The Other Side of the Table

Understanding the Hiring Process from the Candidate's View

In any organization, the recruitment mechanism is an intricate dance. Hiring managers approach this process armed with a checklist of skills, experiences, and cultural fit parameters. For them, it's about ensuring that the chosen candidate possesses the required expertise and aligns seamlessly with the company's ethos and future goals. By orchestrating interviews, screening resumes, and liaising with stakeholders, hiring managers aim to sculpt their company's future workforce. While hiring managers see a systematic process, candidates often see a maze. For them, every step, every email, every interaction can be both an opportunity and a challenge. By shifting our perspective to align with theirs, we can bridge the gap between organizational needs and candidate expectations, resulting in a smoother, more efficient hiring experience for all parties involved.

February 2024

Joan Patrick

Head of Experience

The Candidate's Perspective: An Overview

Candidates entering the hiring process come in with anxieties and concerns. Some, especially those new to the process, are uncertain how it works. It is a murky river for many, especially those new to the job market or switching industries. The unease of not knowing the next steps, from interview formats to evaluation criteria, can be disconcerting. Alongside this is the concern of presenting themselves accurately and effectively, which can be overwhelming. Finding the balance between humility and showcasing genuine achievements is a tightrope walk. Candidates often grapple with the dilemma of how much is "too much" when discussing their accomplishments.

Candidates hope for a fair and respectful process when they begin looking for a job. They want to be seen for their skills and potential rather than preconceived biases. They yearn for a process that gives them an equitable shot, irrespective of their background. They also expect clear and timely communication, which has been lacking lately. Clarity is reassuring. Whether it's about the next interview round or feedback on the last one, prompt and clear communication is something every candidate appreciates. Even if they are not continuing the next round, that is still better than no answer.

The Gap in Perspective: Common Misunderstandings by Hiring Managers

Misunderstanding of candidate anxieties

Underestimation of the stress and pressure candidates feel

To a manager, an interview may be just another task in their day. For candidates, it's a potentially life-altering moment. Each question, pause, and note taken can feel loaded with implications.

Overlooking the impact of the interview process on a candidate's self-esteem

A brusque remark, an unsmiling interviewer, or an abrupt end to the interview can sow seeds of self-doubt, making candidates question their worth.

Misunderstanding of candidate expectations

Lack of clarity about the process from the candidate's side

Assumptions can be detrimental. Hiring managers, steeped in their processes, might assume certain steps to be self-explanatory when, in reality, they might be confusing for candidates.

Slow or ambiguous communication from the hiring team

Time, in a job hunt, seems to move differently. What feels like a short delay for a hiring team can feel interminable to a waiting candidate.

The Impact of Understanding the Candidate's Perspective

Benefits to the hiring process

More empathetic and effective communication with candidates

By placing themselves in the candidates' shoes, hiring managers can make their communication more responsive and compassionate, leading to richer, more informative interviews.

Improved accuracy in evaluating candidates' suitability and potential

An at-ease candidate is more likely to showcase their genuine self, offering a clearer picture of their potential fit within the organization.

Benefits to the organization's reputation

Positive candidate experience leading to improved brand perception

In today's interconnected world, word-of-mouth travels fast. A positive interview experience can enhance brand advocacy, even if the candidate wasn't selected.

Higher likelihood of attracting top talent

When the hiring process is transparent, empathetic, and respectful, it resonates within the industry, making top talents more inclined to consider opportunities with the company.

Tips for Hiring Managers to Understand the Candidate's Perspective

The recruitment journey is a shared experience between the candidate and the hiring manager. However, the two perspectives often don't align perfectly, leading to potential misunderstandings or missed opportunities. By understanding the candidate's viewpoint, hiring managers can create a more efficient, empathetic, and effective hiring process. Let's delve deeper into some strategies to achieve this.

Empathetic Engagement

Active listening during interviews

It's not just about asking questions and ticking boxes. For a candidate, an interview is often an emotionally charged event. Active listening requires more than just hearing words; it's about understanding emotions, nuances, and identifying underlying motivations. When hiring managers actively listen:

  • Example: Consider a candidate who briefly mentions overcoming personal challenges to achieve professional success. Instead of breezing past this, active listening might prompt a manager to probe slightly deeper, offering insights into the candidate's resilience and determination.
  • Strategy: Structuring interviews as two-way dialogues can foster an environment where candidates feel seen and heard. This encourages them to share richer information and gives hiring managers a fuller picture of the candidate.

Empathizing with the pressure and anxiety candidates may feel

Every individual brings with them their unique experiences and insecurities. Recognizing this can make the difference between a candidate who feels valued versus one who feels like just another application.

  • Example: A candidate may stumble in their responses, not because of a lack of knowledge but perhaps due to nervousness. Instead of viewing this as a lack of preparation, considering the underlying anxiety can lead to more compassionate interactions.
  • Strategy: Starting interviews with a few minutes of casual conversation can help ease nerves. Additionally, reassuring candidates that it's okay to take a moment to think or even rephrase their answers can promote authenticity.

Improving Communication

Providing clear, timely information about the process

One of the major stressors for candidates is the hiring process's uncertainty. Clarity acts as a balm for this stress.

  • Example: After a rigorous interview, candidates are often left wondering about the next steps. Hiring managers can alleviate significant anxiety by clearly outlining what they should expect post-interview – whether it’s another round, a task, or a potential waiting period.
  • Strategy: Creating a standardized communication template for post-interview processes can ensure consistency and clarity. This could detail potential timelines, subsequent steps, and even provide resources for further information.

Giving constructive feedback where possible

For candidates, every interview is a learning opportunity. Constructive feedback can transform a potentially negative experience of rejection into a positive learning one.

  • Example: Instead of sending generic rejection emails, providing specific feedback, like "We were impressed with your project management skills but are looking for someone with more experience in client interactions," gives candidates a clear understanding and areas to work on.
  • Strategy: Instituting a feedback mechanism within the recruitment process can be beneficial. While time-intensive, it fosters goodwill and can even encourage candidates to reapply once they've bridged their skill gaps.


The hiring dance is a duet, not a solo. For a harmonious outcome, understanding and adapting to the rhythm of both participants—hiring manager and candidate—is essential. As we've explored, the benefits of this understanding stretch beyond just the hiring process, enhancing brand reputation and fostering genuine connections.

As gatekeepers to organizations, hiring managers wield significant influence. Using that power to create an inclusive, transparent, and empathetic hiring experience is commendable and a strategic imperative. After all, every touchpoint and interaction shapes the organization's narrative in the larger professional ecosystem.

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