What is a Realistic Job Preview?

February 22nd, 2018
Jon-Mark Sabel
Candidate Experience,
Employer Branding
What is a Realistic Job Preview

This post was recently updated on August 5, 2022 for comprehensiveness and accuracy.

A great potential candidate just landed on your career site. What determines if they stay and apply, or bounce back to what they were doing before?

One of the best ways to sell a role, particularly to potential applicants who are already employed, is the realistic job preview. 

What is a Realistic Job Preview?

An employer uses a visual tool known as a "realistic job preview" to show an applicant or pre-offer candidate as much as possible about the nature of a position and work conditions via real-to-life perspectives. The RJP saves both candidates and employers time and money by establishing early on what the applicant or candidate might experience on a daily basis if they receive and accept an offer of employment. It's a valuable recruiting and hiring tool that erases incorrect assumptions about a position and employer.

How can I create a realistic job preview?

Employers and hiring representatives can use a wide range of formats to give applicants a thorough job preview for a specific position. Video and virtual ones are the most popular. For example, they might record testimonials from employees who already work in the position or department or a media interview between an HR representative and top employee. They might ask employees to record amateur "day in the life" videos while they work. They might create an immersive virtual experience as well.

What is a virtual job preview?

A virtual job preview gives an applicant or chosen candidate the opportunity to explore the position remotely in as realistic a way as possible. As the word "virtual" implies, they receive a simulation-style presentation of the job. The most basic version of this idea is an interactive online quiz, also known as a situational judgment test, that shows text and videos of the job and asks the applicant to respond to various work scenarios to see if their knowledge, skills and personality fit the position. More complex and immersive virtual job tryouts, such as a 360-degree video or an interactive digital work simulation, help an applicant better imagine everything they might experience daily in the role while performing certain tasks at a specific job site or remotely.

Why is a realistic job preview important?

Authentic previews of a job provide engaging insight into the true nature of the work early in the recruitment process. Applicants and candidates learn as much as possible about what the job and company are really like without shadowing an employee in person and causing disruption to production processes. They're also better able to imagine future job satisfaction and determine their compatibility with a company before accepting an offer, which can reduce employee turnover and related costs. Before they're hired, they thoroughly learn about actual work requirements, positives and negatives of working within the role and for the employer, company culture and even the on-site physical environment, if applicable.

For more information about how to create realistic job previews, see our guide about four of the main types below and how to make them work in your organization.

1) The Employee Testimonial Video

employee testimonial

Recorded employee testimonials are one of the most valuable pieces of content for prospective applicants. Created correctly, they can also form the basis for a realistic job preview.

The value of these previews comes from their authenticity and specificity. While traditional scripted testimonials are a useful tool for promoting your organization as whole, they don’t really give much insight into specific job functions.

Most employee testimonials focus exclusively on what it’s like to work for your organization. To take them a step further, don’t tell your employees to describe your company - let them explore what they do in their current role. 

How to make it work:

The goal here is give candidates an accurate understanding of what the role is and what will be expected of them. To make it work, let your most passionate employees share what their day-to-day looks like.

  1. Hold an “open audition” for employee advocates interested in sharing their experiences. You can hold these in-office, or provide instructions so they can film themselves.
  2. Push them to focus on specifics. Set the expectation that this isn’t about hyping up the company - it’s about helping candidates find the role that fits them best.
  3. Use specific prompts geared toward giving insight into the job’s responsibilities. Prompts like “My typical day as a [job title] is…” and “The professional skills I’ve gained are…” are better than the more general “What do you like best about working here?”

Once you have these job-specific testimonials, the sky’s the limit as far as where you use them. The great thing about video is its shareability. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Hosted on a career site. This is the logical first step.
  • Used as an introduction to an on demand video interview. This helps sell candidates on the role and gets them excited to interview for it.
  • Pushed through recruitment marketing channels. Video content is marketing gold. Video-based realistic job previews are accessible, valuable, and authentic.

See how a Fortune 200 company uses testimonials created by its current employees to attract world-class talent.

2) The Interactive Simulation

interactive simulation

Interactive simulations are often the first thing people think of when envisioning a realistic job preview. They can be a great way for potential candidates to imagine themselves performing the role’s day-to-day tasks. 

Simulations that preview a job usually take the form of a game. Game design best practices play a huge role in creating a compelling tool for candidates. You’ll probably need to partner with a third party to create an engaging simulation. 

How to make it work:

Interactive simulations require more intensive budgeting than their video-based counterparts, which can be created on a range of budgets. To make the most of any partnership with a simulation vendor:

  1. Set expectations in the scoping phase. Set goals for simulation completion and conversion rates. Completion rates will tell you how engaging the simulation is (ie, how many job seekers complete it), while conversion rates will tell you how well it does its primary job: informing prospective applicants and getting them to apply.
  2. Expand the pool of internal beta-testers. Nothing is worse than a boring game. As the simulation is in development, look outside your TA department for people to test it. Ask your current employees (especially recent hires for the role in question) to complete the simulation and provide feedback.
  3. Build conversion points into the simulation. The simulation should naturally segue into the relevant job application, rather than live in its own bubble.

Build off feedback once it goes live. Involve job seekers in the tweaking process: ask them how well the simulation described the job’s day-to-day, and if they felt more confident applying for the role after completing it.

3) The Hiring Manager Testimonial

hiring manager testimonial

In a recent survey by Lighthouse Research, 43% of job seekers indicated they would prefer to see a video from the hiring manager over any other video type. In close second was the job preview, at 31%. Done right, you can get the best of both worlds. 

Functionally, the hiring manager testimonial is very similar to the employee testimonial - though with a few key differences.

How to make it work:

If the hiring manager is giving a realistic job preview, they are selling themselves as much as they are selling the role. 

  1. Set expectations for what the video should look like and provide clear guidance. The prospect of getting on camera can be intimidating for people who aren’t used to it. It’s easy to get caught up in the uncertainty: “How do I make sure lighting is set up properly?” or “What if I stumble over my words?” You need to address these reservations from the very beginning.
  2. Use the opportunity to show off the workplace. If the job isn’t remote, encourage hiring managers to give a virtual tour of the office while they’re explaining the role’s day-to-day.
  3. Sell growth opportunities. Most employees who turnover don’t leave their company - they leave their manager. The flipside, of course, is that a great manager is a powerful tool for attracting determined talent. High potential employees want to grow. Managers that show what employee growth looks like with their leadership send a compelling message to high potential job seekers.

4) The Interview

Unposed group of creative business people in an open concept office brainstorming their next project.

Interviews can also act as a sort of “realistic job preview.” While interviews at a later stage of the hiring process should be geared toward screening, interviews near the beginning of the process can be used to inform and sell the role.

How to make it work:

There are a couple different ways to go about using the interview as a realistic job preview.

  1. Interviewing on demand. If you’re using on demand video interviewing, you can create questions that specifically inform candidates about the role. For example, with job simulation-type questions, you might show a video of a common conflict that takes place on the job and ask the candidate to explain how they would respond. 
  2. Sourcing hard to fill roles. If your recruiters are sourcing from passive candidate pools, they should be able to sell their leads on the role by giving them a realistic picture of its duties. The key here is to avoid a script, and keep the conversation open. Let the prospective applicant’s interests drive this “open-ended” version of the realistic job preview.

Giving job seekers or candidates a realistic preview of a job's day-to-day is one of the best ways to draw them in - particularly if they are already employed. On the other hand, they also help reduce turnover for difficult, high turnover roles, since potential applicants can screen themselves out if they don't like what they see. A great realistic job preview both incentivizes candidates to stick with you through the hiring process and improves retention.