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5 Ways To Improve Your Company's Horribly Inefficient Interview Process

Hint: Spell out in the job description exactly what success looks like after six months.

5 Ways To Improve Your Company's Horribly Inefficient Interview Process
[Photo: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images]

It isn't just fast-growing companies that create bottlenecks for themselves at the interview stage of the hiring process. But those are generally the companies where hiring too slowly can hurt the most. Here are five things to reduce how long it takes to interview job candidates without compromising on the quality of hires you make.

1. Create Accountability For Hires At The Team Level

The CEO shouldn’t interview every candidate. That’s time-consuming and adds a layer of implied approval from someone who ultimately won't be accountable for a candidate’s performance. But especially in startups and high-growth companies, C-level leaders are often still involved in the hiring process, and it isn't always clear when it's time for them to step back.

The real work needs to be done in the trenches, which means the accountability to making good hires rests with them. Using a simple scorecard approach, my company grades candidates on the attributes we feel they should possess in order to succeed. Intuition is often wrong, so keeping documented proof to back up hunches helps better identify the right candidates. We use a specific set of questions to measure desired applicants’ attributes, which further helps us standardize the way we evaluate candidates.

2. Move To A Committee Model

In most companies, candidates move through successive rounds of individual interviews. Committees, on the other hand, allow everyone to get an impression all at once, streamlining the process and decreasing the possibility that an individual interviewer will miss something critical. Committees also take unilateral hiring power away from someone who might be willing to compromise to fill a role.

Our hiring committees understand the company's vision and the responsibilities of the position and uses that knowledge to find a good fit. The committee reviews all information simultaneously, including resumes and scorecards. Each hiring committee includes a member of the recruiting team, a hiring manager, and an unbiased third party.

The team then tries to provide a well-rounded assessment of every candidate: The recruiting team member holds the information, the hiring manager has the most to gain or lose by hiring a good fit, and the third party ensures quality by maintaining a holistic view of the company’s needs.

3. Base Job Descriptions On Outcomes And Performance, Not Experience

The best hire a company can make is often the up-and-comer who's willing to step up to a new challenge, and not necessarily someone who has been around the block.

Our job descriptions detail what success in the advertised role looks like at both the six-month and one-year marks; we think of it as providing the candidate with an upfront performance review. We also advertise position-specific KPIs, responsibility expectations, and the top five job responsibilities that we measure during performance reviews. This combination helps us choose not only the most experienced candidate, but also the one we believe can best help reach our goals.

Clearly defined outcomes can also scare off the wrong candidate. If people know they can't meet expectations, they'll often opt out.

4. Check References Early

Check references after the initial phone interview (but prior to the committee interview) to get the fullest impression of a candidate. This allows you to verify the information you’ve collected and test any glaring red flags that would exclude someone from the pool of viable candidates. It also removes the awkwardness of a bad reference check that forces you to rethink an otherwise promising interview.

And remember: The goal is not to discern whether candidates were well liked by their previous coworkers or supervisors. It’s to test the strengths and weaknesses you’ve identified in them and make sure they’re strong fits. To that end, ask candidates for these three references: a supervisor, a peer, and a subordinate (if applicable).

Ask questions focused on the context in which the reference worked with the applicant, including the applicant’s demonstrated strengths and areas for improvement, but also their overall character—for instance:

  • "Did this person contribute to the greater good beyond the job description?"
  • "What would you not hire this person to do?"
  • "Who else do you think we should talk to regarding this person?"

Then have the reference rate the applicant’s overall performance on a scale from one to 10.

5. Put A Cap On Interview Rounds

Anything beyond three or four interview rounds is a waste of time and resources. Our best hires have been the ones we felt were right after the second interview.

As your company grows, senior leadership must recognize that finding the right talent and culture fit for new employees starts with empowering teams and making them accountable for hires. If you focus on growth by defining expectations clearly, your company will grow faster without having to devote ever great resources in the process.

Robert Glazer is the founder and managing director of Acceleration Partners, which was ranked #5 on Great Places to Work's Best Workplaces for Women and #8 on Fortune's Best Workplaces for Flexibility.

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