How To Design A High Impact Interview Process
Hiring. It's one of the top factors in determining whether your organization will succeed. Your people, and the culture they help you build, shapes the DNA of your organization. What are your values? What do you stand for (and against)? Why do you exist as an organization? The answers to these questions are generally framed by the founders or executives, but your employees are the ones who determine whether your organization truly lives these truths.
Early Stage Hiring: Phone A Friend
When you're an early stage startup or small company, hiring tends to involve tapping your collective networks to see who you can hire. This process may lack diversity, but it's a path of least resistance and generally leads to low-scale hiring success. As your organization grows, these networks grow thinner and begin to dry up. This tends to be the growth stage when most organization will bring on recruiting help, whether in-house or agency, to help them reach new candidate pools.
Building A High-Growth Interview Process
When you're in high-growth mode you need to build an interview model that's efficient, effective, and continues to provide the critical lens through which you want your candidates to be viewed through. It's important this process has enough structure to be followed, but scales and offers flexibility when needed. The ‘Ideal process’ will vary as it should be tailored to each organization, but the following items should be factored in to most high-growth interview procedures.
Requisition Approval Process
Things move fast in high growth organizations, particularly startups. Strategic decisions (including hiring plans) can be made over coffee or beers. It’s important to have a light-weight process that ensures the appropriate stakeholders (Finance, HR/Recruiting, Division lead) have all signed off that the position is within budget and organizational hiring timeline/priorities. You're recruiting resources are valuable, and you don't want to waste time building and engaging candidate pipelines for jobs you won't hire.
Sourcing & Networking
Recruiting is a team sport. Successful companies get this. No matter how effective your recruiting team is, the reality is that their reach only goes so far. It’s vital to build programs that allow the entire organization to rally behind the company’s growth. Strong recruiting teams will develop programs to ensure that all staff are aware of current hiring initiatives (particularly essential roles), and equip their colleagues with the tools and resources they need to be effective brand ambassadors.
When you’re hiring at scale, it’s important all the stakeholders are really dialed in on the profile you’re targeting in each role. The hiring manager and recruiter should meet with the interview team before interviews begin to discuss the job description, target profile, intangibles, projects and initiatives they will work on, how the role interacts with their area (for cross-functional interviews, which most will tend to be), cultural fit, etc. This discussion is vital in ensuring all the stakeholders are on the same page and fully aware of what they’re vetting.
The recruiter should discuss the ideal process with the hiring manager during their search strategy kick-off meeting. The interview process should be generally defined so internal teams know what to expect, but also flexible to allow you to accelerate if you find stellar talent that has competing offers. The recruiter is generally the top end of the filter - evaluating candidates fit, motivations, qualifications (generally for technology roles), and identifying any potential blockers that might need to be overcome. Once determined qualified, the candidate will generally speak or meet with the hiring manager via phone/Skype/etc. This step is not always necessary, but important for technology roles to vet skills more deeply than a recruiter may be able to vet. Evaluations, code samples, and problem-solving/behavioral exercises help streamline this stage of the process. Free tools like Skype and Google Hangouts, or paid tools like WePow and HireVue, are valuable here as they allow more robust discussions in the early stages of the process to determine fit and potential. Following the initial vetting to confirm viability, the candidate will come in and meet the interview team for further vetting on skill and cultural fit. I find adding some structure to those interviews (behavioral questions, splitting competency evals per interviewer, etc.) adds value to this stage.
This is a really important to embed and reinforce throughout the interview process. How an organizations treats candidates, good or bad, is a tweet of GlassDoor post away from your talent pool. If you communicate regularly and treat every candidate with dignity and respect, you have an opportunity to create advocates. They may not get hired, but they will have a deeper respect for your company – and they will tell their friends. Open and regular communication goes a long way in enhancing candidate experience. An example is a recent ‘Candidate Experience Pledge’ we created to give NPR applicants a detailed overview of what to expect from the moment they apply.
After the interview, you’ll want to get the stakeholders together to discuss feedback. There are a variety of ways to do this. One way I’ve found to be productive is brief written evaluations (based on pre-determined templates) sent to the hiring manager and recruiter, followed by a group discussion. Gathering the written feedback in advance allows for unbiased input, and raises potential red flags to be discussed in the meeting. The eval includes a thumbs up/down on support for hiring. The hiring manager has the ultimate decision, but should ideally get near consensus from the interview team. Any red flags that are surfaced should be discussed and addressed during the review meeting.
These are just a few things to consider when developing a high-growth interview process. What tips and procedures have you found successful when developing your hiring plans? Please share in the comments section.