IT Employment

How to get the least from a team interview


Recently I was teaching a class regarding the fundamental management skills and I was asked by one of the participants about the pros and cons of having different people around the organization interview an employment candidate. The woman who asked said that she found it to be one of those ideas which are nice in concept but a waste of time in "the real world."As we discussed it, it became clear that her company's approach was typical to how many organizations use the so-called 360 degree interview technique. I said that I agreed with her opinion - the way they used the approach was pretty useless. It provided them minimum return for maximum investment.

Their approach started OK - they'd identify a candidate who seemed to have the requisite job skills, bring her or him in for a preliminary screening interview, and if the individual seemed to have the right stuff overall, they'd then schedule a series of meetings for others in the organization to check them out.

The benefits of doing this are:

  • Individuals within the organization can see if they believe the candidate can do the job technically as well has being able to predominately
  • The people who will be working with this new person can see if he/she is going to fit in. One may have the technical skills but the personality of a bull elephant - not going to make it obviously.
  • The people in other departments get to meet a new employee whom they may not otherwise get to know, this facilitates interoffice or interdepartmental communications.

But done improperly, this approach can be a major waste of time. And the woman in my class explained how they took a good idea and wasted it:

  • They failed to give the interviewers any information about the candidate beyond the resume.
  • They didn't give the interviewers any sort of "supervisor's overview," meaning an informal explanation of what they are looking for in the new hire with regard to the job to be done, who the new person would interact with, and nice-to-have skills or traits
  • In some cases the interviewers didn't even get a job description for the job to be filled
  • There was no "check list" for the interviewer to quickly fill in to get an assessment to the hiring supervisor. Without this, the supervisor had to rely on the interviewer to take the time to write out something and send it back - in a busy organization, this often didn't occur. I like lists which provide the review with a number scale system such as 1 to 5, with 5 being the best.
  • There was no formal correlation of all the interviewers' reviews to see if there was a consensus regarding positives or negatives

Consequently, people were interviewed by people who were unsure about what the company wanted in a new hire, and often their comments were poorly communicated back to the hiring manager. A lot of effort and time with little benefit.

Bottom Line: Hiring interviews that use people in other departments and people at levels above and below the role to be filled - if managed properly - will provide the hiring supervisor with a much better chance of hiring someone who is going to fit in and succeed. Done without structure, they are a waste of time and energy.

- john

  Success Coach

About

John M. McKee is the founder and CEO of BusinessSuccessCoach.net, an international consulting and coaching practice with subscribers in 43 countries. One of the founding senior executives of DIRECTV, his hands-on experience includes leading billion d...

7 comments
mklinz01
mklinz01

Having recently been put through the interview grinder I have an opinion or two on this subject. First, if your going to do team interviews have your team identified and a scheduled established. One of the interviews I was put through was a huge waste of time. The team was picked at random based on who was available at the time. It took two weeks to complete my interview series and more than 4 overall to complete all of the interviews. This was posted as a time critical position, yet it took over a month to complete interviews and almost four from posting to filling. Second, have a format for your interviews, every interviewer needs to know the skill sets, abilities, and behaviors being sought, and they need to know what position is being filled. Third, do true team interviews, not serial one-hour conversations on the phone. A very effective technique I used as a manager with HP was panel interviews. - I usually had two panels, one comprised of myself, a peer manager from another group, and one of my technical leaders, the other would be my partner manager, another technical lead, and a one of our business support engineers. - Resumes and job descriptions would be distributed prior to the interviews, the candidates resumes would be reviewed so that each interviewer was able to gain a sense of the person, a list of primary questions developed, and a checklist of skills and behaviors distributed. - The schedule would be set so that each team interviewed the same group of usually 6 candidates in a day, with a recap and ranking session at the end of the day. We would select 2 for second interviews. - The second interview was typically the candidate, myself or partner manager, and our manager. We then ranked again and would decide on the offer and present it to the candidate with in 24 to 48 hours. This may seem like a tremendous effort and commitment of management time, but considering that hiring the right people is the single most important aspect of management it was well worth the time and effort. Also compared to my recent experiences it took less than half the time. Of the 15 people I hired in my first 2 years as a manager 12 are still with HP and prospering.

w2ktechman
w2ktechman

I had been unemployed for some time. Money and travel was an issue, as I had to borrow a car (and fill the tank for use). Finally I was asked to an interview. Of course I went. Then afterwards I was told that I was a top candidate for 'the next round'. Ok, that was fine. Second round, same thing. Third, same thing. This went on and on. I had to go back and re-interview for the same job, and every time there was 1 person who was the same. After I showed up 7 times (yes, 7), I was a bit pissed off when they told me the same thing. I asked how many more rounds were left, and was told, until we decide. At that point I told them to pull me off the list cause I could not afford to keep appearing, and even though I was unemployed, my time was still valuable to me. Needless to say I did not get the job. A few years later, I was asked back to an interview for a 4th time and told them no. Even though I could afford the time, I dont think that companies need to interview each candidate that many times. It can/may be a hardship on them. I was talking to a recruiter one time and mentioned this topic. He said that between 4 and 7 interviews was 'common' and he had known places to interview up to 12 times. 12 times? are they only looking for the most desperate? Or are they just clueless about everything? Excessive interviews are a waste of time and money, and promote extra stress for all involved.

apotheon
apotheon

I'd say that hiring the right people is the [b]second[/b] most important aspect of management. The most important is keeping the best people when you've got them. Without that, hiring the best is pointless, and no better than hiring at random.

Ishron
Ishron

While I can understand that you would want to keep from making a mistake, the interview is it. Making a candidate return more than once speaks to rudeness and an organization that can't make up it's mind. Before I ask a candidate in for an interview, the interview loop schedule is agreed to and there is a backup plan should one of the decision makers not be able to perform their function in the interview process. One shot for both sides. The assumption is that the candidate is up for the interview and we owe the candidate our best shot. After the telephone screen, I am only asking to see the one or two candidates that fit the job description to come for a formal face to face interview. It is rude to keep asking a candidate to return to interview for the same position. Even if they are unemployed, they have other opportunities to pursue as well as other things that need attention. Thinking that as a prospective employer you have the right to frivolously waste a candidate's time and money speaks loudly that the organization has issues. This would tell me that I definately do not want to accept any offer. If the organization can't give you an answer after a single interview, they really don't have well defined criteria for the job, can't determine the best candidate, is unsure of their ability to hire a good candidate, are unable to make decisions on their own, and need some help that no technical resource can bring. They need to fire the hiring process.

mklinz01
mklinz01

If you aren't hiring the best the ones you already have are going to leave, also you may be in a situation that was handed to you, as I was. And, retention is a responsibility of management as a whole. From compensation, to recognition, and development, the buget and intent has to be there. Once you've got the best it is everyones responsibility to keep them. However, hiring is one of the most individual and rewarding aspect of being a manager. The entire corporate team isn't sitting there with you helping you make the decision. In fact if they were it would probably poison the whole process.

w2ktechman
w2ktechman

in some cases. I do not see a benefit for many. If 4 is common, this is a bad thing, and you are right. They are mindless managers trying to hire someone for a role that has not been defined well, or that they do not know much about. Prabably using the interviews to gain information ad insight on the position itself.

apotheon
apotheon

I certainly agree that hiring the best people is incredibly important, and that hiring can be "one of the most individual and rewarding" aspects of management. I agree that decision by committee, especially to the extreme you describe, is "poisonous". I just think that keeping the best employees happily employed -- in other words, "retention" -- is if anything [b]more[/b] important than hiring them in the first place, as losing the best as often as the worst is a good way to reduce your ability to acquire the best (among other problems). If you hire roughly randomly, but keep the best and lose the worst, you'll end up with a better team than if you hire the best more often than the worst, but cannot retain them.

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