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Woman shakes hand with hiring manager while other employees sit around interview table
Structuring a successful interview cycle

by Sivan Philo (he/him/his)

A lot goes into constructing an interview cycle before the conversations even start. As a hiring manager, you want to be sure that you have the right people in the room and the right processes in place to accurately and equitably assess candidates. You also want to ensure that by the time a finalist receives an offer, they have a positive and accurate understanding of the opportunity—and no doubts in their mind about accepting it. But where to begin? Here are some tips for structuring a successful interview cycle.

Who to include in the interviews

  • The hiring manager. It might sound obvious, but it’s important to remember that the hiring manager should be present throughout the hiring process. One person must have the full picture and know the details of what’s going on. The hiring manager being that person makes sense because they can best speak to the skills they need in a potential hire, and the candidate will be spending time with them most frequently as their direct report.
  • A direct report. Because they’re going to be reporting up to the new hire each day, a direct report should also be involved in the process. They can also provide insight into how the candidate discusses their approach to managing and developing their team.
  • A peer they’ll work with closely. Including a coworker in a peer role is helpful to the candidate in a couple ways. First, it shows them who they would partner most closely with at their own level. Second, it introduces them to someone they could turn to with direct questions about their role, or to simply socialize with at the organization.
  • Someone they’ll occasionally work with. It’s useful to include somebody who doesn't necessarily have total insight into the work that this hire would be doing, whether they’re on a different team or in a different department. They can provide a more impartial, third-party view of the candidate in general, and may have a unique perspective on how a candidate may or may not benefit the organization.
  • Someone with experience in each of the role’s core competencies. Core competencies are the specific skills required of a role, which candidates are expected to have mastered at a particular level. There will almost always be some part of a role’s competencies that only several people in your organization are equipped to fully assess when interviewing candidates. As you put together your interviewing team, be sure that you have at least one person who has enough experience and knowledge to confidently assess the strength of the skills the candidate is being asked to demonstrate. This will make the process of evaluating candidates significantly easier.

How to approach the interview process

  • Root your evaluations in the role’s core competencies, and structure questions around the perspectives of each stakeholder involved in the hiring process. Grounding the process in the core competencies of the role is crucial for a couple reasons. Core competencies allow your team of interviewers to consistently assess candidates who might differ in terms of experience and background, creating a more equitable comparison between them. They can also help inform how you write interview questions and determine who from your team is best equipped to ask certain questions. For example, a direct report might ask questions that get an initial feel for someone's skill set against the competencies, while the hiring manager might dig deeper with questions about a candidate’s approach to specific tasks. Designing questions with different stakeholders’ perspectives in mind also minimizes the chance of questions becoming redundant, which can often become exhausting for candidates to answer.
  • When assessing a candidate, don’t mistake homogeneity for “fit.” Think critically about how a candidate’s perspective could strengthen and evolve the organization. When conducting a hiring process, it’s natural to gravitate toward candidates who are like yourself or like the people who have been successful in your organization. But hiring with a lens for diversity, equity, and inclusion can counteract “like-me” bias, prevent stagnation, and lead to greater growth. Say you’re faced with two outstanding finalists, both of whom show strength against the skills-based competencies. One candidate comes from a very similar background to others in your organization, while the other has a different background and can complement your culture. Both candidates have proven they could successfully perform the role, but who could add more value to—or even transform—your organization? Bringing in a person with a different experience and perspective that you might not have considered before can help your organization more fully meet its mission.

The Takeaway

While it might seem like there are a lot of boxes to tick, being mindful of how you structure and who you include in the interview process matters. Constructing a comprehensive assessment will help a candidate feel that by the end of the process, they're really certain that this job is the job for them. It also helps you and your hiring team feel by the end of the process that you have at least one—if not two or three—candidates who could really effectively do this role and would be part of your organization long term. Having that confidence in your hire and their impact can make a huge difference, especially when you’re filling a senior-level position.