jade rubick

Use a candidate packet to improve your interview process


This is a part of a series of articles on hiring and recruiting.

One practice that doesn’t seem to be very widespread is the use of candidate packets. A candidate packet is a package you send to applicants that explains the interview process, tells them about the company and the role they’re applying for, and helps them understand what to expect as a candidate.

Why bother with a candidate packet?

Interviewing is a stressful process. Candidates have no idea what to expect, because companies tend to jerk them around and expectations for the interview are unclear. By helping people understand what to expect, you’re painting your company in an incredibly good light. It can help people feel more motivated to continue the interview process with your company, and it can help them perform better during the interview, giving you a better sense of who they are and how they’ll contribute at the company.

Plus, since this isn’t a widespread practice, it really stands out.

How to get started on a candidate packet

Create a Google Doc and gradually start adding useful information for candidates: answers to questions they ask, information about the company you think they might want to know. Treat it like an FAQ, and gradually fill it out until you think it reaches a critical mass of useful information.

Look at the suggested table of contents below, and adapt it to your purposes.

Then take an editing pass, make it look nice, create a PDF version of it you can send to candidates.

What to consider for your candidate packet

Candidate packets should outline the interview process, sell them on the company, outline benefits, and explain anything unusual about the company.

Here’s an outline for one candidate packet we used at Gremlin:

  • Interview process. Walk candidates through what the interview process will be like. What are you looking for in each interview, what will you be covering. You can even explain why you’re focusing on each interview. A great candidate packet will even give suggestions for how to prepare, or what questions they’re going to be asked. In real life, people often can prepare for something, so why optimize your interviews for non prepared questions?
  • Who we are. Explain why your company is important, what it’s attempting to do, why customers care about the company, and go over things like core values. This is a good chance to introduce your company and explain what the company is like and anything that is unusual about it.
  • Remote life. If you are a remote company, then talk about the practicalities of being in a fully distributed company. If you’re a hybrid company, mention that. Explain any practices around this. For example, “we get together quarterly”.
  • Benefits. You don’t have to include all the benefit information here, but give a high level summary, so they know what they’re getting into, even before they get an offer.
  • Our offers. Describe how your company approaches salary and equity. If you’re a company that has implemented pay equity (see my post on how to implmement pay equity), then this is a good chance to describe that they won’t have to negotiate salary.
  • Reviews and opportunities for growth. People may be nervous about the company unless they see that they’ll have opportunities to grow and be invested in. Talk about how your reviews work and how you evaluate people for promotion. A lot of startups don’t have any system for this, and it’s fine to be candid about that. Give them a sense of where the company is at and where you want it to be in the future.
  • How we think about inclusion. Some of your candidates are going to come from underrepresented groups. They’ll want to know how they’ll be treated at this company. A frank, candid look at where you’re at and where you aspire to be, in as concrete terms as possible, will help them understand what your company will be like for them to work at.

I update the candidate packet frequently, as I hear new information, and then generate a new PDF and send it to new applicants.

Which candidates should receive a candidate packet?

I decided to give it to all candidates who made it through the initial screening interview. I think it would also be fine to give it to candidates before the screen.

What do you think?

Did I miss anything? Please share your favorite ideas with me, I’d love to hear them!

Image by Harry Strauss from Pixabay

Thank you to Alexa Stefanko for driving forward the candidate packet at Gremlin.

Jade Rubick

Engineering Leadership Weekly & Frontline Management & Decoding leadership podcast

Point me at your organizational problems. I advise startups and help in a variety of ways.

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