The Realistic Job Preview: Everything You Need to Know

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The Realistic Job Preview: Everything You Need to Know

Accepting a new job is never an easy decision. Even if the interview process goes perfectly, many candidates still experience a lot of hesitation.

After all, what if the actual job is nothing like the interview led them to believe?

It can be a real struggle to accurately represent what a job really is like before the new hire starts. This is especially true if companies are only trying to show the positive sides of the job they’re hiring for.

While we all want to attract top-level candidates excited about the open position, not letting them in on the challenges or struggles can lead to unhappiness down the road. That’s why it’s always important to give new hires and job candidates a realistic view of what the job will be like.

When new employees go into the position ready for whatever comes their way, they perform better and feel more content with the work.

However, you don’t want to sit in an interview listing everything negative about the open position. Instead, you want to find a way you can show them the balance of the job so they can get an honest understanding of what you’re looking to hire for. One way to do this is through a realistic job preview (RJP).

If you’re not sure what a realistic job preview exactly is, you’re not alone. Although there are a ton of benefits that come with the use of a realistic job preview, they’re not commonly used yet. Which is interesting, especially since improvements in technology lately have made it easier than ever to include an RJP.

And that’s exactly why we’ll take a look at the basics of RJPs today. What are they, how can they help, and most of all, how can you add a realistic job preview to your hiring process yourself?

We’ll start off with the basics:

What is a realistic job preview?

The term “realistic job preview” is pretty self-explanatory, but in short:

An RJP offers a realistic look into what a job is actually like – no sugar coating – showing both the positives and the negatives, so the candidate can get a real feel for what skills and qualifications are needed on the job, as well as what a typical day would look like.

On the one hand, you let your candidates know what your expectations are. On the other hand, you enable them to assess if your expectations fit with the things they are looking for in a job. We’ve said it before – but a truly efficient recruitment process should be a two-way street. An RJP makes it one.

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Also, establishing expectations ahead of time ensures that everyone is on the same page before the hiring process is complete. As such, it weeds out candidates that are not fully committed.

Why are realistic job previews important?

Short answer: A realistic job preview ensures you’re getting the right candidate in your open position the first time around by letting candidates know exactly what the role they’re applying for entices.

Longer answer: When you’re not sugar-coating the position, new hires will know exactly what they’re agreeing to. This prevents confusion and unhappiness on the first day.

Think about it:

Imagine you’ve just interviewed for what you believe to be your dream job. The hiring manager, team, and CEO spent the entire interview process talking about the benefits, selling points, and key features of their open position.

And you were the perfect fit.

You can’t wait to get started because you believe this will be a breeze. With all the right skills and qualifications, you just need to show up and collect your salary.

But then your first day comes.

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The work is nothing like they promised you, you’re expected to stay hours longer than you thought, and you can’t seem to really grasp what you’re supposed to be doing.

In other words, the jobs not quite what you thought. Misalignment of expectations is one of the main drivers for unhappiness amongst new hires after starting a new position.

And you’re not happy. Because you were promised something completely different.

Not only is the position not what you were looking for, but you feel like the company lied to you. It’s only been a day, but you’re ready to leave already.

While this may seem a bit dramatic, situations like this occur just about every day. Companies don’t fully disclose what a job entails and new hires are left upset that they agreed to a position that didn’t quite fit the image they had in their mind.

This leads to high employee turnover and negative reviews about the company. Which in the long term, harms your Employer Brand.

But don’t just take our word for it. Our friends over at Analytics in HR did the research.

What they found out?

One of the biggest drivers of employee turnover is stress, including conflicts about role clarity and role overload.

Drivers for Employee Turnover

This means that when employees feel like they’re being pushed to the limits in their job, they’ll start looking for something new.

Not only does this mean that you need to spend even more time trying to hire for the same position, it can also be an incredibly expensive project. We’ve all seen the stats. Hiring a new employee can cost anywhere between 6 and 9 months of that hire’s salary remember?

Needless to say, it’s important for new hires to know what they’re getting themselves into when they start a new job.

By being upfront about challenges and demands, candidates who aren’t interested in that type of work can leave the interview process earlier.

This helps you push the best candidates through while preventing you from wasting time on applicants who don’t fit your needs.

How does a realistic job preview work?

Think of a realistic job preview as a look behind the curtain. Typically, during an interview process, each party is on their best behavior. Everyone – company and candidate – is putting their best foot forward, trying to hide the little ticks that can make them difficult to work with.

And while you don’t want to go exposing all your dirty laundry, hiding everything creates an unrealistic image of who you really are. By creating an RJP, applicants and candidates get to take a look at what it’s really like to work for your company.

They get to see your inner workings.

And they can choose to love you for them, or they can run for the hills.

Now that you have a comprehensive understanding of the ‘what’ and the ‘why’, it’s time for the really interesting stuff: the ‘how’.

How to implement a realistic job preview into your hiring process.

Right off the bat, there is not “one single way” to implement a realistic job preview into your hiring process.

RJPs come in many different shapes and forms. With the current advancements in technology – HR technology in particular – it has become easier than ever to give candidates a look inside your company. This allows them to experience what their future job might be like at every level.

Additionally, companies can showcase their culture, expectations, and demands regardless of budget, location, or resources.

Let’s take a look at a few ways you can create RJPs.

1. Showcase employee testimonial videos.

Videos are a great way to connect with candidates at every stage of the interview process. Whether they’re a new applicant wanting to learn more about your brand or whether they are a candidate reaching the end of the interview process, videos can give your potential hires a better understanding of what it’s like at the company. This makes them a great – and cost-efficient – tool for creating realistic job previews.

Take a look at this example from Motorola Solutions.

Motorola Realistic Job Preview

A realistic employee testimonial goes a long way.

In this video, employees talk about what it’s like to work at the company. They cover the importance of their jobs and how what they’re doing applies to the work outside of the office. The good – and the not so good – aspects.

This helps new applicants or potential hires understand what working there is really like.

Again, honesty is key.

2. Use an interactive simulation.

When you’re only interviewing local candidates, it can be rather easy to have your top recruits come in to check out the office.

In this day and age, however, you’re probably not confining yourself to just one geographical area of talent. This means that you need to be able to reach individuals regardless of where they are in the world. You can do this with an interactive online simulation – or – an online situational judgment test.


Well, you simply set up your assessment, provide some options, and fabricate a game-like experience for your candidates to flow through.

I hear you think ‘Great, but I’m not a programmer’.

You don’t have to be!

There are recruitment technology tools out there that can help you set up these Interactive Simulations/Situational Judgment Tests/Realistic Job Previews, without any need for programming skills.

One of them being Harver.

The platform has a drag-and-drop Realistic Job Preview editor with which you can build an RJP in a matter of minutes! Add video, choose colors, come up with questions, slap your logo on it and DONE.

This helps you see how your candidates might react to typical situations or scenarios that would appear on their day-to-day in the position.

Pro Tip: Try to pull from real-life examples whenever possible.

Candidate Experience Example

Harver users can build custom RJPs with an intuitive drag-and-drop editor.

3. Create a quiz or survey.

Quizzes and surveys are easy ways to introduce your candidates to your expectations. Nationwide Insurance uses this when hiring for customer service representatives.

First, their candidates are presented with a question…

Nationwide Realistic Job Preview

Then, applicants have three different options in how they’d respond.

Realistic Job Preview step 3

These questions are generic, meaning they don’t have a right or wrong answer. But they can help you weed out who is and who isn’t a good fit for the job. If they respond with an answer that doesn’t align with what Nationwide is looking for, they get feedback.

This helps the candidate better understand what you’re looking for while also letting them know why. If they don’t end up getting a second interview, they’re not left wondering why they’re not a good fit.

While quizzes and surveys are another easy and cheap way to connect with applicants – they’re not necessarily the best way to give a proper job preview. There are dozens of tools you can use, such as SurveyMonkey, that can help you create professional-looking surveys and quizzes to use during your hiring process.

Over to you!

Whenever you’re hiring someone new, you want to get the right person in the position as quickly and efficiently as possible. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to do this if you’re keeping crucial information from your applicants. If you want new hires to be happy in their new jobs, you need to show them exactly what you’re looking for.

By using realistic job previews, you can ensure that both you – and your candidates – are on the same page throughout the entire hiring process. When they finally start their new job, they’ll know just what to expect – increasing their job happiness and reducing your employee turnover.

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