2021 CandE Research Takeaway #6: The Importance of Interview Fairness and Structure

This is part six of Talent Board’s new 10-post series on Key Takeaways from our 2021 benchmark research report. All previous posts in the series are available on our Articles page.

It’s hard to overstate just how important the interview stage is to the success of your recruiting process. It not only determines the quality of the talent you hire but it also has a profound impact on how candidates perceive your company.

From initial scheduling to post-discussion follow up, your interview process has a huge impact on how candidates judge their overall experience with you and, in turn, how they rate that experience. Among the candidates who reach your interview stage, the interview itself often determines whether or not they’ll remain interested in you as an employer, which is critical because you’ll ultimately reject every candidate but one.

Given these facts, the quality, approach, and tone of every one of your interviews needs to be positive. And fair. Otherwise, you can wave goodbye to many of those valuable semifinalist and finalist candidates—people you’ll likely want to retain in your talent pipeline. You can also wave goodbye to having them recommend you to colleagues and friends, rate you positively on employer review sites, and buy your products or services in the future.

Clearly, there’s a lot riding on your interview process.

Structured Interviews Improve Perceived Fairness

New data from our 2021 Candidate Experience Benchmark Research Report shows that most employers are engaging candidate semifinalists and finalists more consistently and fairly than we’ve seen in years past. On average, however, companies with the highest-rated candidate experiences (CandE Award winners) have an edge when it comes to the perceived fairness of their interviews. That’s an edge you want for your own employment brand, as candidates’ willingness to refer others to your jobs goes up 74% when they rate your fairness highly.

Although perceived fairness is a subjective matter, you can take steps to ensure that your interviews and selection criteria are objectively fair. One of the most effective ways to do this is to conduct structured interviews—i.e., those utilizing predetermined questions asked consistently across all candidates applying for a job, along with a ranking scale that’s applied to each candidate’s responses. Research has shown structured interviews are better at predicting actual job performance when multiple candidates are interviewed.

Unstructured interviews, on the other hand, allow more room for variation, interpretation, and inconsistency in the questions asked as well as interviewers’ judgment/assessment of candidates and their responses. It’s worth noting that all of 2021’s top 10 CandE-award winning companies conducted structured interviews more often than the average for all companies, and structured interviews typically drive higher positive ratings from candidates and raise their levels of perceived fairness.

Here are a few other ways you can improve the quality and results of your interview process, based on Talent Board’s latest candidate experience data:

Talk About Salary Openly—I recently wrote an entire post about the rise of pay transparency. As I noted there, pay transparency is crucial for attracting new talent to your company. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults say that pay rates or salary is one of their most important decision-making factors when considering a new job, and more than half of all workers say they use salary to decide whether or not to even apply to a job. Although there are laws in some states that constrict salary-related discussions (you can’t ask candidates about their salary history, for example), smart employers are sharing their salaries even without being asked. In North America last year, 33% of candidates were asked about their salary expectations (as opposed to their history) during the interview process, and 17% were told of the salary without requesting it. These numbers are surely going to rise in the months and years ahead.

Provide and Solicit Post-Interview Feedback—Our 2021 research clearly shows that giving and asking for feedback after an interview is vital to a positive candidate experience and the perception of fairness. When feedback is given to candidates, their willingness to refer others to the employer increased nearly 25%, and their willingness to increase their relationship with the company—including purchasing its products or services—increased 36%. Among candidates who were asked to provide feedback after their interviews, they were 74% more likely to refer others.

Set Expectations and Then Follow Up—When recruiters and others explain to candidates what will happen after the screening and interviewing stage, and then follow up as indicated, candidates are 68% more likely to refer others to that employer. That’s a significant advantage to an employer brand, yet only 46% of North American candidates said that recruiters and HR professionals took these measures in 2021. This is a huge lost opportunity, especially in a talent market as tight as the one we’re in now. (Side note: 14% of candidates last year said that recruiters, hiring managers or HR professionals committed one of the worst sins in the candidate experience: failing to follow up at all after laying out next steps. Nothing will sink your team’s reputation like failing to follow up.)

For more insights into the qualities and hallmarks of great candidate experiences, download our latest research report, and be sure to check back here for my post on Key Takeaway #7, “Feedback Loops Are Critical.”


Be safe and well.

Kevin W. Grossman, Talent Board President

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