Keeping your HR Human During the Hiring Process

Aj Beltis
July 5, 2022
hiring, HR, hiring process, recruiting, HR software

Posting a job opening? Odds are it will get about 250 people to submit an application.

Your recruiting team is probably stretched thin as it is, so having a human review and respond to every single application may not feel like the best use of the team’s time. 

The desire to use a recruiting software tool to automate the hiring process is understandable—tools like this exist to help highlight strong candidates, and send pre-written emails to rejected candidates. However, applicants are vying for a role with your company, and to be rejected coldly with the same email sent to 220 other candidates can be heartbreaking and leave a bad taste in candidates’ mouths.

Should you use tech to help you hire?

Technology can and should be used in the hiring and interviewing process—it just needs to be done in a human way. 

For example, recent studies found that one-way video interview software could lead to an impersonal—if not biased—process, with findings of algorithmic bias towards the faces of non-white poeple and a general frustration over not being allowed to fully explain or express oneself with an ongoing timer adding pressure. An experience like this one could cause a perfectly qualified applicant to remove that company from their consideration for the future. Not to mention, you potentially risk your brand reputation if word gets out that your interview process is biased (or just plain irritating).

As the struggle to find and maintain top talent continues, companies must have an impeccable candidate interviewing experience, or else risk losing top-tier applicants to companies with a more streamlined and personable hiring process. 

In short, during the interview process, HR needs to be more human. 

Here’s how. 

1. Sync with your interview team

Any given hiring committee could contain a mix of novice interviewers, experienced team builders, and everything in between. While some feel comfortable conversing with candidates in a way that identifies the best person for the job, others won’t have that confidence or skill. 

Interviewing is complicated. It takes up your team’s time to prepare and speak to multiple candidates, plus you put your company’s success on the line with every conversation. That’s why it’s a good idea for HR to communicate with the panel for a given role before interviews are held. 

This provides HR the chance to share logistical notes, but also provide some company interviewing best practices, such as:

Interviews should be a chance for qualified candidates to show their capabilities. Interviewers, on the other hand, have two roles. The first is to assess candidates on those capabilities. The second is to create a professional yet friendly environment where interviewees feel comfortable enough to be authentic. 

If the latter is not achieved, you may end up passing on qualified candidates because the interview itself wasn’t structured appropriately, and extending an offer to the wrong candidate. 

2. Have a human interaction at every level 

As great as that recruiting software is, it’s always a bummer for candidates when they receive that rejection email—particularly when it’s automated and depersonalized. 

Keep in mind that the deeper an employee gets into the interview process, the more invested potential hires become to the company. Final candidates spend hours meeting the team and conversing with recruiters. For the line of communication to end with an abrupt, short message, it can be soul-crushing for the applicant and bad for the company’s reputation in the long run. 

While face-to-face interviews are built around human interaction, there are interview phases that don’t have a human element—pre-recorded interviews, short-answer assessments, case studies, and so on. When these deliverables are submitted, take the time to send a personalized email to confirm receipt and thank the candidate. 

Making time for these interactions can feel tedious, but it’s one of the best ways to humanize your interviewing and hiring process—and that’s what will pay back dividends with better hires and more repeat applications from qualified candidates. 

Plus, continuously depersonalizing the interview process could run your company into some potential legal issues. For example, the U.S. Department of Justice recently warned that AI hiring tools could be used in a way that discriminates against individuals with disabilities. An example would be requiring a test with a visual element that’s not relevant to the job itself, which unfairly removes someone with a vision impairment from consideration. 

3. Provide feedback upon request

When a candidate is rejected, it’s often considered taboo to offer them feedback. And although the practice isn’t illegal, experts often advise against explaining to a candidate why they were rejected, as doing so opens the door for a potential litigation. However, if it’s a candidate your team loved (but ultimately felt wasn’t the best for the role), providing feedback can actually be a helpful and appreciated sentiment. Just make sure the feedback is specific to objective reasons of what candidates said in their interviews.

The interaction provides one final send-off to the applicant and gives concrete steps on what to work on the next time they apply. If roles open up down the line that this candidate would be a good fit for, it’s a lot harder to reel them back in when your last interaction was an email simply saying you chose another candidate. 

Some countries even require companies to share interview notes with candidates upon request, so this gesture is a proactive step toward helping candidates understand exactly why they weren’t selected and hopefully feel a little better after being rejected. 

4. Set the precedent

Interviews act almost like a company meeting—the interviewer should be showcasing their ability to ask the right questions to gather the info they need to make the best decision, and interviewers should be able to provide accurate and clear answers to aid in that decision-making process. 

Interviews can be a lot of different things, but the last thing they should be is a bait-and-switch on how the company operates. There’s a certain dread felt by candidates about being misled in interviews, and nowadays, if candidates feel even a whiff of inauthenticity, they have plenty of open roles to explore

It’s up to each member of the interview committee to paint the picture of what working and conversing with your company’s employees will be like every day. 

Interviews can also set the standard for how company meetings are actually held (in-person, over video, or both). For example, if your company is hybrid or office-optional, consider allowing your candidates to interview remotely, as many of their interactions with colleagues will likely be over a computer screen anyway. This approach helps applicants see what meetings and interactions in your org are truly like, helping them make the best decision for their careers. 

Conducting more human interviews

The ongoing obsession with finding the best talent has caused companies to invest in endless tools, technology, and resources to improve their hiring processes. While these resources offer great benefits to your team to make faster hires, they can come at a cost. Adding too much tech to your hiring process at the expense of authentic human interaction can result in hiring the wrong candidates, passing up those that might be a great fit, and poorly-representing your company. 

Ideally, hiring tools should be used alongside human interaction during the interview process to help candidates fully understand the opportunity, the company, and the people they might work with. 

Keep the process human by personalizing responses, touching base frequently, and ensuring your interviewers are following company best practices. These steps help candidates see whether or not a job opportunity is the best one for them at a time, which means offers to better candidates, a higher offer acceptance rate, and greater employee retention. 

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