How to Run an Effective Interview Debrief as a Hiring Manager

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Philip Spain

8

min read

|

8 Jul 2024

You know how vital it is to make the right hiring decisions, especially in a competitive job market. Having a streamlined and effective interview process can often be the difference between securing top talent and missing out. However, coordinating and getting everyone on the same page can be challenging. While many companies have an interview process in place, few take the time to truly master the interview debrief. If you're keen on improving team calibration, making confident hiring choices, and elevating your hiring quality, this guide is for you.

Let's explore how to prepare for a successful interview debrief that not only clarifies insights but also fosters better decision-making and ensures you bring the best candidates on board.

1. Preparing for the Interview Debrief

1.1 What Is an Interview Debrief?

An interview debrief is a structured meeting where all interviewers discuss their thoughts and feedback on candidates they've recently interviewed. The goal is to consolidate opinions and insights, ensuring a comprehensive evaluation of each candidate. This meeting allows you to identify different perspectives on a candidate's performance and aligns the team's vision on what to look for in your ideal hire.

Why is it important? A debrief helps in identifying any biases or discrepancies in the interview process, ensuring every candidate is judged fairly and consistently. It encourages transparent communication among team members, reducing the chances of making decisions based on incomplete or misunderstood information.

Pro-tip: Schedule debrief sessions for shortly after the interviews are completed. It’ll help focus people’s attention and give them a deadline to get their feedback together.

1.2 Who Should Be Involved?

Involving the right people in the debrief is crucial. Include:

  • Hiring Manager: Typically leads the debrief and ensures the discussion stays on track.

  • Interviewers: All those who interviewed the candidate, providing varied perspectives.

  • HR Representative: Guides the discussion to meet company policies and ensure a fair process. This is optional and will depend on the size of your company and the role you’re hiring for.

Each participant brings unique insights, ensuring a well-rounded evaluation of each candidate. The hiring manager facilitates the meeting to keep it organised and focused. The HR representative acts as a mediator, ensuring all feedback remains constructive and aligned with company values and hiring standards.

Pro-tip: Limit the number of participants to maintain a productive conversation, ideally between 3-5 members.

1.3 Preparing Your Questions and Criteria for the Team

Before the debrief, prepare a list of key questions and criteria to guide the discussion. This ensures everyone evaluates candidates based on the same metrics.

Key Questions:

  • How did the candidate's skills align with the job requirements?

  • How well did the candidate demonstrate their ability to adapt and learn in new situations?

  • Were there any significant strengths or areas of concern?

Criteria:

  • Skills and Experience: Technical abilities, past job experience.

  • Problem-Solving: How they approach and resolve issues.

  • Communication: Clarity, coherence, and engagement during the interview.

Having clear questions and criteria ensures the debrief remains focused and efficient. It also helps in minimising personal biases and makes it easier to compare candidates objectively and fairly.

Using Evidenced during the interview allows everyone involved to capture a full record of the interview with video, transcript, scorecards and bookmarks for key moments. This allows everyone to rewatch and fairly assess the candidate against the criteria for the role.

2. Conducting the Interview Debrief

2.1 Gathering Timely Feedback

After each interview, it's crucial to gather immediate feedback from all participants. Doing this promptly ensures you capture fresh impressions before any bias or forgetfulness sets in. If you have back-to-back interviews, be sure to schedule time to review the recording of each interview and capture detailed feedback on each candidate.

Encourage your team to be specific in their notes. Avoid vague comments like "seemed good" or "might fit". Instead, describe particular instances, such as "explained the tech stack transition clearly" or "took extra time to understand the question".

Make sure you’re running structured interviews and capturing information systematically using scorecards. If you tie the information you’re capturing to a Job levelling matrix, then you can ensure that you team is fairly and accurately assessing the candidate against the expected criteria for the role.

2.2 Discussing Candidate Strengths and Weaknesses

Immediately after gathering feedback, bring your team together to discuss each candidate’s strengths and weaknesses. Begin by reviewing the positive attributes. This can foster a constructive dialogue and ensure that all team members feel heard and respected. Some points to consider include:

  • Technical proficiency: Did the candidate demonstrate the required skills?

  • Problem-solving: Were they able to think on their feet?

Once you’ve mapped out the strengths, transition to the areas of improvement. Here, maintain a balanced tone and focus on specific observations rather than general judgments. It's useful to ask questions like:

  • Where did the candidate struggle?

  • Did they show a learning mindset when challenged?

Pro-tip: Refer back to your scorecard structure and levelling matrix to ensure that you’re assessing each candidate fully against the same criteria

2.3 Deep diving into specific areas

Focusing on specific areas related to the job role ensures you're making an informed decision. Narrowing down to critical competencies for the role can help effectively weigh candidate suitability. Discuss specific scenarios:

  • Past projects: Were the candidate’s examples relevant and detailed?

  • Role-specific skills: Did they exhibit the necessary technical or leadership skills?

  • Adaptability: How did they handle questions outside their comfort zone?

In addition, consider potential red flags. It is beneficial to explore any inconsistencies or concerns raised. Use a methodical approach by referring to your prepared questions and criteria. This allows the debate to remain fair and consistent across all candidates.

Use these points as a guideline to ensure the discussion remains concise and productive. Avoid getting sidetracked by irrelevant details and focus on what truly matters for the job role.

Pro-tip: Evidenced allows you to bookmark key moments during the interview and highlight any potential red flags. This makes it really easy to review these together as a team during a debrief meeting.

2.4 Making a Consensus Decision

Finally, guide the team to reach a consensus decision. Begin by summarising the discussed points for clarity, then invite each member to state their final recommendation. A structured format for decision making might include:

  • Yes/No/Maybe votes from each team member.

  • A quick round of justifications if there's a disparity in votes.

  • A final decision facilitated by a voting system or weighted scoring matrix.

Encouraging an open dialogue ensures that every voice is heard, and biases are minimised. Sometimes, despite structured discussions, reaching a consensus might be challenging. In such cases, it’s essential to have a pre-agreed decision-making process, whether it’s the hiring manager’s final call or a majority vote.

Pro-tip: Document the decision-making process and reasons for the final choice. This approach not only promotes transparency but also serves as a learning tool for future interview debriefs.

3. After the Interview Debrief

3.1 Communicating the Decision

Effective communication is crucial once you have reached a decision about a candidate. You need to ensure the process is as transparent and respectful as possible. Begin by informing the candidate promptly about the outcome to maintain their trust in your organisation.

Use these steps to communicate effectively:

  • Decision reached promptly.

  • Respectful and clear communication.

  • Formal notification like an email or a call.

  • Transparency about the next steps.

Pro-tip: Draft a template for acceptance and rejection notifications to ensure consistency and professionalism in your communication. Take a look at our guide on providing feedback to candidates.

Next, share the decision with your internal team to keep everyone on the same page. This avoids any confusion and ensures that all team members are aware of the candidate's status. Scheduling a brief follow-up meeting or sending out a team-wide email can be beneficial. Make sure to thank everyone for their contributions and feedback during the interview process.

3.2 Learning from the Process

Continuous improvement is essential for an effective recruitment process. Gather insights from your team about what worked well and what could be improved. Schedule a brief retrospective meeting to discuss the interview process, criteria, and team collaboration.

Areas to focus on might include:

  • Efficiency of the debrief process.

  • Relevance of the questions and criteria.

  • Team alignment and communication.

  • Candidate experience and feedback.

Pro-tip: Keep a dedicated document for feedback and improvements to track progress over time and adjust your interview debrief process accordingly.

Reviewing and reflecting on the process will highlight areas for improvement, ensuring your hiring practices evolve as your company grows. Document lessons learned and update your interview debrief guidelines to incorporate any adjustments. This practice not only improves efficiency but also enhances the overall quality of your hiring decisions.

In conclusion, running an effective interview debrief requires preparation, clear communication, and a commitment to continuous improvement. By engaging your team, providing constructive feedback, and learning from each debrief session, you ensure that your hiring process is efficient, fair, and effective, thereby contributing to the overall growth and success of your company.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What to ask in an interview debrief?

Ask about the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses, specific impressions from the interview, any concerns or red flags, and overall recommendations for hiring.

How to run a debrief?

Run a debrief by gathering immediate feedback, discussing strengths and weaknesses, analysing specific areas like technical skill, and arriving at a consensus decision. Ensure all team members are prepared, and facilitate the discussion effectively to reach a clear, collective decision.

How long should an interview debrief session last?

An effective interview debrief session typically lasts between 30 to 60 minutes, depending on the complexity of the role and the number of candidates being discussed. It's important to keep the session focused and efficient to maintain engagement and productivity. If discussing multiple candidates, allocate about 10-15 minutes per candidate. For more senior or complex roles, you may need to extend the time slightly. Remember to stick to the prepared questions and criteria to keep the discussion on track and ensure all necessary points are covered within the allotted time