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After the Interview: Etiquette for Hiring Managers

by Allyson Biegeleisen, Vice President of Client Services

Manners are something we learn early in life. Parents teach us to say “please” and “thank you” not just because it’s polite, but because it shows respect and consideration to others. The same can be true for the hiring process, particularly the period between interviewing candidates and making an offer.

Why should I care about hiring process etiquette, you ask? Every candidate that goes through your process should leave a bigger fan than when they first met you, regardless of the outcome. As the competition for top talent is steep, many candidates will make a decision not just based on their interest in the role, but also based upon their experience in the hiring process. By treating all candidates with respect and consideration, you will create a positive image of your organization.

The following are a few tips for navigating the later stages of the hiring process with grace, gratitude, and, of course, good manners.


Setting expectations about communications with candidates starts at the end of the interview. Be as explicit as possible with candidates about the next steps in the process, as well as a timeline for when they should expect to hear from you.

If you plan to decline a candidate, don’t leave them hanging! Communicate in a timely manner – typically within two weeks – by email or phone. In your communications, thank them for the time and preparation that they put into their interview, and let them know that you are happy to have them as part of your network. In general, we advise against giving specific feedback to candidates when you decline them. Rather, focus on your appreciation of their interest and your genuine willingness to stay in touch.

Inviting a candidate back for a second interview isn’t just about continuing to vet his or her fit. In this stage, candidates are assessing their own interest in working at your organization, based upon a few things:

  1. Interest in the specifics of the role
  2. Interest in the culture and mission of the organization
  3. Impression of how they are treated during the interview process

Think of yourself as a “host” to candidates while they come back to visit your office.  Use this opportunity to introduce them around and make them feel welcomed. In addition to involving interviewers to probe on specific skill areas, build in time for the candidate to interact with those who have similar interests and experiences. (It’s kind of like when the host of a dinner party seats people with shared interests next to each other.) Candidates will notice that you’ve made an effort to understand and reflect their interests, a small gesture that will go a long way.

Often times in an interview process, a hiring manager may realize that he or she knows others who might be able to provide unsolicited feedback on a candidate. Before doing so, it’s considerate to ask candidates if they are comfortable with you calling unlisted references. If they say “ok,” approach these conversations with the same level of professionalism that you would for listed references. Even if the mutual contact is a friend, remember to only seek input on a candidate’s potential fit, don’t resort to gossip or hearsay about a candidate’s performance. In a word, that’s just rude.

In many cases, a candidate may not grant this permission. For example, a candidate may be conducting a confidential search. Or there may be other personal reasons why a candidate is uncomfortable with this practice. In these cases, refrain from reaching out to unlisted references. Doing so against a candidate’s wishes could result in them withdrawing from the interview process and walking away feeling negatively about your organization and its hiring practices.

Once you’ve completed the final stages of the hiring process and know you want to extend an offer, get in touch with the candidate as soon as possible. We suggest making the offer over the phone, not email. In addition to being more personal, it’s also a lot easier to convey your excitement in a professional tone over the phone.

When making an offer, make yourself available to address any concerns or request that a candidate might raise. As candidates may not always be comfortable proactively raising concerns, this strategy will make them feel at ease. Also, ask for their timeline to make a decision, communicating any constraints on your end. If you have a specific date by which you need an answer, make this explicit on the call.

Follow-up the call with a formal offer letter, accompanied by an explanation of benefits or any other employment related information. If you think it would be helpful to the candidate, extend an offer to the candidate to speak to a key stakeholder, such as a CEO or Board Member, if that would be helpful in the decision making process. Then, give your candidate time to digest the offer and make his or her decision.

In the end, just one person gets the job. Along the way, if you’ve been communicative, responsive, and courteous through the hiring process, your organization will earn a well-deserved reputation for treating candidates with respect and consideration. As hiring managers, minding your manners by treating candidates with the utmost respect will pay off tenfold in the long run.



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