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Inclusion Tips on Preparing Candidates for Interviews (Part 1 of 2)

The latter stages of the hiring process, which include steps like virtual and/or onsite interviews, assessments, meet and greets, etc., can be daunting, especially for those who are not well versed in them. Candidates are under pressure to make a good impression. To answer questions correctly, show how they will fit in with every word, action, and expression, and do it all while navigating what’s often a complex multi-step process full of intricate logistical details.

But, at the same time, candidates are also watching you and your organization. Getting a first impression of you, evaluating your answers, and seeing if you are a good fit for them with every word, action, and expression – including all those intricate logistical details.

Are all those details showcasing you and your organization as inclusive and welcoming? Or, perhaps, are they creating an exclusionary and anxiety-filled experience that alienate some from your candidate pool.

How do you ensure you are preparing your candidates as inclusively as possible?

Here are a few tips:

Explain the hiring process up front

Not everyone has the same experience with the hiring process, or at least, to your hiring process.

For some the process is entirely new. For example, those who are applying to their first job and Veterans fresh out of the military (they do not ‘apply’ for jobs while in service).

For others, the process is not at all what they expect or have experienced, such as for those who haven’t applied for a job in years or those switching industries.

Candidates who don’t know what is happening or what will happen next could be left feeling disoriented, nervous, or confused, which will put them at a disadvantage.

Avoid those uncomfortable ‘what will happen’ jitters. Layout the application process for all candidates – the steps, what happens in each step, when it will happen, and when they will hear the results.

Having a transparent process is a great way to improve candidate experience for everyone – from those new to the process to the interviewing pros.

Establish and communicate candidate-driven change requests for the hiring process

Life happens, even when it’s inconvenient.

From a sick child to a death in the family to a car suddenly forgetting how to start. While life happens to us all, for some, it happens more often than others (such as those with family obligations or those with limited transportation options when that car does die).

To help accommodate for life’s curve balls, define and communicate a change request process so candidates know what to do and that you understand.

A simple statement such as: “We know sometimes life happens, so if there is an emergency and you can’t make the interview, call this number” can mean a world of difference to someone stuck on a broken-down bus, or picking up their fever-stricken child, or rushing their dog to the vet.

Designate a single point of contact for your candidates

Candidates often interact with multiple people during the hiring process – recruitment, HR, subject matter experts, leadership, the hiring manager, etc.

With so many involved, it can be daunting or confusing when a candidate has a question, needs clarification, or just wants to let you know that they received another offer. Especially true if the candidate is new to the hiring process.

Designate and communicate a single point-of-contact for all questions. This way, candidates are not left blasting out emails to everyone, or worse, are too intimidated to ask that all-important question that could mean the difference between having a successful interview and missing it entirely because they don’t know where to go.

Ask all applicants if there’s anything they need (including any special accommodations) to ensure they have a great experience

There are often many steps when moving through the candidate selection process to find future employees, from the initial screening to final interview. For some of those steps, some candidates may require reasonable accommodations.

However, many candidates are uncomfortable asking or informing their future employer for fear of impacting their chances of getting the job, embarrassment, or simply out of shyness in an already intimidating process. Some don’t even realize that their requests are reasonable or normal.

Help candidates.

During the process, keep the candidates informed of the steps and ask if there is anything you can do or any accommodations to ensure they have a great experience.

Even better, give a small but widely varying examples of accommodations. For example, inform them that you have highly accessible locations, multiple timeslots to accommodate various schedules, specialized refrigerators for medications and special foods, and several lunch options to accommodate a variety of food restrictions.

Prepare candidates with gender-neutral or gender-inclusive dress codes

Onsite interviews are stressful enough without worrying about what to wear.

Give candidates clear direction (with plenty of time) on the dress code to reduce this stress. Doing this also avoids needless challenges like last minute shopping (which is especially impactful for those who cannot easily afford to over-purchase attire).

Develop dress codes that are easy to understand and use specific examples because terms like ‘business casual’ are up for interpretation. They must also be gender neutral or gender inclusive (i.e. give a variety of examples that cover different preferences).

Bonus tip: Don’t evaluate candidates on the brand, quality, or style of clothing unless personal style preferences and socio-economic status are MUST have requirements for the job (and such requirements are rare).

Be aware of and accommodate for major holidays

Before planning any recruiting, candidate evaluation, or other events, be aware of (and when required, avoid) major holidays.

Imagine the message the organization is giving if it holds a lunch-in during Ramadan (Muslims fast from sunup to sundown), a huge recruiting event over Rosh Hashana (Jewish holy day), or a required orientation during Veteran’s Day.

Being aware of all major holidays, and accommodating for them whenever possible, is a great way to show the organization is both knowledgeable and respectful.

It’s easy to get started – most calendar solutions have settings to turn on various religious and secular holidays. A few clicks and everything will show up on your calendar. It still takes a little research to see how holidays are observed and what they mean but having them on the calendar is a great start.

Bonus tip: check with candidates that the dates for any interviews or events work for them and make every effort for reasonable accommodations for those who have conflicts due to holidays. Do not challenge the holiday or require candidates to justify why the holiday poses a conflict. #NoBias #diversityandinclusion

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