First Impressions: Interacting With Candidates
In general, most people who apply for a job at your practice are likely looking elsewhere, too. Interviewing people for a job is not a one-way street; candidates are sizing up the places where they’re interviewing to see which will be the best fit for them, too. This means the image and “vibe” you project starting with your first interaction often creates a lasting impression. That can be good—or cost you an excellent candidate.
Candidate interactions are a balance of cadence, tone, and information. You could be in constant contact with a candidate, but if your tone is off-putting, your candidate won’t be interested in the position. Similarly, your tone can be excellent, but if the candidate never hears from you, they’ll accept another position.
So let’s look at the three parts of candidate interactions.
In this hiring market, hospitals cannot afford to lose candidates because of a lack of communication. Unfortunately, we often hear from managers that they “don’t have time” to reach out to candidates that apply. This problem can lead to weeks passing between a candidate applying and hearing from the hospital, giving candidates a negative perception.
A recent study found that 75% of job seekers don’t receive any response after sending a job application, and a further 60% don’t receive any feedback after an interview. In companies that receive thousands of applicants, this might be acceptable, but animal hospitals that depend on community support don’t have such a luxury. It’s important to make sure that your interactions with candidates reflect the image you want to present as a practice and an employer.
We recommend the following cadence for candidate interactions:
- Acknowledgement that an application has been received: Within 1 business day of application (this can be automated using an applicant tracking system (ATS)
- Invitation to candidate for initial interview, or alerting them that their application does not meet qualifications: Within 3 business days of application
If an individual interviews with the hospital (text, phone, in person, etc):
- Invitation to next step in the process: No more than 7 days after interview, preferably no more than 3 days
- Notification to candidate that they are no longer being considered after interview: No more than 7 days after interview, no more than 2 days if decision is immediate
If an individual is chosen for the position, the candidate should be called immediately after the decision is made. Follow-up with a written job offer.
As we mentioned earlier, you could be in constant contact with a candidate, but if they see your communications as off-putting in any way, they will disqualify you as an employer. The trouble is, not all of us are gifted with the ability to sound warm or friendly in writing. Busy people will often send short emails with little to no personality, not realizing how they may sound to a prospective candidate. Consider the following two emails inviting a candidate to an in-person interview after the initial phone interview:
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me on the phone yesterday. I am very impressed with your experience, and your personality seems like it would add so much to our culture. I would love to invite you for an in-person interview so you can meet the team and learn more about what we do here. Can you tell me what days work well for your schedule?
I’d like you to come in for an interview for the next step in the process. Can you tell me what days work for you next week?
The first email is clearly more friendly and shows the candidate that the writer is interested in the individual as more than just a warm body to fill the position. While the second email is not inherently rude, it comes across as curt and unfriendly.
It doesn’t take much time to be friendly in writing. The first email took only a few seconds longer to write and is much more likely to result in the candidate choosing to come to that hospital.
Create templates for your responses. We recommend taking the time to write a template for:
- Application received
- Application does not meet criteria
- Initial interview (text or phone) invitation
- Second interview invitation
- Background check
- Written offer
- Decline after interviewing
Save these templates in a document on your computer that you can open and simply copy and paste when emailing candidates.
The final piece of the candidate interaction balance is information. Candidates are interviewing you as much as you are interviewing them, so the information you provide is critical to their decision to continue discussions with you. The hard part is this: What information should we be sharing with candidates?
Information begins with job ads. We won’t cover that here, but you can check out our article about job ads here in this tool kit. In this section, we discuss direct communication with candidates.
- During the phone or text interview: This is your chance to get some basic information about a candidate’s background. At the same time, it is your chance to introduce your hospital to the candidate in the best possible light. At iVET360, we use this initial conversation to explain a little about our culture, what the job is like, and some of the best and most difficult parts of working with us. We also disclose in this first conversation what the wages and benefits range is for the position they are applying for. This ensures the candidate knows at the very beginning what to expect should they get a job offer. It also weeds out those who are looking for far more than the position will pay.
- During the in-person interview: We look at interviewing as a two-way street. During an interview, you are looking at whether a candidate has the skills and personality to work in the role you are hiring for. Just as importantly, the candidate is looking at whether your hospital seems like a fit for their career and personal aspirations. It is crucial that you, as the interviewer, see both sides of this equation. During the interview, don’t wait for the candidate to ask questions. Instead, tell them about your hospital. We recommend telling them the great things about working there, but also the challenges of being on your team. While this can be uncomfortable, your honesty will help the candidate understand exactly what they are getting into. It will also help them to see what kind of a leader you are!
Some practice owners and managers feel that telling candidates the less appealing aspects of working in their practice will drive them away. They are correct—but not in the way you might think. Being forthcoming about both the negative and positive aspects of a job at your practice gives candidates an accurate, well-rounded idea of what employment at your hospital will entail. If a candidate is scared away by something you tell them, that is a good thing! The alternative would be the candidate accepting a job, learning about the negative things anyway, and then leaving shortly after their start date. It is far better to hire a person who knows what they are getting into and chooses to work with your practice anyway.
- After the interview: As mentioned earlier, 60% of candidates never hear back after an interview. This is a shame, as the communication to candidates not chosen for a position after an interview can help create your employer brand in your community. Every candidate should hear whether they will be invited to the next step in the process or not. Equally important is the information provided in this communication.
For candidates who will not be invited to continue in the process, a simple email letting them know they were not selected, along with a reason why is perfect. We don’t recommend getting into the details, but instead recommend phrasing such as:
- We are looking for an individual with more experience
- We are looking to hire someone who is a certified technician
- We feel some of our other applicants are more qualified based on our criteria for the position
We don’t advise telling someone they are not a “culture fit,” as this could open up your practice to discrimination allegations. You should also close by telling candidates to keep an eye on your website and social media for notifications of future openings that might be a better fit for them.
- For candidates who will be invited to continue in the process: Always tell them what the next steps will be, and how long they will take. Tell candidates when you are hoping to have a decision made and encourage them to reach out if they don’t hear from you. If there is a reason why the process is taking longer than one might normally expect, tell them that, too. Remember, information is your friend!
Whether you are inviting a candidate to the next step or not, you should always communicate with the candidate within 2 business days of their interview.
Some hospitals will drag the interview and hiring process out for weeks, during which time most candidates will find another position. These days, time is not your friend because good applicants often have many other options and opportunities when they don’t hear from you.
Being proactive, communicative, and transparent will go a long way to helping you land the team members you need—which ultimately, makes your job easier.
WAGES AND BENEFITS