Realistic job previews (RJPs) are a rare win-win for candidates and companies alike. When companies offer realistic job previews, they are able to save on expensive hiring costs, such as the cost of making a wrong hire — which can easily add up to thousands of dollars.
For candidates, realistic job previews help them make informed decisions about potential career milestones. By gaining deeper insight into the employee experience, candidates are better positioned to start on a positive note from day one.
Here’s why more companies should include realistic job previews, and how to create one for your organization.
What does a realistic job preview mean?
The US Office of Personnel Management defines realistic job preview as a recruiting tool to provide a job candidate with a realistic view of what the job entails — both the good and bad aspects of the proposed position. While an RJP is useful to the company as an assessment tool, it’s typically more of an opportunity for the candidate to discern whether this position is a good fit for them.
The keyword in realistic job preview is “realistic.” The most effective realistic job previews don’t sugarcoat what it’s like to work for the organization.
“RJP methods provide the applicant with a more holistic picture of the job, thereby enabling the applicant to make an informed decision regarding whether he or she really wants the job and/or if he or she is suitable for the requirements of the position,” OPM writes. “As a result, the selection process is more efficient because people who will quit in the first few months (or are likely to be fired) are screened out, saving the agency the time and money required to refill the position.”
Realistic job previews differ from other types of skill assessments. Tools like Vervoe provide some insight into what it’s like to perform on-the-job tasks. However, these types of skill assessments focus more on verifying that a candidate has the right capabilities to perform successfully. The role of a realistic job preview is to provide a candidate with the information they need to accept a job offer.
What are the benefits?
There are realistic job preview pros and cons that recruiting teams should weigh carefully before offering RJPs. First, let’s start with the realistic job preview benefits.
Advantages of realistic job previews
As previously mentioned, high turnover costs can sink a company’s profit margin quickly. Real job previews can lower the costs of employee turnover and other recruiting costs, and increase employee satisfaction.
RJPs offer a way for candidates to evaluate the company and self-select out of the process. Realistic job preview participants will be better positioned to assess if they are the right culture fit. Those who self-select in — choosing to continue in the hiring process — will be more motivated, more committed, and have more realistic expectations of the position. Candidates who participate in an RJP are shown to have a better understanding of the cultural values of the organization and an understanding of potential issues.
Realistic job interviews also improve the candidate experience, and, inevitably, the employee experience too. Candidates are offered a window into the inner workings of the business. This transparency is highly valued, especially by Millennial and Gen Z candidates. Companies that set clear expectations throughout the hiring process tend to have strong employer brands as a result.
Likewise, when expectations match reality, employees are likely to have higher job satisfaction. An RJP sets an employee up for success by providing a clear picture of what the job will be like. This first impression can lead to increased confidence from day one, higher performance, and higher employee retention. Financially, organizations can save on the recruiting costs that result from a first-round bad hire. It’s a win-win for the candidate and the company.
Disadvantages of realistic job previews
There are some drawbacks to using realistic job previews in your recruiting process. Naturally, some candidates will self-select out of your hiring process. RJPs may cause you to lose out on candidates who would have otherwise accepted a job offer at your organization.
If you start to see a drop in candidates after releasing your RJPs, try to diagnose the deeper issue. Too many candidates opting out of your hiring process following an RJP could be a symptom of a few things. Dig a little deeper to learn if your expectations are realistic — or, if there’s a problem with the company culture.
[Read more: The 8 Best Inclusive Hiring Practices For 2021]
Today’s employees put a premium on working for inclusive companies. As you seek to improve diversity at your business, make sure you’re building a truly inclusive culture where new hires feel welcome.
With these realistic job preview advantages and disadvantages in mind, let’s outline just how honest a recruiting team should be in setting up this hiring practice.
How honest should you be?
A realistic job preview is not an opportunity to air your company’s dirty laundry. Ultimately, it should be about providing someone with enough relevant information to make an informed decision. Identify the factors that someone would weigh in their decision, like company culture, mission, expectations, demands, and perks.
In these areas, you should be as honest as possible. “Start with positive, exciting aspects of the job, but do not hide negative aspects,” the OPM recommends. “Include information applicants are unlikely to know or are likely to have unrealistic expectations about.”
Some examples of things you’ll want to include in the realistic job preview are things such as:
- Company culture
- The role’s responsibilities
- Office environment or remote working environment
- Perks and development opportunities
- Interviews with managers and senior leaders
- ERGs and other employee-led initiatives
Be as transparent as possible about the realities of working at your organization. Trying to pretend life at your company is something that it isn’t will defeat the exercise’s entire purpose.
When in the process should it be used?
Determining when to use a realistic job preview depends, in part, on how you plan to deliver this experience. Realistic job previews can take several different formats, as outlined below.
Some realistic job previews are easier to distribute than others. Written material and video assets, for instance, can be created once and used over and over again. As a result, these assets can be used earlier in the hiring process. In-person or virtual meetings are more time-consuming, and therefore reserved for candidates who are seriously being considered.
Ideally, realistic job previews should be used after the screening process. Some companies deploy RJPs after shortlisting candidates. This ensures that you’re extending the opportunity to those individuals who you are seriously considering hiring. It’s also not so late in the hiring process that it will be a setback if a candidate self-selects out.
Limit your RJPs to those who have been vetted through a skills assessment or other pre-employment testing. Not only does this ensure you’re spending time on the right candidates but it also elevates the candidate experience.
How to create a realistic job preview
There are a few formats that a realistic job preview can take, and we’ll cover those in the next section. First, let’s review how to create a realistic experience of what it’s like to work for your organization.
1. Write an accurate job description
The RJP starts with the job description. No matter where you decide to offer realistic job previews in your hiring process, the job description must paint a true picture of the job and its responsibilities. Work with the hiring manager and others on the team to make sure your job description matches what they seek.
For inspiration, check out some of our free job description templates.
2. Demonstrate an employee value proposition
Research shows that organizations with strong employee value propositions can improve employee retention, recruit top talent better, and build higher returns. An employee value proposition includes the mix of compensation, benefits, perks, work culture, professional development, and connections that make working at a company rewarding. A company’s ability to convey its EVP can go far in bringing great talent into the business.
3. Include an immersive skills assessment
A skills assessment offers two benefits. First, skill assessments are designed to see how candidates perform tasks specific to your business before they get the job. The recruiting team can gather the information it needs to verify a candidate’s abilities.
Second, and equally importantly, a candidate gets the opportunity to simulate what it would be like to do the job. Assessments can be set up with task-related questions, such as “Create a Powerpoint Slide that has a video embedded in the presentation”. Questions can get hyper-specific to test a niche skill, like a coding language, or be posed more broadly to test the general requirements for success at a certain level.
4. Showcase your people
In one survey, 80% of respondents said that inclusion was important when choosing an employer. Company culture is nearly as important to job seekers as compensation, and the best way to convey your culture is through your employees. Some companies also offer a virtual tour of their office. These tours can include meeting different teams, exploring the office space, and learning about important events throughout the year to help candidates get excited about what lies ahead.
5. Talk about development opportunities
A final element of your realistic job preview should cover the future: How can a candidate grow with your organization? This piece enforces the idea that a new employee will stay in the business for the long run, helping your retention rates. Talk about training and development opportunities, mentorship, promotions, and company goals for the future. A candidate can discern if their professional goals match up with the company’s growth goals.
There are a number of ways to make these elements come to life in a realistic job preview. Here are a few formats that tell this narrative in a compelling way.
How to distribute a realistic job preview
There are a few methods for creating a realistic job preview. Many job previews use a combination of multiple formats to paint a picture for a candidate. Take into account how much time a candidate has available, as well as whether they are able to interact in person or virtually.
Powerpoint presentations, brochures, and online material can all provide the foundation for a realistic job preview.
“Booklets or brochures can be of varying lengths and levels of sophistication but should include the essential components of an effective RJP (e.g., both positive and negative aspects of the job, information current workers report they didn’t know but wish they had before accepting the job),” the OPM says.
Try to go beyond employer branding materials to give a deeper look at the company from an insider perspective. Some companies use employee-written blog posts; others use internal social media posts to illustrate what the culture is like. Another option is to share the results of your employee satisfaction surveys.
Video is probably the most effective form of conveying a realistic job preview. Employee testimonial videos, video tours of the office, and video interviews all offer a way for remote candidates to get a real feel for the company. Whether you choose to use live or on-demand videos, focus on providing a 360-degree view of the employee experience. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Ask for volunteers. Film any employee advocates who want to talk about their impressions, experiences, and advice they wish they knew before joining the company.
- Film the hiring team. Allow candidates to meet specific individuals with whom they will be working, including the manager.
- Add in an executive. Ask a senior leader to talk about their vision for the company and what they believe it takes to be successful.
- Talk about specifics. Ask video interviewees at the company to talk about the details: professional skills they’ve gained (or want to gain), and the ins and outs of the workday.
These videos can be used for one specific role, or more generally in the recruiting process. It can also be helpful to set up live, informal chats between remote candidates and current employees, giving the candidate a chance to ask their own questions.
Interviews are a big part of the realistic job preview. Think about who a prospective new hire would need to have access to in order to form a realistic expectation of life at the company. The person’s future coworkers, manager, and senior leaders are obvious choices. Create a combination of video testimonials as well as in-person or virtual interviews to make sure a candidate can get as much information as possible from current employees.
Some realistic job preview interview questions should be targeted toward the individual. This is also an opportunity to set the person up for success and see if they are well prepared for the role. For example, job simulation-style questions can be used to create a scenario and ask the candidate to explain how they would respond.
Virtual reality offers an intriguing new way to offer realistic job previews. For companies with the resources, virtual reality can provide an amazing candidate experience. Virtual reality empowers recruiters and candidates to meet a candidate “in-person” and interact more meaningfully than video allows.
How does this work in practice? Jet.com, an American e-commerce company, is utilizing virtual reality by giving candidates an opportunity to witness the corporate culture, office space as well as even getting a taste of the company’s ‘happy hour’ celebrations. Similarly, Deutsche Bahn, a German railway company, has used virtual reality to give candidates a simulation of the conductor role, and what their responsibilities would entail.
VR is still a growing technology, but it offers a ton of opportunities for creating realistic, immersive job previews for that scale easily for remote candidates.
Great realistic job preview examples
Each RJP is as unique as the company and the role it mimics. Here are a few realistic job preview samples that companies have used in the past.
Tennessee Department of Children’s Services
The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services offers an example of a realistic job preview video testimonial on being a caseworker, in which staff members discuss the realities, challenges, and rewarding parts of working with children and families.
A similar video from US Foods, a leading food distributor for the restaurant industry, details what it’s like to work as an order selector in their warehouses. This RJP takes viewers through the daily tasks with workers as they complete their responsibilities.
Netflix uses its company blog and podcast to provide a window into life at the company. Employees are honest in their discussion about the company, acknowledging the challenges and growth areas in addition to the benefits and victories.
Nationwide Insurance takes a unique approach to its realistic job preview, asking candidates 10 questions through video, text, and images. Specifically, this quiz is tailored for applicants to the customer service role at their call centers.
LA City Personnel Department
Finally, the Los Angeles Personnel Department uses a simple brochure to outline expectations for potential detention officers. It’s not the most exciting way to learn about a job, but it is comprehensive and provides applicants with the information they should know before applying — a slightly different take on the RJP process.
Final thoughts and next steps
Companies that use a realistic job preview are able to benefit from higher retention rates, higher engagement, and higher employee satisfaction. There are few, if any, downsides to adding a realistic job preview to your hiring process. Using a few different job preview methods can help candidates make an informed decision before signing on to work for your enterprise.
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