We often get asked, “What’s a healthy response rate for my digital interviews?” and it’s surprisingly a rather difficult question to answer. A healthy response rate will vary from company to company, industry to industry and position to position. There’s is no blanket answer to this question, but you can calculate a health benchmark for each of your positions by taking into consideration these three key factors:
- Your historical response rate
- Your employment brand
- How closely you adhere to best practices
Part 1: Calculate Your Historical Response Rates
It’s easier than you think. Calculating your historical response rates (the response rates you traditionally experience with phone screens) provides a great benchmark to begin our discussion around health benchmarking. Follow this simple formula:
(# of phone screens conducted) / (# of attempted phone screens) = historical response rate
Notice you are eliminating these groups of candidates:
- Did not respond to your interview request
- Scheduled an interview but were a ‘no show’ for the interview
- Opted out of the process for whatever reason (found a job, no longer interested, etc.)
For example, if you reach out to ten candidates to schedule a phone interview, nine of them respond to schedule and eight of them show up to their interview, your response rate is 80% for that interview. Now that you have your historical response rate for your position, you have line of sight to what a healthy response rate should look like. Across our clients, we find that a healthy response rate should fall within 5-10 percentage points of your historical response rate.
Keep in mind that if your response rates are lower than a standard phone screen, this may not always be bad news. Candidates that are not seriously interested in your position or organization will take any excuse to self-select out of your process. Mediocre candidates are like water: they follow the path of least resistance and dilute your pipeline to the point of mediocrity. If a candidate is lukewarm on your opportunity, then it’s a good thing if he or she self-selects out.
Part 2: Assess Your Employment Brand
The #1 factor that can impact your response rate, both positively or negatively, is your employment brand.
This may not be shocking news, but it turns out that candidates are more likely to go through the full interview process with companies that they are excited to work at. If the candidate jumps on Glassdoor and sees terrible reviews about your organization, how likely are they to complete the course throughout your interview process? Turns out not very.
The stronger your employment brand is, the higher your response rate will be (without exception). Again, this may be common sense, but it’s shocking how easy it is to make a positive impact on an employment brand and how so few companies actually invest the effort.
The most important first step to improving your employment brand is to start with the interview process. Something as simple as offering candidates a structured, standardized process will significantly help your organization stand out from the crowd.
Part 3: Six Best Practices to Boost Your Response Rates
Now that you have a benchmark for health, let’s look at the factors of your interview process that can have a positive or negative effect on your response rates:
- Positioning and messaging (At the end of the day, it’s all just marketing)
- Speed (Avoid the black hole at all costs)
- Length of interview
- Investment in candidate experience (If you’re not investing, it will show)
Transparency throughout your interview process is a critical element in enhancing the overall candidate experience. Imagine for a minute that you go through a 10-round interview process with a company over a 10 week period (not an uncommon scenario). This points to bigger problems if your process is this drawn out.
Check out these two scenarios:
Scenario #1: You don’t tell candidates how many steps there are in your process, who they will be meeting at each stage in the interview or how long the process will take. You keep them in the dark throughout the process. The result is that candidates are blindly dragged through a process with no end in sight. What a terrible experience, but nonetheless, this is the reality for most candidates!
Scenario #2: Before candidates apply, they see laid out on your career page the details of your interview process and what to expect at each stage. They clearly understand why each step is part of your process and how long it will take them to get through each stage. After candidates apply, they receive additional details about the role, your company and the first step in your interview process. They know how long it should take, with whom they will meet and how many stages there are to come. Candidates are able to properly plan and feel prepared, learn more going through each stage, and get more excited about your company at each touch point.
This is such a simple shift, but one that can have such a lasting impact for the candidate. Transparency is a critical element of a remarkable interview process.
2) Positioning and messaging (At the end of the day, it’s all just marketing)
How you position a digital interview to a candidate is critical. Candidates have to know why digital interviewing is a part of your process and how it will benefit them. They have been asked to do enough phone screens by now that they understand why a phone screen is part of your process, but you have to assume this is the first time your candidate has conducted a digital interview, so answering the ‘why’ for them is crucial. The messaging you provide to candidates is critical. Give special attention to crafting your email invitation, and the introduction and closing messages (both video and copy).
3) Speed (Avoid the black hole at all costs)
How quickly you respond to candidates after they apply is a critical element to a great candidate experience and will greatly impact your response rates. One of our clients was experiencing extremely poor response rates and we were stumped as to what was going on. They had a strong employment brand and had put a lot of thought and attention into making the candidate experience remarkable. After digging in with the client during an early checkpoint call, we found that it was taking them an average of 30 days to respond to a candidate after apply (due to the workload of the recruiting team). After we all collectively realized this, the recruiter made a simple shift to his process – shortening the turnaround time to 1 week – which boosted their response rate by over 30 percentage points overnight.
Think about it this way: You’re a candidate that is applying to quite a few opportunities at companies that excite you. Companies A, B, and C all respond within 1 week and start the interview process. Company D reaches out four weeks after you apply, but at this point, you are already at the final stages with three other companies that you are excited about. How likely are you to start another process from scratch? You see my point.
When you first roll out digital interviewing, it will feel unfamiliar at first for all involved. This is not uncommon, and don’t let this concern you. You are changing a process that likely has not seen any innovation at your organization, ever. To see the full impact of this change, you have to stick with the process through the painful first few steps.
You may have a hiring manager give you negative feedback straight out of the gate or response rates may start out lower than you anticipated. The knee-jerk reaction is to scrap the new process, pick up the phone and revert back to your old ways of screening candidates.
This will undermine all the work you have put in and continue to erode your response rates! If you start checking in on candidates, they can tell that you’re not committed to your own process and this puts the candidate in the driver seat to bypass screening steps.
Stay on course even if things are a bit rough or the initial feedback is not ideal. There is light at the end of the tunnel and your managers will quickly start seeing the value of adding digital interviewing to your process (they always do!).
5) Length of interview
With a digital interview, as with a phone screen, a good rule of thumb is to keep it to 30 minutes or less. This means you need to be sensitive to the number of interview questions you ask in your digital interview.
Keep in mind it takes a candidate on average 15 minutes to read your welcome message, watch your video(s) and take a few practice questions. This means you have approximately 15 minutes to fill with interview questions. So how do you best fill that time?
Let’s say you are asking questions that allow for 90 seconds of response time and 30 seconds of prep time per question. In this scenario, you could comfortably fit 7-8 questions into that window of time. If you are asking questions that require longer response or prep times, we recommend reducing the number of questions you ask to fit the 30-minute window.
Why is this important? Once you hit the 30-minute threshold, we see responses rate start to drop off, so it’s always recommended to use the 30-minute rule when designing your digital interview to keep your response rates as high as possible.
6) Investment in candidate experience (If you’re not investing, it will show)
A healthy dose of empathy is essential in crafting an amazing candidate experience. Before you roll out digital interviewing at your company, make sure to create a plan for how you will invest in your candidate experience. Yes, it’s some added work upfront, but you only need to do it once and the impact will be lasting for your organization. Below is a checklist to ensure your candidate experience is the best it can possible be:
- Brand your digital interview experience to best reflect your brand
- Create custom video content for your intro and closing videos
- Tailor the experience based on the position
- Educate the candidate on your company/position as they go through the digital interview
Get in the mindset of what you can teach candidates about your company (that they wouldn’t already know) as they go through your interview process. It’s all give and take. Make sure you take the time to invest in their experience.
About the Author: Ty loves solving recruiting problems. As a co-founder at TTI, his focus is on rethinking the way organizations screen, evaluate and identify linchpin talent.