November 13, 2023

Onsite Interviews Are Better


Episode Highlights

What Happened to Efficient Debriefing?


Maximizing Acceptance-Conversion In Your Recruitment Strategy


Event-Based Hiring Accomplishes The Impossible


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The hiring world is obsessed with candidate pipeline building. Sure, the top of the funnel is important. But success in hiring has always been about conversion. Getting the right candidates to say ‘yes.’

And nothing converts offers to acceptances like an A+ interview experience.

Problem is: it’s really hard for your company to set itself apart when you’re doing 3 Zooms and an assessment like every other company.

Regardless of your office vs remote policy, onsite interviews offer so much more opportunity for curated, impactful interview experiences. Jeff Smith and James Hornick discuss how dramatic of a difference this can make in the next The 10 Minute Talent Rant, Episode 77 “Onsite Interviews Are Better”

Episode Transcript

The 10 Minute Talent Rant is live. I’m James Hornick joined by Jeff Smith, and we are on the clock. The 10 Minute Talent Rant is our ongoing series where we break down things that are broken in the talent acquisition and hiring space, maybe even pitch a solution or two. Before we dig in, all of our content can be found on

This week’s topic, episode 77, Onsite interviews are better. They are. They absolutely are. I have to put the caveat because I was actually writing about this today. They can be better. They’re not guaranteed to be better, but they have the propensity to be much better, which we’ll dig into. And I think I’ll start with the heart of one of the hiring challenges is I maintain that the biggest barrier to getting recruiting projects done at scale efficiently, is the entire feedback loop problem.

So companies who don’t have good, efficient debriefing processes have these huge voids of time that just crush the process. And it’s even worse when people are virtual. Like the interviews themselves aren’t the same day they’re over the course of a week, the momentum suffers. So, instead of being done a one day than trying to do a debrief, it’s over the course of two weeks and then like trying to get feedback from everybody else is a pain in the butt next thing you know, like weeks have gone by.

And I do want to put the caveat on this too, like this was a problem but before COVID, before remote was mainstream, this was still a problem too. Like just having stuff onsite isn’t the fix. Companies who always hired well though, they had well defined and time specific debrief processes. And they had the candidate would come onsite, meet everyone, debrief happens that day or the end of the day, next step’s already set, offer made.

Like that’s how efficient hiring was run. So, and that’s something-

That day. That day. Remember when you would see somebody slightly dressed up a little bit at the office and you’d be like, that guy went and interviewed for a half a day. Yeah. They’re like pulling their tie off, right? Yeah. Conversely, the companies who always had that inherent drag, even prior to COVID, were 100% the ones that were totally exposed. Either they suffered from candidate quality or they suffered from the highest quality candidates moving to another role. Like this is, so it’s just now gotten completely out of it. It was bad. Now it’s out of hand. It’s rampant. Yeah. Not only did poorly defined debrief slow down the process, not seeing your hiring team on that day, face to face has brought all of this to a screeching halt.

Yeah, you always had a chance to pull everyone together. Yeah. Because you saw them all in the same building. You can’t do that anymore. Right. That’s for one hire. So like, in your mind, think about 20, 50, 100 hires, you know, people who have limited time to do it. The inefficiencies just expand dramatically when you’re talking about any sort of volume hiring.

So adding in one to two weeks, in some cases, months across 100 candidates, like things completely fall apart, things completely slow down. On both sides. Yeah. Yeah. And then the idea because this is the fix, this is the “fix” we always we see traditionally. Which is not a fix, spoiler, just throw more firms at the problem.

We just- we’re not getting results we need. We’ve got more recruitments, hire more recruiters internally and get more like firms doing this. But it’s absurd. This is not a top of the funnel issue. It’s a conversion issue. You should want an 80% conversion rate or more, for every offer you made.

How do you do that? I mean, you want folks to zero in experience, which illustrates one, that you care. And two, that you have thought about things and how they’re going to look once the member actually joins the team. Yep. Totally. If it takes weeks, months, to get feedback loops and they’re ambiguous. The it’s- you’re good. You’re-

we really like you. We just, we want to make-

That’s a sign. It’s a telltale sign of how the shop is going to function in real world, like real time. They aren’t good at making decisions, they flip flop on things, everything’s in the gray area, etc, etc. The recruiting process, net net, absolutely mimics what day to day life will be like at the company. And that’s even more true now. Top tier candidates can sniff that stuff out and move on to the next thing.

So, caveat to companies, we are not saying don’t virtually interview. It’s absolutely going to be necessary. We’re doing this via zoom. I get it. Rather. Take time to think about, we’re going to say experience a lot, you need to map a process in detail and to find what needs to be accomplished at each step and who is responsible for what in each step of that interview process. All of it matters. If most or let’s put it this way, if most or all of those things are done in person, a lot of these feedback loops and a lot of these definitions happen real time in the same room and it ties it all back to the easiest thing to manipulate- human nature. Humans do well and better when they can collaborate face to face.

So we actually have a solution for this. This is a real world, something we can do, something we have done. A A year ago, we had a client that was in the regional banking space. So again, regional banking space a year ago, looking to hire senior level tech people, software engineers, product managers.

These are some of the key parameters they had. One, it was going to be onsite work. Two, New York City or San Francisco, sort of locations they were looking at. Three, they were looking at FAANG tier talent. So, Google, Meta, Facebook, all those. Meta and Facebook, same thing. But, you know, the top of the top were these people who could tech out to the same level to work at those kind of places if they didn’t come from there.

They wanted to do 30 hires, roughly, was their target, and in four months. So, top tier talent, four months, 30 people, two toughest markets in the entire country onsite, and it’s a regional bank. Dodgy, you know, institutional finances, like legacy, you know, stacks, like no blaming it. That’s how they all are.

But big hill to climb. I literally said to our partner, who we do business with, when this was brought up, I think my first words were, this is insane. And then the 2nd ones was, I’m like, terrified, I’m scared, like- and I don’t think we can do this. And in reality, it wasn’t at all because we focused everything around the experience.

Right? So the question is, how did we do that? And it was, what we thought, you know, initially, because everything had happened in the COVID world, like go back to onsite interviews. And we developed this event based hiring platform. So tell us about it. In a nutshell, it was this three day event.

Everything’s onsite. Everything’s in person. There are 10 to 15 people from the client actively involved, all levels, everyone kind of necessary to be there. We had, executive sponsorship, which we have to say too, was like one of the key things the executives down have to be kind of all in on this concept.

At each of the events we did, 25 to 30 people there, pre screened. We had one conversation with them beforehand, make sure they were interested, make sure they kind of fit the requirements. Day one, cocktail mixer, meet the entire team, they’re all going to be there. Ask whatever you want. Talk about whatever you want to.

You’ll also meet everyone you could potentially work with. So yes, you’re talking to other people who are potentially also interviewing there. But again, they’re making lots of hires. It’s not totally a competitive situation. And if you don’t like it, don’t like what you hear, walk away. No expectation.

You don’t have to come back for the second day. Spoiler, no one bailed, during any of the events we did. Not a single person. Day two, when the actual interviews start. First round interviews, meet with everyone there, do the whole panel thing. Every candidate, by the end of the day, knew if they made it back for the third, the final round, or if they were let go.

Zero fluff, full feedback, no ghosting, no bullshit. Everyone knew exactly where they stood at the end of the day. Day three, final round of interviews. Again, meet with the team, do the final kind of last minute interview stuff. Offer no offer decision, that day. You knew, before the weekend started, if you got an offer there, and if you’re going to be able to start there within two or three weeks, whatever. No drag. None.

The realization is experience matters. It’s all about experience and if you curate something where every person involved in the situation is running towards the same goal, the outcome is achieved. Two days of interviews.

Like you said, two to three interviews, second day feedback. If you don’t make it past, you get this instantaneous feedback loop, you know, by end of business. Like we were able to outline the entire- the expectations were set at the beginning. So the candidate never felt like they were in the dark and they were like, wow, this is how this bank is going to operate when I take this offer.

Yeah. And I guess the key thing here, we have to mention here, we did three of these events. They made all the hires they need to make, hiring goals achieved. It worked. Straight up. Yep. In their timeframes. Yeah. Superior candidate experience. Compare this to a bunch of zoom interviews where you’re trying to talk Twitter and Meta engineers into potential pay cuts, etc.

Again, when everyone’s operating off of the same playbook, you look and sound like everyone else, no matter how slick your pitch is. You can always overcome all of those obstacles in the marketplace if you curate the right experience. The entire organization was on board, executives, leaders, hiring managers, recruiters, everyone was rowing in the same direction.

Most importantly, they were both literally and figuratively present, in that moment, talking with everyone, which impressed the hell out of every candidate there because they just never had experience like that before. Yeah, and, you know, I was in this room, so I got to experience firsthand. But like, the time boxing was there, the debriefs were set, every single person that had to make decisions was in that room.

So we talked about at the beginning, the biggest challenge to volume hiring is that inherent feedback, like that process feedback delay, we eliminated that delay. So the net result, the last event, 11 offers, 11 acceptances, and they were very newsworthy, let’s put it this way. Yeah. Final thoughts on this.

Again, the time box anything is something I can’t say enough about. And I really think that if you’re a recruiter out there, you’re ahead of TA. You’re probably- half of the time you’re frustrated with hiring managers not doing what you want them to do. But when you have an event based model where there’s a specific deadline, and they’re there for it, there’s no way they can get around it. And by time boxing the member of your team’s time, it ensures you actually get this stuff done.

Most of the hiring landscape, again, back to where we’re saying that when this rant started, obsessed with the bigger funnel, but it really is about conversion rate.

It’s about how much, trying to get 100% conversion of the people you actually have in process. Again, the traditional approach of hire a big TA team, get a bunch of contingent recruiters, you’re just spamming the shadow of the market.

And if you’re not actually working things through the entire interview funnel and the interview phase, like it’s a complete waste of time.

When you define the experience, it’s not just through the candidates lens either. Like it’s also an exceptional experience for the hiring team, too. You get all of your comparison candidates in the same day. There’s no more of this, wait, I got to talk to a few more people because I need to see what else is out there.

You’re going to know that day, you’re going to talk to 20 people and know exactly what the market is. The net net it’s- this has always been about attracting the best talent to a process and taking them all the way through an experience. It’s not just about filling your inbox with a bunch of applications.

Yeah. We are short on clock. That is a wrap for this week. Thanks for tuning into the 10 Minute Talent Rant, part of the Talent Insights series, which is always available for replay on, as well as YouTube, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and Amazon. Jeff, thanks again, as always. Everyone out there, we will see you soon.

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