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Employee Retention Starts During the Interview Process

As of Autumn 2022, it’s a candidate’s job market. Remote and hybrid work has opened a wider variety of positions and raised the bar in terms of competition.

Organizations aren’t just competing with regional companies for a candidate’s attention. Now, your organization might be competing nationally or even globally.

Incidents of candidate ghosting have been increasing during C-suite executive searches. Potential new hires stop responding to requests, don’t show up for interviews, or quit shortly after starting with little to no notice. In the face of a turbulent job market and a looming recession, employee retention should be top of mind. You want to have the best talent at your disposal, and you want to keep them.

As a direct result, you need to have better hiring plans, and you need to be prepared to hire at a faster rate than ever before.

In our article, we provide strategies to avoid candidate ghosting, discuss how you can structure your interview process for success, and review more effective onboarding procedures that support longer-term employee retention.

Why is candidate ghosting occurring?

Candidate ghosting is often the result of poor communication or a delay in the hiring process.

The hiring timetable is much faster post-pandemic, and more than a week without communication or feedback is likely to cause a lapse in candidate interest.

Also, if the hiring process stalls, or if there are too many meetings without proper feedback about where the candidate is in the process, candidates become exhausted and decide to seek opportunities elsewhere.

Your organization needs to ask itself if there are identifiable patterns and trends in its hiring process that cause candidate ghosting.

Below is a list of questions for consideration:

  • How long does your hiring process typically take?
  • Is there a certain step in the process where candidates tend to ghost or lose interest?
  • Are they ghosting after learning about compensation rates?
  • Has your decision timeline been shared with candidates? Does it need to be shared earlier in the process?
  • Are you following up after interviews? If so, how often?

Identify where issues start, so you can address them quickly.

What does a healthy interview process look like?

A healthy interview process includes all three of the following:

  • Internal planning
  • Clear expectations
  • Continuous engagement and communication

They are closely intertwined, and one cannot be achieved without the other.

Internal planning

When your organization is ready to launch a search engagement, the first step is messaging and position criteria alignment amongst your internal teams to ensure you’re fully prepared to hire.

Start by outlining needs, must-haves, prioritizations, and crucial points for the position. Ask yourselves, what’s most important for the company? Do you need to pull in outside advisors or board members?

Next, you want to consider the recruitment process itself, and note steps the hiring team can take to ensure a good candidate experience. How can you streamline the process?

You should emerge from planning sessions with:

  • Alignment on role, compensation, and definition of an ideal candidate
  • Clear job descriptions
  • Understanding of who will be on your hiring team and how each member will be involved
  • Outline of the interview schedule, an idea of the number of interviews you wish to hold, and the role each team member will have as part of the interview panel
  • Expectations of both your internal hiring team and your search firm

Clear expectations

Clear expectations need to be set with both the hiring team and candidates.

You don’t want internal communication on your hiring team to fall apart. If this is broken, speed to market diminishes.

Members of the hiring team need to attend update calls and meetings, provide their input, and be part of the dialogue. The hiring team sets the tone for the interviews. If they’re engaged, it’s likely your candidates will be engaged too.

Likewise, you need to prepare your candidates, and let them know what you have in mind for the hiring process. What is your hiring timeline? Who will they be meeting? Will you expect to see a 30-, 60-, or 90-day plan during the finalist stage?

The effort you put into expectation setting will speak volumes to your candidates. If you’re clear and straightforward in the interview process, they will know to expect this same behavior when they accept a position.

Continuous engagement and communication

In your internal planning sessions, determine how much communication a candidate should receive. Make it clear how often you’ll be following up and when that needs to occur. Keep in mind, if you let follow-ups or some type of feedback linger even a week, candidates are likely to have already moved on.

Decide on the point-person for candidate communication, so there’s no question about who is responsible for getting all relevant information back to the candidate.

You should also know who will reach out with an eventual offer, what can potentially be negotiated within the offer, and an ideal timeline for response.

Communication with your search firms and candidates is key, even if you’re only communicating that the timeline is going to be extended. They still need and want to hear from you.

What makes a successful onboarding?

Continuous communication is just as important during the onboarding process.

Since there’s often a delay in onboarding at the C-suite level, you need to provide engagement during the period between signing the offer and the start date. An enticing counteroffer could always pop up; ensure your organization is doing what it can to prevent a new hire from changing their mind.

Create the most welcoming environment possible:

  • Meet for a lunch or dinner on a weekend or around your new hire’s schedule, so you don’t infringe on any responsibilities they’re undertaking while leaving their last position.
  • Talk about your plans to announce their start date internally and externally.
  • Provide insights into what they can expect on Day 1 and how you anticipate their first 30 days playing out.
  • Validate their strategic plan and outline who is going to be on their team, so they can start to set up cadence meetings if they choose.

How can you improve onboarding for fully remote employees?

When it comes to fully remote employees, try to arrange an onboarding session that’s onsite with their manager and teams, even if you can only schedule one or two days in person. If that’s not a possibility, make plans to attend an upcoming company conference, some potential new client engagements, or a mutual industry conference together.

Your organization should do its best to immerse fully remote employees in company culture. They need to feel like they’re valued, engaged, and a crucial part of your operations. Even if it’s only utilizing video conferencing during regularly scheduled check-ins, offer that face-to-face interaction, so there’s a human element to your communication.

No one should have to rely solely on emails and messaging platforms, and it’s all too easy to slip into that cadence, especially if you’re working in different areas and time zones.

Final thoughts

Candidates have more options, and organizations have more competition, than ever before.

Strong interview and onboarding processes with clear expectations and consistent feedback will not only help you find talent, but ultimately expand your options and help you retain your new hires.

Plan upfront, get internal alignment before you proceed to interviews, and don’t let your communication with candidates lapse—not even for a week.

How Odgers can help

If you need to discuss how employee retention factors into your executive hiring plans, Odgers Berndtson is here to help.

It’s our mission to deliver the best talent as quickly as possible, set candidate expectations, and serve as their point of contact to ensure communication is frequent and clear.

Diane Gilley is a Partner in the firm’s Technology and CIO & Technology Officers Practices based out of Odgers Berndtson’s San Francisco and Chicago offices. She has 20 years of C-suite executive search experience and a strong track record of successful executive search completions for public, private equity and venture capital clients in software/SaaS, internet/E-Commerce, FinTech, IoT, and IT Consulting.

Diane can be reached at (415) 666-2271 or diane.gilley@odgersberndtson.com.

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