Building teams

Conducting a foolproof interview process

Get the interview right and the right candidates will become the right employees. This page provides a basic how-to guide for successfully setting up and executing an interview process for US candidates.
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1. Building the interview process

• Define your company’s core values before your interview process. These will directly what interview questions you ask and what kind of answers you seek.

• Map the interview process and timeline of each step before beginning the process.

• Your HR team should work alongside your relevant functional team to develop the interview process for candidates.

• Standardize processes, especially one for sharing feedback/evaluations amongst interviewers after the interviewees.

2. Setting your team members’ responsibilities in the interview process

First, determine who will be conducting interviews of candidates. Strongly recommended participants include:

• Your employee to whom the candidate would be reporting (to test skills)

• The HR rep who would be responsible for the person/team (to test culture)

• A senior executive of the company (to test fit to company and strategy objectives)

Other participants could include an employee with whom the person would be working, and someone influential to the culture of the team.

Then, consider how to indirectly engage other members of your company:

• Encourage people to introduce themselves to interviewees when in the office

• Seek out indirect feedback on interactions with candidates

• Ask for help to cover interviewers’ business-as-usual responsibilities during interview season.

3. Designing interview questions

Seek to evaluate three aspects of a candidate: Relevant skills, subject experience and cultural fit.

• Standardize interview questions beforehand: Create standard sets of questions, aligned with the skills sought. During the interview, an interviewer can then choose which questions within the set are applicable.

• Align behavioral questions to your company values: These types of questions are most effective for testing cultural fit, so align them to the values that define your company’s culture.

• Ask simpler questions to candidates, especially in US interviews: Interviewees tend to expatiate and will be more revealing when simpler questions are asked.

• Consider including a case study in the interview process: Americans are hardwired to sell themselves well, so use a live case study as a means of truly testing skills and experience in action.

4. Diversity and inclusion

Consciousness in this area is now standard, but how it lives in your process will be determined by your company’s unique culture. Design a hiring process that accounts for diversity and inclusion in the following ways:

• Encouraging diverse applications before the interview: Distribute job application to multiple channels, and, if possible, target channels accessible to diverse applicants. If working with external recruiters: mandate they provide diverse candidates

• Creating inclusive interviews with control for unconscious biases: Conduct a blind evaluation process of candidates’ written material (e.g. remove names or gender/other status identifications from interviewers’ answers). Make no concessions on critical skills but be more flexible with nice-to-have skills that can be taught or are not essential in the position. This may help account for disparate access to previous skill development opportunities.

Commit your executive leadership to prioritize diversity and inclusion throughout the company. If these are true priorities, these efforts will succeed.

5. Informal references

Put weight on informal references: informal references are better positioned to give unbiased views. US applicants, perhaps better than others, likely select primed referees who have positive things to say about them. Therefore, identify informal references through conversations with the candidates, LinkedIn connections and connections from other social media platforms.

6. Extending an offer and negotiating with candidates

Consult with others directly involved in the interviewing process before extending an offer to someone (this could set a new hire up for failure and/or fray team collaboration). Once done, set out a strict timeline for making offers and responding to candidates.

7. Benchmarking against competing offers

Discourage benchmarking your offer to those from competitors or other companies (besides understanding what the general market package tends to be for the position). Instead, focus your pitch to the candidate on the opportunity to work with an amazing team building a meaningful product. American candidates are significantly influenced by a sense of purpose and mission in their work. Broadly: ask “what would make this person come here?” and provide, to the best of your ability, a pre-emptive answer to the candidate.

“ US candidates interview well and are often very effusive and great at the larger vision of the business. Pre-warn candidates you are going to drill into detail. This is more insightful.” – Ed Boyes, US CEO, Hello Fresh

“ US folks are hard wired to sell themselves. At the final stage, get them to come in and present a case study. People are always presenting themselves internally or externally to various stakeholders and it’s a great way to see if they have taken the time to understand the business and come prepared. It really weeds out some people who on paper, or after an initial chat, you thought were great.” Joel Frish, Prodigy Finance

How do you hire for a remote role?

The life adjustments, unique work dynamics, and tactical outcomes typically expected of a remote role require someone experienced at working remotely. Prioritize candidates with a history of demonstrated success in remote roles.

 

Hiring process best practices for a remote office/position

Do more cultural interviews for a remote position than for an in-person position. The cultural connection is even more essential remotely than in-person, where proximity helps foster collaboration and create accountability.

Replicate the work environment as much as possible in the interview process. Video calls and phone screenings evaluate the candidate’s communication style and ability to complete and convey work remotely. A good rule of thumb for gauging effective phone and video screenings is the following: did you feel like you were sitting in the same room with the candidate?

Structuring effective flex (or part-time) arrangements

It is important to note that not every position in your company would work as a flex or part-time arrangement. The ideal flex or part-time position is…

• primarily a tactical role, without many strategic functions.

independent, in some cases project-based work distributed piecemeal across the team.

When flex roles take on strategic responsibilities, the work process could grind to a halt: “Let’s table the conversation until Jenny comes back and approves.”

 

That said, there is significant value that flex roles can provide in encouraging diversity in your company:

• providing flex opportunities allows a company to easily accommodate good employees with a diversity of life experiences and identities.

• providing a flex opportunity can create positive incentives for employees: e.g. a new mother provided the choice of a flex role can self-determine, upon returning to work, when in the day she would be most productive.

Beware: The expectations of a flex role, if not handled correctly, can turn it into a de facto full-time role. In one example, a two-day a week HR worker actually ended up working 35 – 45 hours a week because the company consistently sent her assignments outside of work hours.

“ Avoid hiring junior people as remote workers – if they are inexperienced workers, they might not know what this [type of work arrangement] entails/requires” – Bec Sankauskas, Bexouce

“ If you can’t be excited with connecting with them over the phone, you’re probably not going to call them. You’d probably email them, which will make the work process take forever.” Joseph Dierking, Bexouce

 

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