and hiring teams can take to strengthen the connection with the candidate and increase their chances of onboarding a new team member.
For starters, resist the urge to have the candidate meet too many people for 30-minute quick meetings. Instead, opt for a couple of longer interviews, having two interviews maximum. This way, there is more time to build rapport and enough time for the candidate to ask questions, which is key to building that connection and frankly, selling your team. Simple gestures like sending a $10 digital coffee gift card will also set you apart as an interviewer that's thoughtful about the candidate experience and make an hour-long interview more pleasant. If you have a test or a case study as part of your interview process – make sure it is one of the later steps in the process. It might feel like an easier solution to screen out unqualified folks early, but by requiring people to invest time into a test before you've given them an opportunity to get to know you and like you, increase the odds of them dropping off in favour of another employer they had more conversations or connections with.
Injecting more of your culture into the interviewing process will also help. Make sure all interviewers are well briefed on key differentiation points they should be getting across to the candidate, and how their actions need to reflect the culture they are selling. For instance, if you tell a candidate you value work life balance as a manager and then respond to their email at 11pm on a Saturday from your beach vacation – probably not the right message to be sending. Candidates will pick up on this. Having a social meet and greet (virtual or not) with the smaller team the candidate will be joining can also often not just create more excitement for the candidate but also put them at ease and help them visualize themselves in the role.
Whether we are interviewing people virtually or in person, candidates will continue to become more and more discerning and marketing teams should apply the same rigour when courting candidates as they do when courting consumers. We are all in the selling business at the end of the day.