The Underappreciated Powerhouse of the Interview Process

Not only are companies worried about long-standing employees who have decided to leave, or even those who choose to do less work without leaving (aka “quiet quitting), but people teams are also challenged by those who have recently joined a company and are now also leaving at an alarming clip.

A staggering 72% of millennial and Gen Z jobseekers have felt immediate regret after starting a new job, according to the Muse. And they’re willing to leave: 20% of jobseekers wouldn’t stay a month, and another 41% would leave within 6 months if the job failed to meet their expectations.

Unsurprisingly, then, a recent GoodTime study found retaining top talent was talent acquisition’s number one challenge in 2022.

And for good reason: It’s costly to replace a worker—extremely costly. A Society for Human Resource Management study found that total costs associated with employee turnover could be as high as 200% of annual salary.

While quick departures could be chalked up to several reasons (e.g., the newly acquired employee found a new job or a family or health situation caused him or her to leave the workforce), it’s more likely there was misalignment between the interview process and the company’s actual culture when they joined.

One reason this may happen is that companies fail to match their interview tone with their company culture. Tone needs to be a direct reflection and an immediate touch point of the company culture.

Suppose the interview tone isn’t aligned from day zero. In that case, you risk bringing on employees with misaligned expectations, which can increase the likelihood of an early departure and create tears in company culture.

It is important for two reasons: It sets expectations for the candidate, and it represents your company honestly, which is important for your existing employees, as well.

Defining Tone

Tone is best thought of as a reflection of your company culture. Put another way, your company culture dictates your tone, not vice versa. To create the right tone, you must appreciate the daily contours of how your business is run. Do people go about their jobs with extreme seriousness, or are there opportunities for levity? Are daily interactions personable, or is everyone all business? Would you consider every aspect of your operation to be formal or informal? Your hiring team needs to take these questions into consideration during each candidate conversation.

Most recruiters understand that these are important questions and usually literally discuss the company culture. Still, they don’t think about their subconscious tone when discussing it and interacting with the candidate. Just as words matter, how those words are said can matter even more.

The Hiring Manager’s Role

It’s natural for hiring managers to want to be breezy, energetic, and fun—character traits that appeal to the candidate on the other side of the line. But if the organizations they represent are of a more formal culture that leans more staid or serious, this will create misalignment if that candidate decides to take the role. This is particularly important as industry worlds continue to collide with a more loose-footed tech culture, e.g., the historically more conservative banking industry melding into fintech or the traditionally no-nonsense legal services space dovetailing into legal tech. Is the culture a hybrid of these multiple worlds or leaning more toward one or the other? Employer branding and company culture are key indicators of the tone of these hiring processes.

Hiring managers must keep tone top of mind when they interview candidates. And even if an interview veers off script, hiring managers should focus on maintaining their tone.

The Same Tone for Every Candidate

While it’s natural for hiring managers to feel an affinity for a candidate with a similar background or interests, they should maintain the same tone with all candidates. For example, finding out the candidate in front of you went to the same college as you should not affect how you interview that person. Affinity bias is an insidious temptation for even the most well-trained interviewers.

Recruiters and employees interviewing candidates should give each one the focus and respect he or she deserves while maintaining a consistent tone. 

When Tone Fails

If you fail to demonstrate your company’s tone accurately, you risk losing employees, as they’ll find the company at which they got hired is not what they expected.

Every hire matters, especially in this time dominated by economic uncertainty and an unwieldy hiring zeitgeist. Finding great candidates takes real bandwidth and resources, and turning them into happy employees takes even more. You don’t want to lose them early on to something as avoidable as expectation misalignment.

Here’s What You Need to Do

  1. Create the tone based on company culture. There are many ways to do this: Have a steering committee decide, interview your employees, conduct a survey, or have the executive in charge of hiring decide. But a common rule applies: The more people you talk to within the company, the fuller picture you will have of the truth.
  1. Discuss tone with everyone involved in the interview process. If one interviewer is on tone but the other is not, it creates confusion, leading the candidate to make incorrect assumptions or decide not to join the company because he or she can’t get a handle on the company culture.
  2. Establish how tone impacts the entire process. This decision governs the entire candidate process, from the questions you ask to how you structure the interview to how you keep the candidate in the loop on progress. As one simple example, “Dear Ms. Smith” conveys a very different tone than “Hey Joanne!”
  3. Understand your own potential biases. Teach your team about interview bias and how individuals can affect the interview process. You should be as intentional as possible about how you run interviews, especially considering they can quickly go off script. Always ensure you keep your tone in check.
  4. But don’t lose your genuine self. Recruiting managers sometimes find their organization’s tone dissimilar to their tone. It isn’t easy, but it requires finding ways to make that tone feel organic to avoid coming off as disingenuous. One way to do so is to find a previous example of when your tone may have differed because you were speaking to a different audience and remember what felt natural.

Hiring managers must remember that getting employees to accept an open position is only half the battle. If too many leave immediately after accepting a position, there is likely a perception mismatch due to a difference between the tone that was conveyed during the interview process and the actual culture that awaited them upon joining. It is therefore incumbent upon recruiters and interviewers to use the correct tone to ensure candidates are prepare for the company they may join.

Ahryun Moon is CEO of GoodTime.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *