We’re in a purple patch of opportunity for candidates right now – especially in the tech sector.

Recent research suggests tech jobs make up 13% of all UK job vacancies, with the number of advertised roles 42% higher than 2019 levels – i.e. before the disruption of COVID-19. *

This is fantastic news for anyone starting out in or seeking a new role in the sector. For hiring businesses, though, competition for the best candidates is fierce. In my view, companies need to look hard at their interview processes and ask if they are fit for purpose in this market.

Where I See Interview Processes Going Wrong

  1. Excessively Robust

In this market, it’s important to shed the opinion that yours is the only company people want to work for. Never mind the top 10%, the top 40% of candidates have multiple options.

candidate interview process

Getting the best of the best does not mean you need the hardest tests at interview, or the most interview stages. Waiting six months for the ideal candidate is not a realistic choice. Lots of people are affected by a failure to hire. It will pile extra pressure on existing teams, create lost opportunity costs and make it harder to keep up with the competition.

We write progress reports for our clients, showing job rejection trends among other things. The proportion turning down an offer between first and final interview stages has crept up from 20% to more like 60% among companies not embracing a more controlled interview process.

There must be a balance.

For many of our successful placements, we’ve been able to get clients to commit to a two-stage interview process within a two-week period. That means they get the choice of the candidate pool.

For candidates involved in this process, we’ve been able to keep them committed to the process and not accept any other roles.

“Crazy to think we used to have 4 stage interview process, by streamlining to 2 stages and paired programming tech test we have gone from hiring 3 engineers a month to 10” – Delivery Manager – Global Media.

  1. Lacking Creativity

Putting in place a faster interview process should not mean looking for shortcuts. Of course, you can’t just ring someone up and say I’ve found your CV, I want to offer you a job! They’ll say no. People want to feel like they’ve earned their offer and job and it’s been a well thought out process.

But you don’t have to have a four-stage process with a two-hour technical test that runs across weeks. There are creative alternatives that can offer much more interesting insights.

For example, do you want to find out if someone’s technically good and are not sure how to do that without putting them through a 3-hour technical test? Paired programing is a great option, where someone internally in the team sits with the candidate for an hour to talk through some code together. You can get a lot more from that, seeing at the same time how they work together with others.

It’s also not necessary for candidates to meet every stakeholder – be confident in the judgment of the few!

Robust references, taken post offer, are also a huge help. Once that person starts, you’ll know within a few months whether the references and skillset are honest and the drop-out of new hires will be minimal.

  1. Mediocre Candidate Experience

Candidates tend to look at two things when deciding whether to accept a job offer: the ease of interview process and the candidate experience. Salary and package tend to come after these.


The candidate experience must be really engaging, with a committed time frame and feedback loops. If the candidate experience is not great, if they’ve gone through lots of hoops, if it’s not been consistent, if it’s been time consuming, they will make preferences for other companies.

I do see a growing awareness that the interview process can cost good people. I’d say the companies who are winning have really linked this together and said, “we must improve our candidate experience”.

I underpin all of this with the massive difference between an effective process and rushing or dropping quality. It’s detrimental if you’re just trying to pop offers off left, right and centre. But the halfway house is a robust process captured within two stages that is consistent and fluid.

“Having started 10 different interview processes, I had to reduce down to the top 3. The companies offering a robust and defined interview process played a major part in my decision of who to continue with. To my surprise the best interview process was with a global Tech Business, and I start in a month!” – Senior Front-End Engineer.

If you want to talk more, I have plenty of case studies with specifics on how it’s done well in the market and am always happy and open to discuss.

interview process Charlie Sell – Group MD, Arrows Group

*Source: https://www.cityam.com/booming-uk-tech-sector-now-accounts-for-one-in-eight-jobs-and-theyre-much-better-paid/

If you are a frequent user of LinkedIn, you too will probably have noticed a significant volume of polls in your News Feed in recent months. These could easily be dismissed as irritating, attention-grabbing gimmicks. Having created a few polls myself recently, instead, I have been overwhelmed by the number of views and comments.

I am now re-thinking them as a useful addition to real-time business decision-making, giving extra support to choices around the rapidly changing future world of work.

The Strength of Your Network

LinkedIn Polls

This was the poll that kick-started it all. I asked my network how many days people would ideally like to work from home vs in the office. There were more than 3,500 votes from my followers ¬— this blew my mind!

This sort of information snapshot is important. As we navigate the new world of work, attracting and retaining staff is front of mind. With most of my LinkedIn network working in the tech sector, this is as close to polling a relevant population as I can get. It’s much more pertinent than a Google search of the same question.

Shaping Policy

I’m not suggesting LinkedIn polls should drive policy. They can be a helpful, quick dipstick. They can support an approach you’re already planning to take or spur further research. We also conduct anonymous internal staff surveys – polling everything, without causing death by poll.

Taking that first poll again as an example. It suggests the most desirable way of working right now is two to three days a week at home. This aligns with the approach we are looking at for Arrows Group. We’re asking people to come into the office two days a week, along with five flexi days a month. These flexi days are reserved for face-to-face client or team meetings outside of the normal working days.

The trick is not making it a hard rule. You can see from the results, 64% wanted a different working balance, from 1 to 5 days at home. In the comment section, several people said they would have ticked zero days at home if it was an option! We are trying to make it possible for people to choose what’s right for them. It’s not about a micro-management environment and success is not judged on physically being in an office. On the other hand, people need to be more accountable to fixed outputs when working from home, so you can judge results.

LinkedIn Polls

Facilitating new ways of working has also meant some important logistical changes. We are moving offices. We are changing from a location with 200 spaces to one with 100 spaces plus large events area for full-company occasions. We’ve invested in hot-desking, with people booking their space. Everyone’s moved onto laptops, lockers and ‘bring your own device’ with an app, instead of telephone landlines. A lot of this was done within a matter of weeks in March 2020, it’s now just about making it the new norm.

“The trick is not making it a hard rule … We are trying to make it possible for people to choose what’s right for them.”

Continual Listening

Polls, whether external or internal, only indicate what people are thinking right now, and we know this is a time of rapid change. In six months, the results could be different. There are also conflicting results to balance. Another poll I conducted, for example, suggested loneliness was an impact of working from home for a lot of people.

The most important thing we can do as a business is to keep listening, seeing how we can cater to the differing needs of our people and achieve our business goals.

Expect to see a few more polls from me in the future!

Charlie Sell Charlie Sell – Group MD, Arrows Group