It may sound unintuitive, but interviews are a form of marketing, especially for higher-level positions. Whether or not the candidate walks away with a job offer, they do walk away with an opinion about your organization, and that opinion matters. If they leave disgruntled and tell everyone in their field that your company is cold and boring, then you have to deal with the uphill battle of convincing new candidates that isn’t actually the case! This week, we’re diving into current research that explains exactly what kind of interview leaves candidates with a good impression of your organization, even if they don’t get the job.

The Science of Interviewing

In a 2013 study published in the Consulting Psychology Journal, researchers proposed that we need to study interviews in order to determine two things: what makes candidates accept offers, and what leaves candidates with good impressions of the company, even if they don’t get an offer. 

With this in mind, they developed a simple study to evaluate what factors influence our impressions of interviews, for better or worse. They collected over 200 subjects and showed each of them one of 8 pre-recorded videos of an interview. The information received from the candidates was always the same in each video, but these things varied: the interviewer was either warm or cold, using a structured or unstructured interview, and did or did not offer the candidate the position. They then asked the subjects whether they would personally accept the job, the attractiveness of the organization doing the interviewing, the fairness of the interview and whether they would recommend the job to others. Here’s what the researchers found:

  • Subjects were most likely to accept a job if the interviewer was warm and the style was unstructured. 
  • Interviews that are structured, cold, and not followed by an offer are most likely to generate negative feelings towards the organization.
  • Warm interviews were rated “fair” regardless of whether the candidate got the offer. Cold interviews were rated as unfair if the candidate was denied.
  • Unstructured interviews receive higher ratings, regardless of interviewer warmth.

This information is invaluable to any hiring team, as it lays a blueprint for how to generate a pleasing interview experience. The main takeaway here is that an interviewer needs to convey warmth while going easy on the structure. In this study, warmth was conveyed with simple gestures: eye contact, nods, affirmations, and a handshake. Anyone can do this! As for structure, an unstructured interview was conversational and unforced (as opposed to limiting the conversation to answering questions one after another), but it still got all of the necessary information from the candidate. 

If your hiring team can convey warmth while carrying out a thorough, semi-structured interview, then you’re one step closer to maximizing the likelihood that the candidates you want will also want to work with you. Not only that, but you’ll ensure that candidates who walk away without an offer will leave with a positive impression, and thus will be an ally in promoting your brand and image. This last aspect should not be overlooked, especially with sites like Glassdoor where candidates go to first when evaluating your company brand.