Interviewing

dialogAs a hiring manager, I’m very interested in many things about a candidate. I always use an interview team (or panel) during this process and assign specific aspects of the interview to individuals on that team. I do this for multiple reasons.

First, I find that multiple ears, eyes and wits give a better overview of a candidate than I get with a single interviewer. I long ago stopped being amazed at how something would get missed by a portion of the interviewers but would get picked up by one or two others.

Second, since the candidate is a potential future teammate to many of the interviewers, being a member of the panel creates a very real sense of ownership in the process. Their thoroughness has a direct impact on the talent of the people they’ll be working with in the future.

Third, I’ve found that interviewing is a learned skill and practice is important. Being on an interview team from time to time enhances those skills. After all, some of these interviewers may turn out to be future managers where these skills are even more valuable.

Fourth, being grilled by the team and being chosen is a bit like an initiation. It builds a mutual respect between the selected candidate and the interviewers.

Interview style

I typically use the behavioral interview style to help in evaluating a candidate. That means we find ourselves saying “so, tell me about a time when you . . .” quite a bit. When a candidate answers “well, I would . . .” then we try again. We’re not looking for what a candidate would do, we’re looking for what a candidate did do. Because this is one of those situations when past behavior is the best indicator of future performance.

Sometimes though, candidates haven’t had that experience. In that situation, I’d far rather they admit it. Often one of their experiences is similar or analogous to what we’re asking about. In that case, they should clarify or confirm this and continue on with their answer. Someone who can see those parallels might be worth giving a chance.

Comparing notes

When we’ve gone through the process with a candidate, we get together, compare notes, share observations and try to reconcile any discrepancies that might crop up.

Here’s where having multiple people on the interview team can really help. Each person brings a slightly different perspective to the interview along with different viewing and listening styles.

Waiting for the Thank You note

While we never really sit around waiting for a follow-up note, it is true that those who send them get a few “bonus points” of consideration. And a few times that’s all it’s taken to push one candidate over another with similar talent. Receiving a short email the same day as the interview tells me that the candidate is serious and considerate of our time.

I especially like it when a candidate puts forth the extra effort to write a personalized note to me (and other members of the panel) adding an extra idea or explaining a bit more on a topic we touched on in the interview. A candidate who takes the time and effort to do this and do it well is a serious candidate worthy of consideration. And no, I don’t think stamps and snail-mail are old-fashioned for this purpose.*

Extending an offer

Once you’ve found a candidate that you’re excited about, you’ve contacted their references, read their follow-up notes and the panel has made a decision to move forward, do it! Call them up, indicate you’d like to make an offer and bring them on board.

What about the others?

Contact the others who made it to the interview rounds. They may not have been as qualified as your new employee, but they deserve to hear that they didn’t make it. This frees them up to expend energy on other opportunities. And if you have a short bit of carefully-worded constructive criticism for them, consider offering it. By no means is this always a good idea, but for some candidates, it’s worth the time.

Now go concentrate on getting your new hire settled and ramping up to be a productive member of your expanding team!


* For more on follow-up after an interview, see John Heaney’s Job Shopper posting.

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One Response to Interviewing

  1. A reader emailed me this week:

    I found . . . that the same practice with my teams produced very similar results. In the end, everyone was a lot happier, and we almost always got the person we wanted.

    Good! I’m glad to hear that there are others who use this approach and find that it works for them.

    Thanks for sharing this!

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