Which do you think people get more nervous for: a job interview or a first date? According to a WayUp survey, college students get more nervous for a first date, while recent grads are more worried about nailing that interview. And we know that nerves can affect a candidate’s performance.
So, if you want to provide your candidates with a positive experience, how do you make them feel at ease during the interview? Here are six ways to make your job candidates feel less nervous:
1. Make Yourself Vulnerable
According to the Society for Human Resource Management, icebreakers are a great way to put your candidates at ease. You can achieve this if you make yourself vulnerable to the candidate.
Now, a few caveats: First, don’t get too comfortable and complain about how busy your day is, because that may make candidates feel guilty about taking up your time. Also, you don’t want to gripe about the company to someone who wants to join. That’s comparable to the chef at a restaurant complaining about the food. Why would anyone want to eat there after that?
Focus on something small. You can talk about what projects you’re working on, especially the details or interesting elements of them. That’ll help serve as a recruitment tool because candidates will have a better perspective about what they could work on there. (That’s particularly true if the project overlaps with the position’s job requirements.)
2. Start With A Joke
Humor is humanizing, but it also has workplace benefits. Forbes notes how 91 percent of executives believe that humor is important for career advancement. Not only that, but 84 percent of executives feel that employees with a good sense of humor do a better job.
For an interviewer, cracking a joke is a great way to calm a candidate’s nerves. According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter stimulates circulation and aids muscle relaxation, which eases tension.
The best kind of joke in this setting? Something innocuous and goofy. Here’s a good example: When candidates hand you their resumes, you can reply with, “Sorry, I forgot mine.”
3. Have A Conversation
Don’t dive into the tough, probing questions right away. Slowly work your way to them. One way to accomplish this? Have a quick conversation. Ask the candidate about her commute, which is actually an important part of the interview. Employees with a short commute—between 0 and 5 miles—will stay at their job 20 percent longer.
Also, you can talk about something topical. If it’s getting close to summer, you can ask the candidate about her summer plans. If the Super Bowl is around the corner, ask them whom they’re rooting for. Or, if you’re not into sports, you can ask candidates if they’re excited for the final season of Game of Thrones or Big Little Lies. (Who isn’t?!)
At this point, everyone is familiar with the STAR method of interviewing. But if you present those same scenarios in a hypothetical situation, it can be more effective. Better still? Collaborate with them on an actual situation.
Ask candidates to work on one element of a project that involves their skillset. You’ll need to be careful that you don’t use their ideas if you don’t hire them. To avoid this, you can use a past project.
Here’s an example: Your company is looking for a new graphic designer. Show them a project that was done several years ago, and ask the candidate what they like about the ad, and what they’d do differently.
Obviously, this is a good way to vet their technical skills. But it also works as a way to see their foundational skills (also known as soft skills) in action. Is their criticism constructive, or just destructive?
Also, it’s a good time to push back on their suggestions. This way, you can see how they handle criticism. (Just make sure they know you want them to be opinionated!)
5. Remember Body Language
Body language is a great way to get people to relax. Simple gestures like smiling and having confidence help people feel more at ease around you.
Another great tip is to subtly mimic the body language of the candidate, which is known as the mirroring technique. According to Forbes, it’s an effective way to build a rapport in relationships.
If possible, you should also avoid sitting across the desk from candidates. This is very formal, and reminds candidates that it’s a job interview. So, sit to their side. This will make the conversation seem less formal, so your candidates will feel more relaxed.
6. Actively Engage The Candidate
As the hiring manager, you need to be genuinely curious about the person in front of you. In order to achieve this, you should actively engage the candidate. This requires listening attentively and asking follow-up questions.
Also, it means being mindful of how quickly you’re asking questions. There’s nothing worse than when a candidate feels like you’re simply asking questions in rapid-fire succession just to check the interview off your to-do list. So, take your time between questions. It gives the candidate an opportunity to go off script, too.
So, there you have it. Just follow these six simple rules and watch as your candidates not only perform better on interviews, but also feel better about the whole process—effectively improving your candidate experience.
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