This is something we talk about a lot in our other guides, but it’s deserving of its own exploration. Interviewing and feeding back in a timely, fair and thorough manner is tricky: you’ll be juggling your own priorities and processes with the processes and priorities of multiple candidates, who are likely doing all that again with other businesses. It can get messy quickly!
Your goal is to find the best person… but in a timely manner. The hiring process cannot be hasty, but also cannot drag on either. Not having the person has to be painful enough to motivate you, but not so painful that you rush things and hire the wrong person.
It’s a delicate balance to strike. Many businesses tend to veer between two extremes, or leave it to the personal schedule of the people doing the hiring. Often the issue is that the actual process itself – the nuts and bolts of how the hiring will take place – is scarcely thought about. The interviews themselves might receive plenty of consideration, but how to get to and then beyond them is ignored.
Let’s fix that. Our first piece of advice?
Concentrate your time
We strongly recommend that when hiring (as when fundraising or anything else critical and intense) you invest a larger percentage of your time for a shorter period of time.
Why? Firstly because good people get snapped up – even the head-hunted/passively looking ones. As of 2018 this time pressure is especially acute; it’s more of a jobseeker’s market out there right now than it has been since the 2008 financial crisis. Second, it’s equally likely that you’ll get interview fatigue if it drags on for too long.
Every process will obviously different depending on the level of seniority you require and the systemic needs of your role. What follows, although only a guide, will still be a useful comparison even if it doesn’t fit your business. Here’s how we suggest thinking about your hiring process timeline:
Phase 1 – Planning (2-5 days)
- Write the job spec
- A strong job spec will do more than find better candidates, it’ll help YOU define the role to yourself. This is an absolutely fundamental point – everything else will pivot off of it, so it’s important you get it right. As it happens, we have a tool to do just that. If you’re stuck, check out the Juggle Hiring Canvas.
- Confirm your process
- How are you going to actually organise and divide the hiring path? Try to standardise the process as much as possible (it’s the only way to be fair to all your candidates) but know that you’re going to need some wiggle room (supplementary interviews etc) at some point. Better to plan for it and not need it than need it and watch the wheels come off.
- Select which channels you’ll use to attract candidates. We know which one we’d use.
- Brief recruiters to make sure you’re completely on the same page. Again, we know who we would ask.
Phase 2 – Round one of interviews (telephone)
You really shouldn’t be interviewing loads of people at once. It’s too unwieldy, and the aforementioned interview fatigue is bound to set in at some point. Not every candidate will get the same experience, which is unfair for them and inefficient for you.
Instead, try and curate your list a bit. If possible, do 5-10 first round interviews over the phone or video call. Keep doing these until you really have your clear 2-3 final round interviews confirmed. Like we said, give up a higher percentage of your time now, and get it done in a shorter period. Once you’ve got a strong (but short) list of candidates it’s time for the face-to-face stuff.
Phase 3 – Face to face interviews: second/third/finals (1-2 weeks)
If you think you could use some help on interviewing, check out our guide. In terms of scheduling you’ll be at the mercy of circumstances, but hopefully narrowing it down to a shortlist will give you the time you need. If you cannot find the right candidate from your shortlist, begin the hiring process again, either by conducting new telephone interviews or revisiting candidates you were previously on the fence about. Although this may seem laborious, repeating one efficient process provides a better experience for all involved than stretching out a single process with no defined end.
You can hire thoroughly and successfully therefore in as little as 2 weeks if you’re lucky with your first batch of candidates. Normally, however, it takes 4-6 weeks if you’re both dedicating time AND doing your best to move quickly. On that note…
Try to keep up the pace
One of the hardest things about interviewing is timing. In an ideal world you would want to see everybody in one day so your brain can then filter and make decisions fairly by comparing evenly. But even that approach is flawed, because your mood at 11am is likely to be very different to 4pm. Judges quite famously send more people to jail before lunch than after. Unconscious bias is likely to creep in no matter what.
So what to do?
Firstly, we’d recommend trying to evenly spread your interviews. People tend to shy away from making decisions when presented with a large group, which creates a positive bias towards candidates who, for example, come the day after a manic day of interviewing.
Another useful tactic is to move everything along very quickly, without waiting to compare to other candidates. Try to work solely on the context of the interview, and as soon as you’ve decided someone is good (hopefully on the call or in the room) – ask for their next available slot. Don’t disengage without knowing what the next step will be and when it will be completed by.
This still has to be handled delicately, as some people will be actively interviewing and others will not. Your momentum could scare people away if you’re clumsy about it (just as some candidates will lose interest or get snapped up elsewhere if you’re too ponderous in your movements – the number one reason for candidates turning down a job offer is because another company moved faster).
Is there someone better around the corner?
A very common challenge when interviewing. You’ve interviewed someone, like them, but think you might have someone better waiting around the corner. You want to keep them warm.
First things first. Have an honest conversation with yourself. If you were at the urgent urgent phase (the place you never want to be in, the place where you have to rush the hire) – would you consider hiring this person?
If the answer is no, then let them know. The only thing worse than being ghosted is being dragged along disingenuously. In an ideal world you’ll have something positive and something constructive to share. An example:
Hi [their name],
We’ve reflected on our conversation and, unfortunately, decided not to progress this time. Ultimately we/I didn’t have complete comfort this was the right fit.
Your knowledge of [specific topic] was really impressive and your enthusiasm for the subject really came across. We/I was less clear about your interest and enthusiasm when the discussion moved on to [another key topic] and our/my suggestion for the future would be to make this clearer, particularly if it is an area you’d like to continue working in.
From our side, we enjoyed meeting you and wish you the best in your next move. [Include something personal here if it isn’t disingenuous.]
Smply saying “we didn’t have complete comfort this was the right fit” might sound simplistic. People want a reason, don’t they?
Well actually… no. Or at least, they want a reason that you’re probably not in a position to give. The feedback section offering positive and constructive feedback is useful, but the honest truth is that you’re probably not stopping the hiring process with this person for just one reason. Or two reasons. Or three reasons – it’s likely much more complicated than that.
It might relate to other people you’re interviewing; some specific feedback another team member gave; something you can’t even explain to yourself. You internally should try and make sense of these reasons because it will make you a better decision-maker, but you shouldn’t offer these reasons to a candidate because they may be half-baked at best and not particularly constructive.
Simply saying that you’re not completely comfortable is not only simple and true, it’s totally understandable. Most professionals will understand this if it is coupled with some good and useful feedback about them is an individual.
It would be great if you could make simple, yes/no black/white decisions about candidates. But the truth is that simply isn’t feasible. If it were, you wouldn’t need recruiters, or candidate software, or even interviews. You’d be able to look at a CV and that would be it. But hiring is a grey area. Better to admit it, be confident in your opinions, and honest – to a point – with your candidates.
A useful framework for feedback
- Feedback on the outcome of the interview process itself ie: not progressing/progressing. KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid. Don’t waffle, make excuses or go into unnecessary detail.
- Feedback on the professional themselves: use 1-2 positive points and 1 constructive point. Be polite, but honest constructive feedback is much more useful than something wishy-washy; the candidate will appreciate it.