The Broken Candidate Experience: Part 2

October 5, 2023

Attention Talent Acquisition Leaders: Didn’t hear me the first time? LOUDER for those in the back: YOUR RECRUITING PROCESS IS BROKEN FROM SOUP TO NUTS!

This is the second in a 3-piece blog series on how the Candidate Experience is affected by broken processes. My first blog focused on the application process.

Those of you who know me and our company, Elevation Talent Group understand that our top priority is to provide best-in-class candidate experiences. Our client’s experience is elevated as a result.

I’ve been gathering feedback on the candidate experience from job seekers in the HR field. Out of the 50+ respondents I’ve spoken with, 95% are director level and above and they had a lot to say and a lot to suggest.

Today we’re going to focus on the interview process:

  1. Your first step is a bot interview that’s both dysfunctional and impersonal
  2. Too many steps or “cooks in the kitchen”
  3. Too much time between steps, and lack of communication
  4. Completely irrelevant/inappropriate interview questions
  5. Interviewers who are obviously unprepared


1. Your first step is a poorly disguised bot interview that leaves candidates feeling deceived

The Complaints:

  • Some people claimed that up to 50% of their first-round interviews were clearly bots
  • Being baited into an “interview” – even on Teams – only to find that when you log in, you are faced with a chat bot instead of a video meeting
  • Candidates cannot ask clarifying questions to ensure they provide the right information
  • Sometimes the bots just abandon the chat with no conclusion, leaving people bewildered and frustrated


HR Job Seeker Comments:

  • “They have fake names, put an invite on your calendar; you make yourself presentable and are ready to roll only to find that this ‘person’ probably doesn’t even exist and the exchange is sterile and very one-sided. It really sucks”
  • “Almost always happens. It’s obvious and impersonal and I didn’t even bother to finish since they clearly couldn’t be bothered to get to know me personally”
  • “It doesn’t feel good to be bait and switched like that. I was really excited going into the interview until it started and was clearly AI generated. If that’s how they treat me now, how much more impersonal would it get if I were hired?”
  • “I tried to get through it, but the questions were ambiguous. I tried asking a clarifying question in the Teams chat, but never got a follow up response and it eventually just logged me out”


2. Too many steps or too many people involved in the decision making

The Complaints:

  • On average, I’m hearing there are 3-4 steps in the interviewing process.  This isn’t that bad, but roughly 30% of my respondents reported that they encountered between 6 – 10 interview steps
  • The best interview experiences involved 3 steps with 2-3 decision makers
  • The worst interview experiences seemed to drag on for long periods of time to accommodate 5+ decision makers (upwards of 8 in some circumstances)


HR Job Seeker Comments:

  • “After the first round, there was a panel interview with 8 HR people, then I was given 5 assessments, and then had to spend 1.5 hours with a Psychologist for a Sr. Manager level role”
  • “At some point you start to feel like, ‘They’re not interested in hiring me – they’re looking for a reason not to.’ And where does it end?”
  • My personal favorite: “Who wants to work for a leader who can’t make a decision or clearly isn’t supported by their own boss to make decisions? Not me!”


3. Too much time between steps and/or a lack of communication

The complaints are obvious

  • This is the only question I asked where some people were complimentary of some companies (still few and far between)
  • On average 1-2 weeks between steps seemed common, but 6 weeks to 6 months were also reported in many responses


HR Job Seeker Comments:

  • “I recently received a request for a follow up interview 8 months after my initial interview. I ignored it”
  • “There have been 1 to 1.5 weeks between steps and I’ve usually been given a reason for the delay (vacations, company events, scheduling, etc.)”


4. Completely irrelevant/inappropriate interview questions

I’m diving straight in with their comments on this one

  • “What does your husband do for work (like, what?!)”
  • “Tell me about yourself; what happened during this 2-month gap six years ago?”
  • “I had a CEO ask me why I’m dedicated to DEIB efforts when he doesn’t feel it’s a priority” 
  • “If you were stuck on a desert island, what 3 beverages would you bring with you (not including water). I’m not sure why this was asked or how it related to the job of Director of HR”
  • “How do you organize your spice rack? If you were an animal, what would it be?”
  • “What’s my greatest weakness? I understand that you can turn that negative question into a positive – but who wants to answer that in an interview???”
  • “I have the word ‘Storyteller’ within my resume. I was asked to story tell why I should join the company in 2 minutes. I could tell it was a last-minute gotcha interview question and served no purpose in proper candidate selection, consistency, and removing bias”
  • “Would I be able to interview on a national holiday”


5. Interviewers who are completely unprepared

Again, our talent said it best:

  • “The Talent Acquisition person not knowing the location of the facility so I could get a feel for the commute, or not knowing the hours for the job. Basic stuff”
  • “The interviewer asked me if I did the payroll by myself after I explained to him many times I was part of a payroll team and we all had different tasks when it came to the payroll”
  • “Being asked what my salary expectations were during a 6th interview, which happened to be a 2nd interview with the CHRO, only to be informed days later that they were passing on me because my expectations were above what they could pay. I would have much preferred if the CHRO had asked me this in my first interview with him, as that could have saved us both a month of time spent going through 4 more rounds of interviews”
  • “I had an interview for a position I have been performing for the past 11 years. I made it past the first interview, moved on to a second with the person I would be reporting to. Both my cover letter and resume talk about my experience in depth going back to high school, working for subsidiary charities, my current position (not affiliated with the charity, but related to it), and my membership in the patron club which supports the charity, and whose international project (which I am involved with) had been featured in the international charity magazine. Her first question to me was ‘how familiar are you with the charity?’ She clearly did not read my resume, nor the notes from the first interview, and it was evident she had no interest in getting to know me or my background and just asked a series of ‘canned’ questions”


Key Takeaways

Your interview process reveals a great deal about your company’s true values and priorities. If you say your company empowers leaders to make decisions, but in truth requires 5 people and as many selection process steps to come to a consensus, you are sending a very mixed message.

Here are some suggestions to keep talent engaged and excited:

  • Get rid of ridiculous automated/disguised chat bot interviews. You’re not fooling anyone and nothing takes the “human” out of Human Resources faster than obvious AI
  • Streamline your interview process to 2-3 personalized steps with no more than 1-2 additional skill or personality assessments
  • Set clear expectations on what the process will look like and the timeframe you have in mind. If unforeseen events delay the process, communicate that ASAP and share the new timeframe
  • Stay away from off-the wall-questions, “gotcha” questions, or irrelevant personal questions. I promise you, they just demean your process
  • Train every internal interviewer on how to prepare. You expect applicants to do their research and learn as much as they can about you, your role, and your firm. You owe them the very same respect and courtesy for their time


I cannot wait to delve into the feedback/communication/rejections from applicant POV next month. I welcome feedback from TA/HR leaders in response to some of the above perspectives. Please feel free to email me at or message me directly on LinkedIn



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