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Jul 15, 2016
by James

Interview Team Selection – Why Most Companies Do It Wrong and 5 Ways To Fix It

Posted in Interview Process Excellence

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Most companies will let just about anyone be a part of an interview team.


In fact, when I ask recruiting leaders “What is your process for deciding who is allowed to interview job candidates at your company?” — they almost always give me a puzzled look.


The reality is that most companies don’t give interview team selection much thought.   But I would argue that selecting the proper interview team is one of the most critical steps of the interview process.

Get it right and you hire the right people.


Get it wrong and you not only hire the wrong people, but you damage your employer brand in the process.


Don’t believe me?


Just take a look at a few Glassdoor reviews.   They’re littered with bad company reviews caused by people who have no business being on an interview team.




So how should companies approach the selection of an interview team?   Before we explore some options, let’s first break down the outdated rationale that most companies use.


Here’s what the formula typically looks like:


(Hiring Manager) + (Hiring Manager’s Manager) + (Departmental Peer x 2) + (HR Person) + (Random stakeholders who will be mad if they aren’t included x 3)


Sound familiar?   If it doesn’t, good for you!


But if it does, keep reading as we explore 5 ways that you can improve your interview process by getting smarter about how you choose your interview teams.




First of all, most interview teams have too many people involved.


And while there’s no magic number or formula, conventional wisdom tells us that the more people you involve on ANY team, the more difficult it becomes to make a decision.    Each person has their own idea of what they’re looking for, their own style of interviewing and their own level of competence when it comes to conducting an interview.


For most scenarios, we recommend that you keep the team size to around 3-4 core members.   While that might sound like a low number, you have to keep in mind that most interview teams are made up of 2-3 key decision makers and the rest are simply “fluff” participants.   The fluff participants are only on the team because the hiring manager or HR doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by not including them.


So make some tough choices about who gets to interview your candidates.  You’ll need to have some difficult conversations with people, but a tough conversation is better than making a costly hiring mistake any day of the week!




Let’s face it, most managers aren’t very good interviewers.   But it’s not their fault!   Interviewing skills are like muscles…if you don’t use them, they tend to get really weak.


So what most companies do, is pull 20 managers into a conference room once a year and deliver a home-grown, behavioral interview training class.   Or they bring in an expensive consultant.   Normally, the training consists of some powerpoint slides followed by a couple hours of awkward role playing.   The training is typically very good and grounded in science.   But the problem is, those 20 employees probably won’t interview a candidate for 2 months, 6 months or even a year later!


In this case, the best solution is a “Just In Time” interview training course delivered online.   Not to toot our own horn, but we developed one that serves this very purpose.   It will never replace “live” practice, but it provides enough theory and best practices to prevent some of the common mistakes made by novice or out of practice interviewers.   You can learn more about the interviewer training course here.


You should strongly consider preventing your managers from interviewing until they’ve had some recent training.   And even then, you should sit in on a few interviews to audit their skills.   You’ll be amazed/terrified by what you hear!




At Amazon, they call these interviewers “bar raisers”.   They are employees who are a part of an interview team but have no affiliation with the department or the job.   As a result, they interview each candidate through a completely objective lens.    They only focus on whether or not the candidate is a good representation of the company values, culture or employee quality.


Using this technique holds a lot of value, but it can represent a culture shift for most companies because it requires some employees to dedicate time to conducting interviews on top of their normal duties.    However, if you provide incentives to your version of “bar raisers”; you may find a line of people waiting to be a part of the program!




If you think about your employee base, I’m sure you can visualize a few people who are the perfect example of what every employee should be.    They’re articulate, highly engaged in their role, they love working for the company and they jump at the chance to talk about what they do.


These are the people you want to put on your interview teams.


Contrast this with the disengaged employee who lacks the people skills or company knowledge to represent your firm in front of a candidate for 30 minutes, let alone an hour.   I’m sure you know a few of these as well.


The point here is that when it comes to interview team selection, you need to realize that not everyone is cut out to interview.   And not everyone is a good representation of your company.   If you want to attract and convert top talent, you’ll want to put your best people in front of them.


Be ruthless about who represents your company at job fairs, interviews, office tours and other candidate touch points.   It matters to great candidates.




If you really want to get a sense of how effective your interviewers are, simply ask your candidates!   A great way to do this is to send them an anonymous survey immediately after the interview.    You could ask them over the phone or in person, but you’ll get more honest answers using a survey.


I’ve learned some really interesting things from using this technique.


Like the time I learned that a VP spun around in their chair and said “Weeeee!”.    And the time that a male manager asked a female college student out on a date at a university career fair.   And the time that a manager showed up 45 minutes late for a 60 minute interview and told the candidate that he didn’t have time to meet with her.


These things are happening at your organization too…you just don’t know about it.   And if you don’t address it, it will end up on sites like Glassdoor.




Spending some time thinking about interview team selection is one of the best ways to improve your candidate experience and improve your ability to convert high performing talent.


To help you spread the word about the importance of great interview team selection, we built a free training course that you can send to hiring managers as they begin thinking about who to involve on their interview team.  Hope it helps you as much as it has helped our client companies!

HireBar - Blog Author Profile - James Colino

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