What Are Your Candidates Really Thinking In Interviews?

Have you ever wondered what lies behind the composed facade of a job candidate as they sit on the other side of an interview, answering questions with practiced finesse? As interviewers, we're accustomed to assessing candidates based on their skills, qualifications, and experiences. However, there's a hidden dimension to the interview process that often goes unnoticed – the thoughts and emotions that run through the minds of these potential future employees.

To get a glimpse into what candidates are really thinking in interviews, we ran 100,000 interviews through our suite of interview insights to determine what candidate sentiment tells us about a variety of topics commonly discussed in interviews.

Here are five of the most interesting insights we found…

1.) Sentiment for women is lowest when discussing compensation and highest when discussing job experience

In my blog last month, we analyzed gender differences in interview data. One of the points mentioned that when interviewers discuss compensation with female candidates, their sentiment declines. Women, especially in male-dominated industries, might be concerned that openly negotiating or discussing compensation could lead to gender bias or unfair treatment.

On the flip side, female candidates enjoy discussing job experience as this topic can be a means for them to challenge biases and prove their capabilities and suitability for the role.

2.) Sentiment for men is lowest when discussing their weaknesses or previous role failures and highest when small talk occurs, especially when talking about sports

Men often don’t enjoy conversations about past failures or setbacks. Admitting and discussing failures might be seen as a vulnerability, leading some men to feel hesitant about bringing up such experiences; especially because they might fear it could negatively impact their chances of getting the job. What men do enjoy in interviews is small talk as it’s a way to establish rapport and create a comfortable atmosphere before diving into more serious interview questions. They enjoy small talk even more when it has to do with sports.

One thing to keep in mind is that discussing sports during a job interview is generally considered bad practice. It may inadvertently create bias, potentially impacting the candidate's evaluation. Remember, the primary purpose of a job interview is to assess a candidate's suitability for the position based on their skills, qualifications, and experience.

3.) 45% of candidates are never likely to take the role you’re interviewing them for

A bad interview process certainly drives applicants away. This can be a signal to applicants that the company does not prioritize the candidate experience or value their time and effort. Not only that, but in a competitive job market, candidates have choices. A bad interview process can prompt qualified applicants to seek opportunities elsewhere, leading to missed talent acquisition opportunities for the company.

4.) When interviewers pitch a role and the company culture, 15% of them pitch a role badly and 25% of them pitch the company culture badly

Do you expect a candidate to accept a role if the interviewer cannot positively pitch the role or company culture to them? My guess is “no”.

A weak pitch, in which 15% of interviewers pitch a role badly, can create the impression that the company lacks enthusiasm or vision for the role, and it may convey a sense of disorganization or a lack of clarity about the job's importance within the organization.

And it doesn’t stop there…

25% of interviewers pitch a company culture badly. This is actually a key moment in an interview as candidates value culture extremely highly. If the culture pitch doesn’t land well with the candidate, it doesn’t just make them unlikely to accept a role, but they will tell others why, hurting the employer's brand.

5.) Candidate sentiment is highest when speaking with interviewers that are the same gender and race 

Speaking to someone with similar gender and racial backgrounds can create a feeling of belonging and inclusion, which can make the interview environment more comfortable and welcoming. Candidates may also feel a sense of relatability and may believe that the interviewer can better understand their experiences, perspectives, and challenges, fostering empathy during the conversation.

It’s probably stating the obvious, but with a diverse slate of candidates, the only way to eliminate bias is to have a diverse panel of interviewers that can bring varied perspectives and enrich the candidate experience by providing a broader understanding of the company's culture and values.

Candidate sentiment matters…

Understanding the candidate’s experience throughout the interview is crucial for several reasons: 

  • Candidate Experience: The interview process is a candidate's first direct interaction with the company. Understanding their sentiment allows employers to gauge how candidates perceive the company, its culture, and its hiring process. 
  • Attracting Top Talent: Candidates who have a positive experience during the interview process are more likely to view the company as an employer of choice. This, in turn, can attract top talent to the organization, as word spreads about the positive candidate experience.
  • Promoting Diversity and Inclusion: Understanding candidate sentiment can help assess whether the interview process fosters a diverse and inclusive environment. Positive experiences can attract candidates from diverse backgrounds, contributing to a more inclusive workforce.
  • Enhanced Decision-Making: Recognizing candidate sentiment allows interviewers and hiring managers to make better-informed decisions. Understanding a candidate's level of interest, enthusiasm, and engagement can help assess their fit for the role and the company culture.
  • Retention and Engagement: A positive candidate experience can influence a candidate's decision to accept a job offer if extended. Understanding their sentiment can also provide insights into what matters to candidates, helping tailor offers and onboarding experiences to enhance employee retention and engagement.

By placing importance on understanding candidate sentiment, employers can create a more efficient, effective, and equitable interview process that benefits both the company and the candidates. There are technologies out there that can help your team measure candidate sentiment. If you need help with where to start, drop me a line here.

Cheers to growing better with every hire,

Mark Simpson
Founder & CEO

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