People walking on a rainbow Happy job seekers on their way

Top job candidates receive many offers as they look for their next opportunity. Not to worry—your company can stand out from the pack by providing an outstanding experience throughout the interview process. As salaries and bidding wars over candidates heat up in the current high-inflation environment, differentiating your company is more important than ever.

Executed well, a great experience will markedly increase your job offer acceptance rate. That means you need to interview fewer candidates, and you can spend more time on each qualified candidate to provide an even better experience.

I’ve designed and iterated on dozens of open roles at top tech companies. Here are 7 tips I’ve learned to help you create that stellar candidate experience.

1. Move quickly

Great candidates will have lots of offers. The longer you take to interview them, the more likely they’ll accept an offer from a competitor who gets there first. Quickly sending an offer to a candidate sends two implicit signals:

  1. You’re excited about them
  2. Your company is well organized and can move decisively

Both will help win over the candidate. Challenge: can you get from the job application to offer within two weeks?

2. … and also be thorough

The goal is a quick yet thorough interview process that cuts out any unnecessary delays while still collecting robust information in each of the core areas you consider in your hiring decision. So take the time to design a thorough set of interview questions.

A strong candidate will be aware of the level of your interviews as they’re forming an opinion of your company. If the questions are too easy, are irrelevant, or fail to cover key topics, a candidate may conclude that the company is full of B and C players. After all, they can tell that the interview isn’t thorough enough to filter out lower-competence candidates. Conversely, a well-designed set of interview questions sends the message that your company only hires the best and is high-functioning enough to craft a quality interview.

3. Paint a clear picture of the interview process

Clearly communicate the interview process up front. This includes the steps, timeline, and flavor of the interview questions. The goal is for candidates to have all the information they need to put their best foot forward and to avoid surprises that knock them off balance. People do their best, most creative work when they’re at ease, and that’s what you really want to see in candidate interviews. The candidate will all be happiest when they’ve been able to show you their best. Great experience? Check.

4. Form a real human connection

Fist bump

From the very first contact, you want your candidates to feel respected and appreciated. This starts early on in an initial conversation with a recruiter who cares about your company mission, communicates it clearly, and begins to form a personal relationship with the candidate. It’s fantastic for your recruiter to position themselves as the candidate’s ally, ready to guide them through the interview process and look out for their needs.

Once the candidate has passed an initial skills screen, give them a chance to talk informally with their hiring manager. A candidate’s relationship with their prospective manager can be make or break as they’re deciding on their next career move. A low-pressure conversation gets this started on the right foot while making it clear to the candidate that you really value them.

As the candidate gets to meet more of your team during interviews, include ways for them to get to know members of your team personally. Inviting the candidate to lunch or drinks with the team is great if you’re in-person. One of my favorite interviews included a game of Settlers of Catan with the team. Games and other fun activities can be a great way to break the ice and form that connection.

5. Be transparent about your company

Give candidates a good 5–10 minutes to ask questions at the end of each interview session. It’s smart to have your interviewers prepare by thinking about how they’ll answer common questions, but make sure they’re answering questions honestly and being open about both your company’s strengths as well as areas for improvement.

6. Have a diverse interview panel

Ensure that your interview panel is diverse, represents different kinds of people at your company, and includes people whose lived experiences are relatable for the candidate. Not only will this lead to better hiring decisions, it’ll help your candidate feel more at home as they interview. The best way to make it clear to top diverse candidates that they have strong career growth potential at your company is to prove it. Have good representation in your hiring managers and leadership team.

7. Keep it comfy

Couch Pillows on the interview couch—a nice touch

Take some time to design your interviews to be a pleasant experience:

  1. Add time for bio-breaks and keep candidates well fed and hydrated.
  2. Avoid more than two interviewers in one session.

For software engineering coding interviews, replace whiteboard coding with laptop coding. Ideally the candidate can use their own laptop or a familiar development environment.

I also recommend avoiding pressure interviews. There’s good evidence that they reduce creativity, they’re not fun, and they’re rarely realistic. If your company is run well, your team will spend most of their time working on projects with a deadline longer than an hour.

One enjoyable interview strategy involves the candidate and the interviewer working together to solve a problem, with the interviewer providing the framework for the candidate to make progress. If it’s done well, it creates a collaborative, energizing experience.

A great experience

Taking these 7 steps to craft a great candidate experience will increase your offer acceptance rate. And if you’re creating an extra-awesome candidate experience, you’ll find that even some candidates that you ultimately reject will refer your company to their friends. What better way to create a company culture and reputation that you can be proud of?