Improving the Objectivity of Your Interview Debrief

Author: Tim Gardner | Source: HCI | Published: August 19, 2013

The interview process for professional jobs may never be perfected. It is dependent on the organization, the role, the hiring manager, the recruiter, and the candidate. The process is regulated to control illegal bias and new ideas on how to assess seem to crop up daily.

And people still make hiring mistakes.

There are a lot of reasons why. And these vary by employer. Many managers feel that in a one hour discussion they can learn everything they need to know that wasn’t on the resume. They believe they have a keen intuition and can read people well enough to make the call based on that meeting.

They can, undoubtedly, form an opinion. And many times, it will be correct, or at least sufficiently correct. But every once in a while, the process fails, and a hire that once had everyone smiling and giving a big “thumbs up” turns out to be someone they regret hiring.

Along the way, some sophisticated tools are used. Resumes are electronically scanned for key words and experiences, tests are administered, background checks are performed, and situational questions are posed to find out what the candidate’s actual experience was in handling a particular type of situation. This may mean that a few lies are told or the truth gets stretched a bit.

Now let me ask you this – How sophisticated is your debrief process following the actual interview? Do you take a vote among the interviewers? Do you weigh the importance of each “Yes” or “No” based on the experience and batting average of the interviewers? Does the interview process itself have the most significant weight in the hiring process?

I would like to recommend you consider some discipline in the debrief process, and it looks like three key points.
1.     Have someone who never met the candidate lead the debrief. This allows for the discussion leader to ask clarifying questions and dig deeper on opinions offered.
2.      Have the person leading the debrief talk with each of the interviewers 1:1 before the group meets. This allows each interviewer to provide their full impression without being interrupted or challenged by another interviewer. It happens.
3.      Train the debrief leader to listen for words that trigger deeper questions. My personal favorites: “I think this candidate would do well here.” Or “I think we have a good fit with the team.”  These are statements that need to be qualified with why the interviewer feels that way. Does that have anything to do with the effectiveness of the team? Will that somehow lead to a superior business result? Or are they just interesting, inviting personalities?

After all that, the group can meet and the debrief leader can summarize the points of view and look for agreeing and differing perspectives. I don’t advocate anonymity of opinion, so interviewers may have to speak up to explain their point of view. But I think that this gives the candidate at least one last objective shot at being considered fairly.

The process is ultimately one of human decision, but we can take more steps to assure objectivity and successful choices.
An engineer by training, Tim Gardner worked his way in HR when he realized the real optimization of manufacturing processes came from how the employees were managed. Currently the Director of Organizational Effectiveness for Kimberly-Clark Corporation, Tim has spent the majority of his career working with the creation and improvement of work teams, both hourly and professional. Tim is a member of the HR Bloggers Network, and his blog, The HR Introvert, looks at his HR work from the perspective of a non-traditional HR Pro. You can connect with him via LinkedIn and Twitter.