Interviewing, it’s time for some new rules

Dan Barker is a Leadership & Organizational Consultant – He has led and supported teams across the globe.

The ethics of how interviewing is completed has not had a hard look in quite some time. The fundamentals will remain valid, but consider all the changes over the last 20 years. Has interviewing evolved? Are the ethics reshaping through each phase? As organizations get busier and more diverse, leaders must understand their role in the interview process and how to fulfill it ethically while supporting the business’s initiatives.

A growing problem

As a leader for years, the same items have been the focus of ethical interviewing. Are we using interview guides and consistent questions. Are there two people in the interview? Do not interview or hire friends or people where an imbalanced relationship may appear. Often the training for leaders focuses on getting complete answers and, of course, the traditional legal areas of interviewing. Organizations cannot afford to discriminate against candidates from uneducated leaders.

Many organizations have adopted a focus on promoting from within. This effort has helped keep employees focused on their performance, which creates drive in a career track within their current organization. Fiduciaries have benefited from low churn by developing and promoting leaders from within their walls. Leaders start gaming for their team members, and employees are encouraged to reach out and build a “partnership” with the department leader they would like to work. This effort has created problems in other areas and muddied how relationships are accepted. These growing issues have forced organizations to look hard at what networking is in their organization and how it has affected diversity.

In the new workforce landscape, human resource teams are quickly being eliminated to a ticket system where HR teams are centralized and only engaged for a few specific processes. The rest of the responsibilities have been placed on the plate of operational leaders. The removal of HR, unfortunately, has opened the door to all kinds of issues. Some of the worst offenses are how timelines affect hiring and the worst violation of just hand-picking promotions. This approach to interviewing or any of the supporting parts of the HRM process is risky. It essentially comes from a system where organizations are saying the overseer is all based on employees coming forward to report potential offenses.

A stronger awareness of diversity has put all organizations on notice about how they support under-recognized groups, especially when hiring and even more so when it comes to leadership positions. It is important to pause here and recognize the injustice for many groups in how they have been considered for promotions, including the additional problem of balanced pay. The direct effort to correct this is not the dilemma. Depending on how these efforts are executed, the potential dilemma can deplete organizations of critical skills that directly support sustainability. The combination of poor recruiting and relationship issues shared above come together to create all kinds of problems with employee relations and performance in KPIs.

So much focus is placed on things like consistency of questions or getting responses. However, the consistency of each candidate’s experience is rarely considered and seldom reviewed. The lasting experience that is left with each candidate from each posting becomes the internal island of misfit toys. How many interviews are required for each posting? What is the cadence of interviews, and how are they scheduled? How long does each posting go, and how long is each candidate in the posting? These metrics are critical and could offer all kinds of insights. When HR teams are not present or engaged, these quickly become problems that result in losing talent out the back door.

The internal hiring process

The internal hiring process is broken in most organizations, especially if there is no HR partner present in the process. There are solutions; it is one of those situations of “if you could suggest a drastic change, what would it look like?” Well, consider this! Why are your overworked, front-line leaders so heavily involved in hiring their peers and direct reports? The mentioned approach is even more of a question if those direct reports being hired are people leaders themselves. Without several checks and balances, these processes are designed to fail. Of course, failing means failing to hire the best and most talented candidates.

It starts with setting standards, and organizations must not be so concerned about being firm on base or fundamental standards for each role when possible skills should be a part of these standards. These standards protect an organization from losing its competitive edge in sustainability and place some guardrails on how candidates move forward. These steps aid in the leader’s inappropriate influence to help push their favorite through the process. These standards also help in creating transparency along with the ability to develop clear career tracks.

Ok, let me introduce you to your new hiring team. It should start at the senior leadership levels and, when possible cross-functional. If these small teams need additional team members, go up the chain, not down -or seek further cross-functional. The direct supervisor or leader should be involved in the next step or course with their peer group; if possible, someone from the first round should carry over as an observer. This observer is only suggested if available through the entire second round. The third round should only be the top potential candidates.

These final runners-up will be interviewed by an executive member -traditionally a director or above. In some cases, it may only be one person. There is a shift for these directors in these new environments, and more substantial efforts toward qualifying are needed. Instead of experience, focus on skills and how they are evaluated. Understand their relationship with leaders and the candidate’s history or observations. What would happen if the department were reorganized or the job shifted to a new location? There is no need to call out what to watch for. The answers will be evident if there is concern depending on what the role requires today, tomorrow, and possible future.

Place greater responsibility on your executive hiring team. They can be that final check that ensures the process supports the organizational culture and promise. This effort includes meeting strategic objectives and ensuring that all hiring is ethical. Adopting clear interview teams and steps should allow for a typical cadence to be set and followed when scheduling each interview round. Do not create an experience where one candidate gets interviewed with a massive time gap, and another is forced to rush through a process. Feedback should never be from one person, or one round, direct leaders need to be involved, and clear steps for individual development plans need to be identified in calibration prior to the meeting and providing feedback. They seem like basic housekeeping or table stakes, but the effects are long-lasting when missed.

The interview guide

The old and reliable interview guide has become the tired and outdated. These guides are holding your interview team back from genuine and authentic conversations. Everyone is in the same discussion, and taking notes on several guides with the same question is a colossal waste of effort and talent. It often stifles the ability of the candidate to paint a clear picture of the unique value proposition, and interviewers will even check out throughout the process. Instead, focus on teaching leaders to be curious and make good decisions.

For the sake of sticking with the theme in this article, let’s flip this process around as well. Instead of prescribing how the conversation goes, focus on calibration guides rooted in the skills and specifics of the job description. The job description should be something that can follow an employee throughout their tenure in the role, and it starts in the interview. Teach your interviewer to have a conversation that draws out the specifics and helps to show where candidates are differentiated. Focusing on a calibration guide places the focus on the decision, not the interview.

KEY TIP: For best results, measure 120-day attrition as effectiveness for this team in an external hiring situation

Diversity is important, and so is the execution

Stakeholders need to understand the challenges present in diversity, along with an organization’s strategic approach. The strategy is not all or nothing. If not executed well, it starts to create issues with employee relations. A large part of the solution relies on better recruiting. Organizations must establish clear ownership in reviewing and executing these efforts.

In many settings, legality is still the first thing that comes up. In a review of the law, both the Supreme Court and EEOC have shared how an effort to right-size a long-standing problem cannot be corrected if held back by the law. The assumption is that an employer cannot overlook a talented, more qualified person over a candidate matching up with an under-recognized group. For the right reasons, this is not true. However, it opens the door to all kinds of potential problems.

When the strategy is approached as all or nothing, the true talent will begin to jump ship. An example of poor execution is when hiring to right-size an under-recognized group is done without trying to fill the role with talent, skills, and experience. Hiring should not have several side agendas except for serving the direct function of the position. If the talent pipeline is inadequate where poor decisions seem like the only approach, remember that recruiting must be the solution.

If HR is not present, then the executive team must step up to review adherence and compliance with hiring and the company strategy. There should be a post-mortem from all hiring that helps create awareness for executives. When HR is not present other reporting teams must be engaged to support these areas of the business. When executives do not proactively address areas like this, fiduciaries should take a hard look at the acumen and focus of their executive team. No business needs executive leaders that must be pointed towards all their work.

Wrapping it all together

A large part of the problem comes from the lack of HR engagement. In today’s environment, HR teams are just not as present or available as they have been in the past. Another significant part of the solution comes from how the reporting that often supported the decisions around people returns to the business. People planning and development should be included in supporting the overarching strategy around diversity. Executives should work with senior leaders to model the development of these plans and how to execute them effectively. The executive team becomes the holder of the keys and ensures that guardrails perform as they should.

One thought on “Interviewing, it’s time for some new rules

Leave a Reply