After the Interview

After you (and your team) have interviewed a candidate, how do you decide whether to make a job offer?

  • Debrief with everyone on the interview team

Many times, this takes place in an “official” debrief meeting, bringing everyone together in the same room to share their thoughts.  There are several benefits to this approach.  A comment from one interviewer may trigger a reaction from someone else, allowing patterns to emerge.

“The candidate had trouble recalling details of Project X.”
“You know – I noticed the same thing when she talked about Project Y.”

The converse can happen, too – one impression could be negated by someone else’s feedback.

“I’m concerned about how he might react to pressure, because of Example A.”
“I also wondered about that, so I probed deeper and learned enough to alleviate my doubts.

One big caveat here: don’t allow the most vocal (or most senior) interviewers to dominate the conversation or intimidate others.  You included everyone in the interview team for a reason (I hope!).  Make sure you obtain everyone’s input.

Getting everyone together in a meeting may not be practical.  If it’s not, make sure you still find a way to get explicit, direct feedback from everyone on the interview team.  Sometimes a hybrid approach works well: get unbiased feedback from each interviewer separately and then get everyone together for a round-table discussion of the candidate.

  • Request an explicit “Hire / No Hire” recommendation from each interviewer

Don’t rate the candidate on a scale from 1 to 5 or 1 to 10 or 1 to anything else.  Ask each interviewer for a binary decision: If it were up to you, would you hire or not hire this person?

There is some room for caveats and conditions.  It’s okay, for example, to say “Hire, if Thomas determines that his problem solving skills are strong enough” or “Hire, if a reference check confirms that he has built teams that worked together effectively.”

  • Check references

This can be valuable and enlightening, but most people do it poorly.  Candidates will only provide references who will say glowing things about them.  Your job is to cut through this obvious bias and elicit useful information.  Avoid questions where the right answer is obvious.  Don’t ask: “Rate the candidate on a scale of 1 to whatever.”  I promise that the scores will all be high, but you won’t learn anything.  Don’t ask cliché questions like “greatest strength / weakness?”

Instead ask questions that will help determine the candidate’s ability to do the job.

  • Describe a situation where the team he was leading encountered a serious problem and explain how he overcame it.
  • Give an example of how she managed a difficult employee.
  • Explain situations when you think he’s more effective working as an individual versus when he’s more effective as a member of a team.

In the end, you (the hiring manager) have the final decision.  I’ve worked with teams where everyone needs to vote “Yes” on the hire / no hire decision, but I don’t recommend that.  Ultimate responsibility lies with the hiring manager.

For now…I’ll leave you with this thought:

Consider input from the entire interview team, but don’t give “veto power” to them.

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