The Candidate Experience: Getting it Right From Interview to Selection

In today’s tight talent market, an easy and enjoyable candidate experience is imperative to attract and retain top talent during the interview process through to candidate selection. Part of creating a great candidate experience is understanding what you can and can’t ask during the interview process while also understanding the best practice methodology for identifying the preferred candidates for your roles.

Share this blog with portfolio companies who can get value from talent expert Sarah Hall as she details best practices to elevate your interview and selection process that will lead to hiring quality talent. 

Hueman Webinar: Getting it Right From Interview to Selection

Creating a Great Candidate Experience  

A great candidate experience starts with implementing interview best practices. When creating a structured and standardized interview process, ask behavioral questions that focus on the candidate’s past experiences and, in turn, allow the candidate to ask questions about the role and company. Follow-up with timely feedback to candidates and communicate clearly throughout the process. 

68% of candidates think a company’s hiring process reflects how it treats its employees.

To attract and retain key talent during the hiring process, companies should emphasize their unique selling points and company culture and offer competitive compensation packages and benefits. Providing opportunities for professional growth and development and fostering a positive work-life balance can also appeal to potential candidates. Additionally, maintaining open communication and providing a seamless interview process can help companies stand out in a competitive job market.   

Key Candidate Stages

Candidate Job Searched Online

This is the stage where the candidate is actively searching for job openings online using various job search engines and websites. They may be looking for a specific job title or industry or browsing for opportunities matching their skills and experience.

What you can do: Market your unique EVP and the positives of working for your organization. Ensure your career site and job boards have any employee reviews, benefits, and information about your company culture listed. Proper reputation management provides transparency into the company culture, improving their chances of recruiting and retaining the best candidates in their industry.

Candidate Applies Online

Once a candidate finds a suitable job opening, they will apply online by submitting their resume and cover letter through the company’s website or an online job board. This stage requires candidates to review the job requirements carefully and tailor their application to showcase their relevant skills.  

80% of candidate drop off is during the application process.


What you can do: Create a positive application experience. Keep your application short and ensure your candidate application is mobile-friendly, while eliminating any roadblocks (i.e., requiring a candidate to create an account to apply). Ideally, the apply process should take no longer than 5 minutes. Here are a few tips for creating a positive candidate application experience: 

  • Keep your application short (one-click apply is optimal, but at least under 3-5 minutes to complete the apply)   
  • Ensure your candidate application is mobile friendly   
  • Eliminate any roadblocks (i.e., requiring a candidate to create an account to apply) 

Screening Call

After the candidate’s application is reviewed, your recruiter should schedule a screening call to further discuss their qualifications and experience. This stage is typically a brief phone call to determine if the candidate meets the job’s basic requirements and is a good fit for the company culture.   

What you can do: Create an effective screening call process. Ensure there is alignment between what the candidate is looking for, the role, and what your organization has to offer. Here are a few tips to ensure alignment between the candidate, the opening, and your organization:  

  • Maximize efforts during screening calls to ensure minimum qualifications are met    
  • Ensure there is alignment with candidate expectations and what you have to offer (especially during the screening call, but also the interview) 

In-Person Interview

If candidates pass the screening call, they are invited for an in-person interview. Your goal in the interview process is to assess the candidate’s skills, experience, and fit for the job through a face-to-face conversation. This stage may involve multiple rounds of interviews with different team members or managers.   

What you can do: Help the candidate feel welcome during the interview. Have someone greet them at the door and offer a tour or job preview to help build a genuine connection. Here are a few tips to help you understand the candidate’s background in detail: 

  • Ask open-ended questions   
  • Create consistency with the questions you ask and identify patterns   
  • Practice the ‘truth serum’ regarding reference checks as described below in Topgrading 

Post-Interview Follow-Up

After an interview, an employer should communicate with a candidate promptly and professionally. A brief thank-you email to the candidate after the interview is a polite way to acknowledge their time and interest in the position. This email can also serve as a follow-up to discuss next steps, provide a hiring timeline, or answer any further questions the candidate may have. When extending an offer, be clear about the terms of the offer, such as salary, benefits, and start date.  

What you can do: Communicate next steps. Provide candidates with immediate feedback post-interview (within 24-48 hours is ideal). If the candidate is a strong candidate but not selected, offer feedback on what the company is looking for in a candidate and how they can improve their skills for future opportunities. 

Interview Compliance

Eliminate risk by educating your hiring managers and recruiters on what they can and can’t ask during the interview. Businesses can stay on top of interview compliance by understanding and adhering to federal, state, and local laws governing the interview process. This includes laws related to equal employment opportunity, discrimination, and privacy. It’s essential to have a written policy that outlines the company’s interview process and the legal requirements that must be followed.   

Training and educating your interviewers on the legal aspects of interviewing can also help ensure compliance. This can include providing guidelines on appropriate interview questions, avoiding discriminatory language, and conducting interviews fairly and objectively.   

Regularly reviewing and updating interview practices and policies can also help ensure compliance. This can involve reviewing job descriptions, interview questions, and interview scoring methods to ensure they are consistent and unbiased.   

Finally, keeping accurate records of the interview process can also help demonstrate compliance if any legal issues arise. This includes maintaining records of each candidate’s interview questions, notes, and evaluations.  


Intro to Topgrading

“Great companies don’t just depend on strategies—they depend on people. The more great people on your team, the more successful your organization will be.”

Bradford D. Smart, Ph.D., Founder and CEO of Topgrading, Inc.

Management psychologist Bradford Smart defines Topgrading as a structured approach to assessing job candidates’ skills, experience, and performance history. This strategy aims to identify top-performing candidates who have a record of success in their previous roles and are likely to excel in the new role they are applying for. Additionally, it gives a comprehensive picture of a candidate’s professional background and personality and helps companies build high-performing teams.   

Topgrading is based on the premise that the best indicator of future performance is past performance. Therefore, the method involves in-depth interviews that thoroughly explore a candidate’s work history and accomplishments. The interviews are designed to elicit specific examples of the candidate’s achievements, challenges, and learnings.

Topgrading Benefits

  • Quality Accountability: Start measuring hiring quality  
  • Job Scorecard: Define the job scorecard on the accountabilities that a candidate should produce in the 1st/2nd year   
  • Smart Screening: Quickly and effectively filter out non-high/low performers  
  • In-Depth “Competency Patterns Over Time” Interviews: Review the candidate’s complete history of successes, failures, decisions, and supervisor ratings  
  • Tandem Interview Approach: Utilize at least two people in the in-depth interview  
  • Truth Serum: Let the candidate know they must set up reference calls with all former bosses, T.O.R.C. 

The Topgrading Process

Implement a consistent interview process that ensures alignment between the candidate, the opening, and your organization to deliver more quality hires and increased retention. 

1. Introduction of All Panel Participants (4 minutes)

  • Tell your story  
  • Role/responsibilities  
  • Tenure with the company  
  • Company specifics 

2. Describe the Interview Process (1 minute)

  • Establish who will lead the interview  
  • Other panelists may ask questions  
  • Consider a ‘tag team’ effort 

3. Describe the “Day in the Life” of the Role (5 minutes)

4. Education Years (10 minutes)

  • Degrees awarded  
  • High and low points  
  • People who influenced you   
  • Meaningful work experience 

5. Work History (5 minutes)

  • Why did you take the job / what were you hired to do?  
  • Successes and failures  
  • What did you like? Not like?  
  • Reason you left  

6. Plans for the Future (5 minutes)

  • Goals for next job  
  • Long-term career plans and goals  
  • Assess if there’s a fit  

By focusing on the candidate experience and hiring and retaining top talent, companies can gain a competitive advantage in their industry that attracts top performers. Furthermore, Topgrading can help companies identify and address talent gaps and development needs within their existing workforce, enabling them to build a pipeline of high-potential employees and cultivate a continuous learning and development culture. 

If you are interested in learning how Hueman Private Equity Solutions can help your organization attract and retain talent, contact us today!