The Pick: 93 percent feel anxious before the job interview - here's what to do about it

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Alex Tidgård

Alex Tidgård; Psychologist with a passion for science-based and candidate-friendly interviews. Co-founder of the interview platform Asker Technology.

Almost half of all job seekers have turned down a job offer because of a bad interview. A negative candidate experience is causing many companies to lose talent and we need to do something now to reverse this negative trend. Alex Tidgård, licensed psychologist and founder of interview platform Asker, gives his view on how.  

After public speaking, the job interview comes second on the list of things that make us most nervous. Going for a job interview is even worse than going on a first date, with 93 percent saying they have felt nervous before an interview. That's according to a survey by employment screening company JDP.   

The interview has an obvious place in most recruitment processes today. But why is the interview so important? Many employers see the interview as the first, and perhaps the only, opportunity to get a good picture of the person applying for the job. What we tend to forget is that it's the same the other way around – according to a survey we conducted at Asker Technologies, almost half of all job seekers have turned down a job offer because of a negative interview experience. Of the things that bother us in the interview, irrelevant questions, lack of feedback, and a bad impression of the interviewer are top of the list.  

The fact that most people find going for a job interview more nerve-wracking than going on a first date suggests that we have a long way to go. How did we get here? And whose responsibility is it to change the perception of job interviews? I would say that all of us, employers and other players in the recruitment market, have a collective responsibility to improve the quality and candidate experience of our interviews. Otherwise, you risk losing candidates in the process, damaging your employer brand and, in the long run, making it increasingly difficult to recruit.  

5 tips to create the best candidate experience during the interview

  1. Conduct a structured interview 

The interview is a particularly sensitive stage in the recruitment process, where our prejudices and our gut feeling often have a strong influence on decisions. Therefore, use a structured interview technique to make the most accurate and fair assessment of your candidates. Remember:  

  • Evaluate all candidates against predetermined criteria based on the job requirements profile
  • Create a scorecard to assess responses 
  • Ask the same questions in the same order to all candidates
  1. Keep the candidate in the loop 

A big reason why so many people are nervous about the interview may be because it involves a lot of uncertainty. Therefore, always provide straightforward and clear information before, during, and after the interview. Answer questions such as when, how, where, and why. Be transparent about the steps involved in the process, how many interviews will take place, and who from the company you will meet. And most importantly - tell the candidate when they will hear from you again. 

  1. Do a great introduction 

The fact that 93 percent of all candidates are nervous before an interview speaks for itself. One of your most important tasks as an interviewer is to create a pleasant environment. Perhaps you can start the meeting by showing the person around the office or asking a disarming question like “How was your weekend?”. You can also address the situation head-on by asking "What can I do to make you feel comfortable during the interview?". Before you start, always inform the candidate about the content and structure of the interview and how much time you have. Don't rush through this step. If you do a proper introduction it only takes a few minutes but it will save a lot of anxiety for the candidate.

  1. Manage your time properly 

A good interview is not only measured by what is said during the meeting itself. The preparation and follow-up are just as important. A carefully planned interview process allows you to be more present and make a more accurate assessment. Make sure to:  

  • Have a small buffer of time that you can take before or after the interview. If the interview takes longer than you anticipated, you don't want to interrupt the candidate.  
  • Be fully present in the moment when you are interviewing. Get there on time, put your phone away and ask follow-up questions. Need to take notes on your computer? Let the candidate know that too. 
  • Set aside time to score and evaluate the interview directly afterwards.  
  1. Be as transparent as possible  

Once you think about it, the interview is a rather unnatural situation, where you are expected to be able to give good answers to unexpected questions. Being transparent about what you as a company expect from the interview and what is being evaluated can therefore significantly enhance the candidate experience. Some employers are afraid of "revealing too much" and fear candidates may exploit the information. Instead, reverse the perspective: being open and generous with information leads to more prepared and relaxed candidates. Challenge yourself and the level of transparency in your next process. Can you be open with what qualities you are looking for? Or can you even send out all the interview questions in advance?

Try and see what happens! 🤝

Alex Tidgård

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