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This Crucial Step Is Missing From Your Hiring Process

Letting your team members meet with job candidates and debriefing afterward can help you make better hires and develop the talent you have.

This Crucial Step Is Missing From Your Hiring Process

[Photo: Flickr user Matthias Ripp]

The goal of any hiring process is to hire the best talent. That much is obvious. But the way you hire can also help you develop—and, ultimately, hang onto—the team members you already have.

In fact, if your hiring process doesn't actually make your team better before it leads to a single hire, you might be missing out. Here's one key step your hiring process needs to include in order to do that.

The Art Of The Interview Debrief

Too often, hiring decisions are made exclusively by hiring managers who don't involve their existing team members. That's a mistake. Anytime you're filling a position on your team, you need to devote at least part of the interview process to a short meeting with the other staff that the new hire will be working with. Not only can their points of view help make a good choice, but it's also a professional development opportunity for them, too.

Some of the most memorable moments of my early career took place after our team had interviewed someone and we were comparing notes on the candidate. I remember once offering my take about how smart and qualified someone was (or wasn’t), only to have my reasoning crumble when the CEO said, "I know this person is really smart, but how do you see him making us a more successful company? What do you expect him to do?"

I’d fumble through an answer I should've already had in mind, but much more important was the chance to hear everyone else weigh that question, including the CEO. When a team is searching for a new hire, it forces the current members to ask fundamental questions about the nature of the team today. They have to recognize strengths and weaknesses and understand the current and future needs of the business.

All this comes to the fore in a debriefing session after an interview. The discussion forces everyone to clarify their expectations and understanding of the present state of things. In fact, it’s one of the best ways to find out about the hidden problems in your organization, because new hires are often evaluated by whether they can help solve one of them.

Ideally, effective teams share a vision on these fundamental issues. Keeping everyone aligned isn't always easy, especially if you're short-staffed and looking to fill a role. But making the post-interview debrief a mainstay of the hiring process can help keep everyone aligned.

Three Guidelines For Debriefs That Work

For starters, giving all your team members a chance to meet with job candidates is the first hurdle, and it's usually the biggest one. Sure, scheduling issues can make this difficult, but your existing staff doesn't need to sit in on every single interview, just the relatively small handful of final-round candidates. In order to make the logistics easier, you can even have those candidates come in for a group interview at the same time slot as your weekly team meeting.

Then you need to make this opportunity count, and that's where a debrief comes in. It isn’t rocket science; half the battle is simply making the commitment to actually do it. That said, there are a few simple do’s and don’ts that will get you started on the right foot.

  1. Don’t let people email in their feedback about a candidate. Writing up copious notes is great, but it doesn’t let you off the hook. This conversation must happen verbally and preferably in-person so everyone hears each other’s points of view.
  2. Don’t collect feedback from people individually. The purpose of the debrief is for everyone to benefit from each other’s perspectives and experience. Without that, people aren’t learning from each other.
  3. Everyone must answer the "Should we hire this person?" question and explain their reasoning. If the answer is "I don’t know," then the person must explain why they can’t make a determination and what they'd need in order to do so.

There are no exceptions to these rules, no matter how senior or junior the position you're looking to fill. Each debrief should follow this format consistently and involve your current staff to the same extent.

Personally, I’ve learned more about business and leadership from these sessions than from any other single activity in my career. I’ve also witnessed over and over again the personal growth in others that resulted from these discussions. Do it enough and you’ll start to see people thinking and communicating about the business more thoughtfully than ever.

It can be tempting to find quicker ways for people to offer their feedback on a candidate. As a manager, it's probably most efficient just to cut them out of the decision-making process altogether and just interview and hire on your own. But hiring properly and managing well aren't strictly about efficiency. It's up to you to include your team members in the process and hold a proper candidate debrief afterward. You, your team, and your company can’t afford not to do it right.

Christian Bonilla designs analytics software at Resonate, despite having no formal engineering training. You can follow his business ramblings at or on Twitter at @smartlikehow.

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