My team often hears a similar frustration from candidates: “I had a second interview today. But it felt like I was answering the exact same questions from the first interview last week.”
Unfortunately, this situation is too common because many companies lack an efficient, logical process for conducting job interviews. And candidates can sense that—they know when their time isn’t being used well.
The problem often boils down to a lack of thoughtfulness.
Rather than setting up an intentional and meaningful interview process, companies follow common practices and aim to get opinions about a candidate from as many people as possible.
This wastes time and money for both your team and the candidate. And having spent years working in recruiting, as well as founding a startup in the industry, I can promise employers that without a strong interview process in place, you’ll end up missing the mark on hiring.
Here’s how to set up a well-structured interview process for your company:
To hire the best-fit people, clearly communicate intentions for the interview and share a list of questions for each stage.
Most companies know the qualities they want a candidate to have, but they go about searching for them the wrong way.
Take role and cultural fit, for instance. Recruiters typically hold 15-minute phone screens to gauge if a candidate has the right skill set and an aligned working style. They’ll ask a handful of questions regarding the role, but they’ll determine cultural fit by doing an ineffective reflection after the interview: “Would I want to hang out with this person?” Unfortunately, this mixes significant bias into the decision.
To hold purposeful job interviews, you have to be thoughtful about the questions you’re asking and the order you’re asking them in.
In the first interview, focus on verifying the candidate’s foundational role fit and their interest in working for the company.
Ask behavioral questions related to the role-specific skill sets, as well as company-related questions to identify the candidate’s level of preparation and ability to articulate their interest in the company and role.
If the first interview leads to a second, dive deeper to evaluate the candidate’s role fit, environmental fit, and specific working style.
Choose scenario-related and behavioral questions that encourage a candidate to share how he or she solves problems, works with others, organizes the day, and stays motivated.
The goal is to ensure interviewers spend time preparing, just as they expect candidates to prepare. Knowing what each person is going to ask ahead of time helps get rid of repetitive questions. And it also opens lines of communication so information from the first interview can be passed on to the second, facilitating deeper conversations between candidates and interviewers.
This preparation creates an internal job interview process where every question has a clear purpose, prevents bias, and facilitates meaningful conversation.
Design a system to rate and reflect on candidates.
A lot of companies gather everyone who has interviewed a candidate and have them hash out a “hire or don’t hire” decision after the interview process is over.
But with this method, it’s easy for bias to creep in. The conversation is flowing, and people are relying on a few notes and some half-remembered answers the candidate gave.
A good way to eliminate some of that bias and unreliable memory is to create a standardized evaluation system that interviewers can use to reflect on a candidate immediately after each interview is over. The reflection can be as simple as a single page, but it should contain specific questions the interviewer can mull over afterward.
The catch here is making sure you have enough information to fairly review each candidate.
To get this information during job interviews, ask behavioral and situational questions, rather than questions that are either too open-ended (“tell me about yourself”) or only elicit “yes” or “no” responses. The answers to questions like, “Tell me about a time when you had to do X. How did you react to that?” will give you a much better sense of who this person is and how they operate.
As soon as an interview is over, make sure everyone who interviewed the candidate completes the reflection system you’ve created. Now, when you have a group get together to discuss the candidate, the conversation will revolve around the same questions every answered in their reflections.
A disorganized, free-for-all discussion may feel collaborative, but it’s not anywhere near as productive as a well-crafted reflection.
Hold your team accountable for following the process.
Everyone has their own biases. Everyone has good days and bad days.
But you don’t want any of that to affect hiring decisions. You’re making very real choices about a candidate’s livelihood—and your own.
That’s why it’s essential for every interviewer to get behind the process you put in place. That means researching the candidate and preparing thoughtful questions ahead of time. It means filling out the evaluation immediately after speaking with a candidate. Everyone can still get together to talk about the reflections and their opinions, but you don’t want to allow time for outside influences to sneak in.
To make sure the process is a priority for internal interviewers, help them prepare for it ahead of time.
Give them access to information about the candidate and role so they feel empowered to hold strong job interviews. By being well-equipped, interviewers are more likely to get excited about the process and make it a meaningful experience.
Time is valuable to everyone, interviewers and candidates alike. Focusing on creating a more purposeful interview process will save your company time and money in the long run because better job interviews lead to more informed, intentional hiring.
And if you hire well, you’ve created the basis for continued success—no matter your industry or specialty.