Building Your Interview Process
Authored By Sam Ghie
Hiring high-quality candidates starts before the interview process, the structure of your interviews and the questions you ask play a huge factor in whether a candidate stays interested in your team and company or moves on.
Despite this, few companies offer any formal interview training and it’s often left to the hiring managers to determine the best structure of the interviews and the right types of questions to ask with little to no help. Keep in mind that the discussions you first have with your potential new hire will shape the way they see your team, company, and the position they’re interviewing for.
We will go through the pre-interview prep you will need to do when opening any new position on your team, as well as best practices throughout the interview itself.
Before you take any interviews, give yourself some time to prepare the structure and types of questions you’ll ask.
Step 1: Determine what your interview process will look like
Set up a clear process that your recruiter can share with candidates ahead of time. A clean and easy-to-understand process shows people your team and company is organized and prepared. A succinct process also shows people you understand the market and what you are looking for in a candidate.
After an initial screen with the Recruiter or TA, we suggest keeping the process to 2-3 interviews. For Senior and mid level positions, 2 interviews should suffice while Manager, Director and VP level positions should have no more than 3 total interviews after that initial screen.
Keep in mind, it takes many employee hours to schedule 3+ interviews and will unnecessarily prolong the interview process, during which your ideal candidate could have easily been offered another position. Depending on how many people are on each interview, it could take 2-5 business days for each interview to occur.
Then think about how the team will need to debrief on each candidate and the extra time it will take to get feedback from each interviewer. For these reasons, meet with your team early on and get ahead of any bad habits that could form:
Avoid adding too many cooks in the kitchen. Determine who exactly the candidate needs to meet with - typically the hiring manager and immediate 2-3 team members they will work closest with. Each candidate should meet with 3-4 members of your company, any more could prove to be overwhelming and unnecessary. Trust your employees to be prepared and make the right choice.
Avoid changing the interview process unless absolutely necessary. It can seem easy to ask candidates to meet with “just one more member of the team” after a process has completed, but no matter how well you try to phrase it, you are asking them for another 30-60 minutes of their time that you were not upfront about. If your team is finding they need the opinion of another individual more often than not, consider changing the process to add them into a panel/group interview earlier on. If it is a one-time case, be sure to be as open as to why you need the extra meeting instead of remaining vague.
Step 2: Determine what your interview questions are
During the interview process, candidates are deciding whether they want to work for you just as much as you’re trying to decide whether to hire them. You have only about 30-60 minutes to make a good impression on the candidate and to obtain the critical information you need about their skills, experience and personality.
Narrow down and rank the most important qualities, experiences, education and characteristics that a successful candidate would possess.
While there is nothing wrong with making a list of qualities you ideally want this candidate to have, this is the time to specifically list the qualities you need this candidate to have in order to be successful in the role.
If you’re stuck or having some trouble, determine the critical success factors of the job by looking at the top performers on the team.
Make a list of the above qualities, ranking them by “must have” before adding in “nice to have” skills and experiences. Use this list to break down the questions you’ll need to use to screen resumes and interview candidates.
This will defer from position to position and from industry to industry. Software Engineers do not necessarily need excellent people skills in order to do well in their role, while HR or Sales positions might. Again, remember to differentiate your “must have” qualities from your “nice to haves”
There are two main types of interview questions: situational questions and competency-based questions.
Situational questions will help you better understand how an applicant thinks and how he or she would react in a particular situation. One example could be, “Give me a specific example of a time when you used good judgment and logic in solving a problem.”
Select specific questions and write these down. You can use them as a scorecard for each candidate, so that you may also better compare the people you’re interviewing.
Identify the appropriate questions for the post-interview assessment of candidates by other interviewers. Make sure you are all on the same page as to which types of questions each person will ask.
Step 3: Discuss strategy with the other interviewers
There will be times you’re interviewing candidates along with others. In order to maintain a good flow and organized structure during the process, get with those individuals ahead of time to discuss what type of questions you will ask and who will ask what.
Avoid thinking of each interviewer as someone a candidate just needs to meet, be proactive with the time and determine the objective of each meeting. Try not to be too repetitive; maybe the first interview is with the hiring manager who will go through the resume in detail and the next interview will be more technically focused. For each candidate, note down what you’d like the next interviewer(s) to address if you did not get to certain questions.
Before Each Interview
Review resume and any screening/pre-screen notes before the interview
Even if you took a look at the notes and resume before you agreed to the interview, make sure to set aside some time the morning of the interview to review those again and note down specific questions you’d like to ask the candidate that pertain to their unique experience. If you are part of the second or third round of interviews, review the feedback provided by the individuals who already spoke to the candidate.
During the Interview
Give an outline and interview structure for the candidate
Take the first few minutes to start off with introductions before explaining what the outline of the interview will be like. You could begin with a brief description of the company and the job duties. Then let the applicant know that you will be asking job-related questions, followed by an opportunity for the candidate to ask questions. Providing a structure early on sets up the parameters of the interview, keeps you both focused, and gives the candidate an idea of what to expect.
I would suggest starting by giving the candidates an opportunity to ask some of their questions first. They will usually only ask a few questions in the beginning, so you will still have plenty of time to get to yours. It’s a small gesture but demonstrates a “people first” mindset and shows them that you appreciate the time they are taking to learn more about your company and the role.
Ask Only Job-related Questions.
Steer clear of personal, private and discriminatory questions. Here is a guide if you’d like to learn more and below are some examples of questions to avoid:
What is your current salary/compensation?
Are you a U.S. citizen? Were you born here? What is that accent you have?
How old are you? When were you born? When did you graduate from high school?
Are you married? Do you have any children? What are your child care arrangements? (Questions about family status are not job-related and should never be asked.)
What church do you go to? Do you celebrate [insert specific religious Holiday]?
Have you ever filed a worker's compensation claim? (You may not ask this question or any related question during the pre-offer stage.)
What disabilities or medical conditions do you have? Are you vaccinated (covid)? (If the candidate needs to come into the office, let them know your company’s policy instead.)
Review and Reassess
Review how your process is going after a few weeks and if there needs to be any changes or alterations. The best way to do this is set up a meeting where all members of the hiring team get together and discuss their feedback.
Are things moving smoothly? Is scheduling becoming an issue? If your team is identifying several issues and losing good candidates throughout the process, consult with Talent professionals who can address and assist your specific company needs.