Treat your candidates like VIPs

A couple of months ago I spoke at an event about the way we hire at Lyst, mentioning some of the qualities we look for in our candidates, the recruitment process we’ve put in place, and how important it is for us to be nice to our candidates. The last one resonated the most with the audience (mostly fashion-tech startup founders), because they’ve probably had their fair share of terrible interviews in the past and decided that, they too, will give their candidates an amazing experience when they’re ready to make their first hires.

Most companies know how difficult it is to find and attract exceptionally good people (even the ones with a very strong consumer and/or employer brand), but after hearing some horror stories from a couple of my friends who are currently looking for jobs, I realised that there are still companies out there who don’t care at all about the people who want to work for them.

As I am a big believer in making things better, I made a list of things we do at Lyst that will hopefully help other companies improve their hiring process and treating their candidates a lot nicer. Here it is:

1. Write realistic job descriptions 

It’s human nature to overestimate the importance of specific university degrees, skills, number of years experience, etc., but you risk alienating some very smart people who will be either put off by the language you’re using, or think that they’re not qualified enough to work for you.

Also, it’s ok to look at other companies’ job descriptions for some quick inspiration, but don’t copy them because you risk sounding like every other business out there. Instead, talk to your hiring manager to understand their needs (including where the new hire will fit within the team, what the absolute must-have and the nice-to-have qualities they’re looking for are, and what the candidate is expected to achieve as soon as they join). Understand what this new person will do and how their work will impact the business, and communicate that in the job ad. Make it exciting and don’t be afraid to make it sound challenging as well – you’re trying to attract smart people who are looking for a new challenge – but be careful not to oversell it.

2. Define the hiring process right from the beginning

Ask your hiring manager who will be involved in the interviewing process and how many interviews they’re expecting the candidates to attend. Find out if there are any competency tests they’ll need to take and at what stage, and make sure your candidates know what to expect. There is nothing worse than telling a candidate one thing and then making them do another, so be organised and follow the process you’ve put in place.

3. Acknowledge every application

If you’re using an ATS (applicant tracking system), it’s easy to set up an automatic email to let your candidates know you’ve received their application and that you’re reviewing it. Make it fun and exciting to set the tone for the rest of the hiring process. If you reject candidates at application level (and you will), it’s important to let them know, whether you’ve received 1 or 1000 applications. If they ask for feedback at this point, which will help them improve their application and secure a job, it’s nice to be able to take some time out of your day and help them.

4. When you’re qualifying your candidates, be mindful of the questions you’re asking and the assumptions you’re making

This is obvious for many people who work in recruitment, but from time to time I hear about terrible interview questions which make me question everything (dramatic, I know). I heard about this really bad one recently, where someone was asked if she’s worried that her tattoos will affect her chances of finding a job. The question was not asked by her grandmother, but by someone from the Head Office of a retail company which aspires to be ‘cool’. Did you invest millions in your brand to attract this person as a consumer, but you’re judging them as a candidate? Congratulations, you’re doing it wrong.

5. Give feedback

You’re going to say no a lot more than you’re going to say yes, so it’s important to learn to do it nicely. Ask your interviewers for proper feedback, challenge any unfounded assumptions, and then let your candidates know whether they’ve been successful or not. There’s nothing worse than inviting someone for an interview and then never speaking to them again, just because you don’t like saying no to people. Your priority is to give the candidate a great experience – and who knows, maybe you’ll hire them in the future, or maybe they’ll hire you.

6. Ask your candidates for feedback

A recruitment process could always be improved, which is why, as a recruiter, you have to be open to criticism. At Lyst, we’ve added a link at the bottom of every email we send our candidates after their final interview (whether they’ve been successful or not), where they can rate the overall process, us as recruiters, and the people who have interviewed them. We use their feedback to make our process better and help our interviewers be better, too.  It’s not always perfect, especially for the people we don’t hire, but we strive to make it pleasant at every step of the way.

These are some of the things we do at Lyst, but if there’s anything you think I should have included, or something you do that works really well, let me know.