You have identified your best prospects based on resumes, cover letters, work samples, and preliminary “checking around,” and now it’s time to talk with the leading candidates person to person.
Step One: Create the Structure of Your Interview Process.
Determine whether you will conduct one interview or, alternatively, whether each candidate will participate in multiple interviews. For example, you may want candidates to interview with representatives of several departments before making a final decision. Each candidate may participate in these interviews as part of the first stage, or you may decide to use multiple interviews only as part of the second stage for candidates that make it past the first screening stage.
Regardless of the number of interviews that suits your needs, you want to be able to tell your candidates what to expect. If the interviews or stages in the process cannot be determined at the outset, at least prepare your candidates for a bit of uncertainty, i.e., “We may be calling candidates back for additional interviews. We’ll update you about that next week.”
Set your goal for making the offer to the winning candidate. Key the rest of your interviewing steps to this date. Candidates will want to know how long they will be in limbo and may need the information to coordinate with other offers and interview plans.
Decide who will staff your interview team(s). If feasible, try to arrange for the same people to participate in all of the interviews.
Decide whether you want the interviews to be in person, by Zoom, etc. You can, of course, change from one format to another as interview stages progress or if distance problems require that some be done remotely, while other interviews take place in person.
Step Two: Issue Your Invitations
When you invite candidates to the interviews, offer everyone the opportunity to request reasonable accommodations needed to participate. You don’t know what you don’t know. If the forthcoming requests are unreasonable, in your view, get solid professional advice about how to proceed.
Set a schedule that allows all interview to start on time. Your candidates are grown-ups with lots going on. Treating their time as valueless – or at least less valuable than yours – conveys the message that this is how the company sees its employees, too.
Step Three: Plan Your Interview Content
Be sure your interviewers – all of them – have been trained regarding legal limitations on what questions should not be asked at the interview stage. Training should also include teaching interviewers how to follow up on volunteered information in instances where that is appropriate.
Never interview through the lens of stereotyping or assumptions. Interview candidates with genuine interest regarding what makes them unique people. Be sure everyone is counseled to do their best to eliminate their own biases from the process – unconscious or not. Biases take the form of assumptions based on race, gender, national origin, and other protected statuses, but also pop up in other forms, e.g., “On no. He’s from California” or “He worked for Big Global Corporation X and therefore, he will doubtless…” or “She went to Fancy University X, so she is....” A zillion people have done these things. How alike do you really think they are? These assumptions may be positive or negative, but failing to assess each candidate individually does a disservice to everyone.
Be sure your interviewers are aligned regarding critical points of inquiry, and keep within the allotted time. I suggest covering the same subjects with all candidates, asking follow-up questions prompted by individual candidates’ responses. You want to be able to compare everyone across the board, topic by topic.
Will your interview process include skill demonstrations? Testing? If so, be sure your testing is job-related and does not rule out candidates for discriminatory reasons. Remember that reasonable accommodation obligations under the Americans With Disabilities Act may be owed to qualified individuals.
Step Four: Prepare Your Interviewers to be Interviewed
Be prepared to answer questions about work hours, in-office expectations, pay levels, benefits, and start dates. More and more, hiring/placement resources are encouraging employees to ask about pay and benefits early on, so don’t be surprised by this.
Prepare your team for the developing trend of being asked for feedback at the end of the interview. Hiring/placement resources are encouraging candidates to ask for immediate feedback, for a variety of purposes. Some candidates are “practicing” their interview techniques and genuinely want to know what kind of impression they made. Others are keenly interested in how they stack up in comparison to other candidates. Will you put them off? Will you offer comments then and there? How will that vary based on the kind of feedback sought?
If a candidate is clearly a bust, train your interviewers not to make that obvious during the interview. No arguing. No eye-rolling. Forge ahead politely and end on a professional note at the earliest opportunity. The interview team is the face of the company, and you don’t want to give malcontents ammunition to sling mud at the company.
Tell your candidates when they can expect to hear from you regarding the next step in the process. Try to stick to the stated time line. Again, your candidates are grown-ups who are likely applying for other jobs and keeping other offers on hold, hoping to hear from you. You may miss out on your favorite because she assumes that silence means lack of interest or rejection - or that your delays or silence indicate that you are an unprofessional, disorganized, self-centered employer.
Courtesy also counts for candidates still in the running after interviews. If you will need to call a candidate or proceed with checking references, but the candidate is still employed, ask about the best way to contact her for follow-up. Ask about any special concerns relating to checking references, especially if you feel the need to obtain information from a current employer.
Step Five: Moving Forward
Communicate to those who are not selected for the job – or for the next stage of the selection process - that they are out of the running. Thank them for their interest. Don’t burn any bridges by ghosting them. Being left hanging is insulting and will leave a bad taste in your applicants’ mouths that they may not hesitate to share. When you do communicate, avoid sounding unnecessarily cold or dismissive. A couple of polite sentences will do the trick. Thank them for their interest and their time invested in applying. Unfortunately, you have selected another candidate for the role....
For follow-up interviews for candidates still in the running, loop back to applicable activities from Steps One through Four! You still want to be professional and courteous to your candidates, while selling your company as a great place to work...and not violating any legal constraints.
In our next post, we’ll cover the subject of making offers and how poorly written offer letters can cause you misery. Stay tuned.
Nothing in this blog post creates an attorney-client relationship or constitutes legal advice in any way. The content is provided for general informational purposes only. For help with concerns, contact qualified legal counsel for advice specific to your facts.