When Does the Onboarding Begin?

When does new employee onboarding begin at your company?  I’ve asked a number of people this question and the answer I get is fairly consistent: on the first day of work.  In the past I would have said the same thing; now I’m not sure this is the case.  I believe there are a number of contacts between a potential employee and your company that set the foundation for their first day at work: the job posting, the application process, the phone screen and the interview.

The Job Posting

Look at your most recent job posting – what does it tell you?  Organizations use key words to scan resumes and cover letters and so do potential candidates.  Does your job posting do justice to the work, to your company and your culture and values?  Would you be excited to work at your company based on what you’re reading?

The Application Process

How easy is it to apply for a position at your company?  Are candidates able to easily upload their resume, cover letter and supporting documents?  Are you taking advantage of this step to further sell your organization and unique culture?

An auto confirmation after the application has been received is pretty standard practice.  Why not use the email that is generated to reinforce your culture and values?  I like this reply from Kit and Ace:

Hey there.

Thanks for your interest in Kit and Ace. We’re starting up this Technical Luxury™ thing and are currently hiring for numerous positions. We’re also just getting settled and as a result will only be contacting candidates we wish to interview. However, we’re growin’ fast and will be keeping all resumes on file in case a job well suited to you comes up (we know everyone says that, but we really mean it).

And yes, I know the email was generated through the magic of technology, but the language and message was consistent with all of my research on the company: a rapidly expanding startup that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

The Phone Screen

Do you phone screen candidates?  If you do, it’s important to understand how important this step is in a successful, respectful and productive onboarding.  Humanize the process and have the person conducting the phone screen share a bit about themselves: ask them to talk about the work they do, how long they have been with your company and how they came to be in their current role.

After you have narrowed down your pool of candidates contact every person who will not be moving forward and do this in a timely manner.  Use this opportunity to maintain a great relationship with the job seeker; you never know when your paths may cross again.

For the candidate who is moving forward, use the phone call to set up the interview time as a chance to answer any questions they may have, help with logistics and continue to generate excitement about the prospect of working for your company.

The Interview

The interviewer needs to be prepared and they must treat the interview process and the candidate with the respect they deserve.  Some basics include: showing up on time, review the role and the resume and book uninterrupted time for the meeting.  Remember, the candidate is also evaluating you and deciding if your culture is what they are looking for in an organization.  Use the interview as a chance to reinforce the candidates experience so far – even if you decide not to hire them you want them to speak highly of the interview experience and of your organization.

 After the Interview

You’ve completed the interviews and selected the individual that you believe is the best fit for the role and the organization.  It’s important that you tell the individuals that won’t be moving forward as soon as possible, preferably by phone.

The lucky person who will be joining your company should be impressed with the consistency, professionalism and respect they have seen in the recruiting process.  They should be excited about joining your company and have a very clear idea of what to expect on day one.

So when does the onboarding process really begin?  I believe it starts far in advance of the first day of work.  It begins with the job posting and through to the selection process.  Individuals who are interested in working at your company will tell a story based on their experience as a candidate for a job.  What does their story say about your company?  And more importantly, is it a story you want repeated?

Coming up next up: how to create a great first impression for your new hire.