Group Job Employment Interview And Recruitment In Office

By Kathy Abdouch, Principal Recruitment Consultant for The Sterling Choice

The recruitment process can be a long road — from first identifying the need for a brand-new role, or the need to fill an existing one, right through to a successful candidate’s onboarding process. 

Interviewing is often the most time-consuming part of this process, but it deserves your very careful attention. The ethical nature of interviewing can often be overlooked as hiring managers scramble to fill a role quickly. 

Unethical interview practices not only risk losing exceptional candidates but also expose your company to negative publicity and potential legal repercussions. 

The U.S. food and beverage sector is enjoying an era of significant growth — recent reports predict a market size increase from $6,576.96 billion in 2023 to $7,000.88 billion in 2024. So attracting exceptional talent is crucial for businesses to overcome challenges, foster innovation, and achieve long-term success.

Below is a set of guiding principles to ensure your interview processes are a beacon of the highest ethical standards, so you can not only attract but secure the very best industry talent out there. 

1. Consistency is key

You may have a range of candidates with slightly different career experiences, from different areas of the country, (or world!) and with varying passions and interests. But a consistent interview structure is key to ethical interviewing. You need to cover the same points in the same order for each candidate, using the same rating scale, and apply consistent criteria for evaluation. Try to use the same interview format, duration, and environment for all, too.

This approach ensures fairness by subjecting every candidate to the same evaluation criteria, helping mitigate bias and discrimination. Too much variation in wording or sequence from interview to interview can affect how candidates respond and how you evaluate them.

This method also helps hiring managers compare candidates more accurately. When each candidate is asked the same questions, it’s easier to assess their qualifications, skills, and fit for the role. 

2. A panel helps mitigate bias

Big or small, companies should consider using an interview panel. Asking questions, responding to queries, keeping one eye on the time, and steering the course of the interview, whilst recording thoughts and notes, is a lot for one person to take on! 

The truth is, when a single interviewer assesses a conversation and relays information to the rest of a recruiting team, bias is much more likely to impact a hiring decision.

A diverse interview panel allows a team striving for the same goal to score candidates based on agreed criteria and make a final decision together. A team is less likely to encounter bias in their decisions, as there will be different points of view to consider and understand. 

I’ve seen the most successful panels include representatives from different backgrounds and perspectives to help ensure fair evaluations of candidates. Consider giving each panel member an area to focus on in their evaluation (perhaps their area of expertise or a skill set they are particularly well versed in) to get a deeper understanding of a candidate’s capabilities. 

This is also a more pleasant experience for the candidate as it feels like a more rounded and equal group discussion, rather than a one-on-one interrogation!

3. Acknowledge unconscious bias and train up

We need to acknowledge that we all have biases, and that they can influence interview decisions. Maybe you have a confirmation bias, where you look hard for evidence that supports your impression or gauge of a person? That’s certainly a more positive bias to have than some others, but it can still adversely affect an interview decision. 

The key is to work on identifying any common biases and then understanding how they might affect your perception of others. 

Ensure your interview panel is educated about unconscious bias, its impact on decision-making, and the importance of addressing it. Offer ongoing training so they can recognize and mitigate it.

4. Foster a positive experience

Believe it or not, I have heard horror stories of candidates taking part in a 4-5-hour interview process and not being offered refreshments or adequate bathroom breaks.

With each interview, candidates are being given a sneak peek into how your company operates and treats its staff. It’s your time to shine too, as they may well share their experience with others, which can impact future applications. 

Whether successful or not, be open to receiving feedback about the interview process from the candidates themselves, either through surveys, reviews, or follow-up emails. That’s how you’ll maintain standards and keep adapting and improving.

Ask the same of your fellow panel. How can you improve your interviewing technique? And, as an interviewing team, are there any areas where bias could be further removed? Could you make your interviews more inclusive and objective? Constantly review and be open to feedback and improvement. 

5. Transparency 

Yes, it’s a buzzword but embrace it! We harp on about not ghosting candidates post interview, but this transparency needs to extend to the actual interview too. 

You expect candidates to be honest and open, so give them the same courtesy. Don’t promise progression opportunities within a role if they aren’t there. You know, not everyone is looking to climb the ladder, so this less-than-honest sugar coating could put off your ideal candidate. Don’t hide behind protocol about not sharing salary ranges either. 

If you’re honest about the role when asked, the best and right candidate is more likely to accept if offered the job — not to mention the retention benefits this approach has. You want your best people to stay, not jump ship when they find out you’ve over promised on something and are now under delivering. 

A final thought. Interviews are a time to impress, but you will get much more from your candidate if you are able to engage in a more conversational style of interview. Information flows much more easily and organically this way. 

Video interviews often lack that personal and physical presence and interaction, so consider how you can translate this conversational and engaging format through screens, too. 

With these ethical practices, you can create a more efficient and insightful recruitment process that is not only more valuable for your company, but also your candidates. 

Kathy Abdouch is Principal Recruitment Consultant for The Sterling Choice, a recruitment firm specializing in the food, engineering and CPG industries across the UK and US. Kathy has worked in recruitment since 2008, with the majority of that time spent recruiting for CPG and Food Industries. She has experience within the corporate space, which brings a unique understanding and perspective of a client’s needs. 

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