Three (or More) is Usually an Interview Crowd in Business and at Work

It’s college graduation season, and several of my clients have hired newly graduated incumbents for their open jobs. It brings back memories of my own post-graduate interviewing experiences.

Freshly inked undergraduate English degree in hand during a fairly heinous recession, I was thrilled to get an interview as a public relations writer with a labor union. It was definitely a no-one-expects-The-Spanish-Inquisition moment: as I was escorted into the interview room, there were no fewer than 15 interviewers sitting on the same side of a long conference table;  and I was led to sit in a chair, about 15 feet away, in front of them. Now, I enjoy being on both sides of the interviewing table (as either the interviewer or the candidate), and I don’t mind speaking in front of groups. However, it was nearly impossible to maintain consistent eye contact with all of the interviewers, and it wasn’t really a relationship- or reputation-building interview experience.  All that was missing was the bright white-hot interrogation lamp to beam in my face.

Even more off-putting later in my career were two cattle-call interview experiences for leadership-level jobs at two different organizations, where the candidates were interviewed the same day, and ate lunch together in the same conference room. Now, for entry-level candidates fresh out of college or mass hiring for a new manufacturing or distribution facility (or actors auditioning for a play), a cattle-call interview process can make sense from an efficiency standpoint if handled respectfully, treating candidates at all times as current or prospective customers. In both cases, my candidate experience was poorly-to-rudely handled, harkening back to the Spanish-Inquisition-interview I experienced right out of college:

  • There was no consideration (and no non-disclosure agreement) guaranteeing the confidentiality of the interview process for the candidates, most of whom were currently employed, and who in all likelihood did not want their interview experience to become public knowledge to the other candidates present, especially in a smaller market like SmAlbany, NY;
  • The strongly implied message was that the employer was much more important in the process than the potential employees / candidates (e.g., you would be lucky to get a job with them);
  • And one retired consultant interviewer (who probably should have stayed retired) illegally asked me how old I was, if I was married and if I had children.

Some reputation-building interview process pointers to consider:

  • In almost all cases, your candidates would like to keep the fact that they are interviewing with you confidential – from a professional courtesy standpoint, your efforts to keep that confidentiality conveys mutual respect;
  • Panel interviews (e.g., two or more interviewers interviewing one candidate) can save time for the employer. However, try to keep the interviewer teams to two interviewers each. More than two interviewers does not permit good relationship-building and candidate ability to maintain eye contact during interviews, and risks telegraphing a Spanish-Inquisition-type culture;
  • If business needs require a quick ramp-up / group hiring, act as if you were inviting your customers to take a tour of your facility when inviting candidates to group-interview. And communicate in advance that it will be a group interview structure in both your employment ads and your interview appointment emails and phone calls to candidates, so they can both prepare and decide if they’d like to participate in your group hiring process – or not;
  • One exception to keeping interviewer groups small: mock sales presentations as the work-sampling stage of an interview process.  Good sales folks should be able to present effectively to interviewer groups of any size. The same courtesy of a heads-up that it will be a group presentation applies here as well.

How will you ensure the best customer service for your candidates during your organization’s interview process, in business and at work?


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