Building and leading an interview team

by Managing People At Work on November 1, 2000

When you’re looking to hire new people, is all the weight on your shoulders? Or do you conduct interviews as part of a team?

 Remember your accountability. A lot depends on whether your interview teammates are your subordinates, superiors, peers, outside staffers, or some of each. But in any case, remember that the mission of the team is to help you make a decision, not to decide for you. (Or, worse yet, to have veto power over your decisions.)

If you feel the team wants to make a hiring decision that you’re not comfortable with, put on the brakes, and if you don’t see a candidate you like, then look further. You’re the one who’s going to be accountable for the new hire’s success.

 Match teammates with goals. Everyone who’s on your interview team should be there to help you make a hire that moves you closer to your work goals. These may be goals of the whole enterprise. You might, for example, ask the leader of a diversity initiative, or of an employee-involvement program, to be on your team.

If, instead, you’re focusing on your team’s own goals, make that explicit. What objectives do you expect the new hire to meet? What will happen if they’re not met? Which of your people will be most affected? Those are the people to add to your team. Focusing on goals as you build the team will help each interviewer offer better input to the process.

 Standardize participation. You may decide to ask teammates to each evaluate candidates on certain criteria, and then put that input together as you make your decision. Or you may ask the team members to each rank candidates on a wide range of criteria and look for a consensus.

Either way, make sure that your teammates are doing the same thing in the same way for each candidate. There’s little benefit in asking people to “sit in” on an interview if neither they nor the interviewee know why. Tell people what you need them to look for, and tell the candidate what your teammates are looking for. This will get you better input and help you avoid sloppy or biased hiring.

Bottom-Line Idea

When do you take lunch? How about your team members? Expert managers are reporting that their people are taking later lunch breaks — sometimes as late as 3 p.m. Most of us are more productive in midday than we are in mid-afternoon. If your team has a rigid lunch-at-noon policy, rethink it.