Crafting the Interview Experience

  • Author
    Marshall Greenleaf
  • Categories
    Career Info

Oh, how we in student affairs love the on campus interview. That grueling gauntlet of interview session after interview session, with maybe a presentation or case study thrown in for good measure, is a staple of the recruitment season. It is definitely not for the faint of heart.

If search chairs and hiring managers want to attract the best candidates, it’s important to approach the on campus interview not as a process, or dare I say test of endurance, but as an experience designed to make candidates feel excited about the possibility of working for your institution.  How do we approach crafting a top-notch interview experience? There are five tips that can bring your on campus interview to the next level.

Tip #1: Your on campus interview begins far before a candidate steps foot on campus. Communication is crucial when offering on campus interviews. Be very clear and transparent regarding interview travel and logistics. If a candidate steps onto a plane not knowing who is picking them up at the airport, it can create negative feelings toward the interview experience and the institution. Be clear and timely in communications up to the time of the on campus interview and provide a contact person for the candidate should they have any issues during their travel.

Tip #2: Always pay attention to small details and special touches. If you want to make your interview day stand out, think about ways to make your candidate feel welcomed. This might mean a welcome bag with a hand written note waiting for them when they check into their hotel, or some “school spirit” themed interview folders and materials. These details can foster a sense of excitement for the candidate, which can lead to you getting your top candidate.

Tip #3: Prep all staff participating in the interviews. Never leave anything to chance or make the assumption that anyone involved in the interview process will automatically know what to do. Prep the staff participating in your interview day and cover all expectations.  Does your staff know dress expectation for on campus interview days? Do they know that an interview is not a place to catch up on lunch? Believe me, someone eating an egg salad sandwich in a small interview room does not make the impression you’re hoping for to the candidate. Set clear expectations for your staff to ensure the interview day goes smoothly.

Tip #4: Plan your day with an inclusion lens. Think about ways to make your interview experience universally accessible. If you have not done so, talk to your HR or EOO office regarding your institution’s process for providing accommodations should a candidate need one. Also think about the location of your interview room and whether or not it is easily accessible to candidates of all ability levels. Are you giving the opportunity for candidates to identify personal pronouns? Do you have gender inclusive restrooms near the interview space? Remove any potential barriers from your interview day to create an inclusive experience.

Tip #5: Think about space. If a campus or office tour is part of your interview experience, make sure things are tidy…or at least not embarrassing. I’ve actually interviewed while sitting next to a rotting apple core, and it was not a pleasant experience. You want your candidates to feel good about the space they are in. Are you using interview rooms with windows? Is there adequate lighting? Is there comfortable seating? Is there climate control? You’ll want to choose spaces that are comfortable to the candidate to help them have an amazing interview experience.

The recruitment season is an extremely busy time for all involved, but putting in the time to plan an interview experience that keeps your candidates informed, comfortable, and welcomed will absolutely pay off in the end. If your candidate leaves the interview experience excited about your institution, you will then get to be excited about your newest hire.

Marshall Greenleaf
University of Massachusetts Lowell


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