No matter what position you’re running a search for in your organization, it’s almost always a good idea to ask internal or external stakeholders for help interviewing the candidates.
If managed well, an inclusive approach to interviewing can yield important input that shapes your decision-making. If not managed carefully, however, there may be delays, misunderstandings, and other complications that compromise your ability to engage, retain, and hire the best candidate for the position.
Fortunately, there are just a few simple steps you can take to expand the slate of interviewers while keeping the whole process on track.
In this article, we share insights on how to to run an interview process that is inclusive and efficient. You can use these tips to determine whom to bring to the table and how to gather and synthesize feedback from several people while staying focused on your singular goal: finding the person who has the skills, experiences, and qualifications you set as priorities at the very beginning of your search.
Why Ask Stakeholders to Interview Candidates?
There’s a lot to be gained from asking colleagues and stakeholders to interview job candidates:
- Wider perspective. Gathering feedback from multiple interviewers gives the hiring manager or search committee a wider lens for evaluating the candidate pool.
- Strengthening culture. Involving stakeholders as interviewers helps create community and demonstrates a commitment to inclusion and transparency.
- Buy-in and support. An inclusive interview process can build broad support for the finalist, setting them up for success down the road.
- Stewardship. Including stakeholders in the process demonstrates how much you value their perspective and involvement in your organization.
To maximize these benefits, we recommend implementing six practices as you widen the aperture to accommodate your list of interviewers.
How to Manage the Interview Process
- Identify the purpose of being inclusive. First, ask yourself why you’re inviting colleagues or community members to the interviews. Is it to reach consensus on a candidate? Is it to eliminate the biases you might have as an individual or as a group (in the case of a search committee)? Is it to reinforce your commitment to the community you serve?
The answers to these questions will clarify your next steps. For example, if your goal is to reach consensus on one candidate, limit the number of stakeholders you bring to the interviews, as it can be more challenging to achieve consensus with larger numbers of people.
- Set clear expectations. Everyone’s input is valued and appreciated; there is a difference, however, between having an opportunity to share input and having decision-making authority. The earlier you communicate that, the better. You can express gratitude and appreciation while also setting parameters around who is responsible for various aspects of the process and who is the ultimate decision-maker.
Be clear on expectations around confidentiality as well. Create a contract and have all interviewers sign it as a requirement of serving as an interviewer.
- Write interview questions. The job description is your north star. Use it as the basis for interview questions that will allow you and other interviewers to evaluate candidates fairly and consistently. Share these questions with the other interviewers.
During the early interview rounds, it’s good practice to ask the candidates the same questions; doing so reduces bias and ensures continuity across the interviews. In later interview rounds, you may want to probe more thoroughly into various aspects of the candidates’ experience.
- Use surveys to collect feedback systematically. Just as the job description informs the interview questions for candidates, interview questions inform evaluation questions for the interviewers. Codify these questions in a survey that you share with everyone who interviewed the candidates. The survey will give the interviewers a helpful structure for formulating their thoughts. The survey responses will help you discern patterns in the feedback (including possible biases) and make progress toward narrowing down the field.
- Gather feedback as quickly as possible. Give your interviewers enough time to process their thoughts but not enough time to compare notes extensively and influence one another. You want honest, authentic feedback—a genuine reflection of each interviewers’ individual assessment of the candidates.
- Communicate with your stakeholders following the interviews. Be sure to express your appreciation for their involvement and let them know when a final decision has been made.
The Bottom Line
To put yourself in a position to find the best candidate for an open role, take some time at the beginning to think through your process. Inviting stakeholders to serve as interviewers can be enormously beneficial to you and your organization, as long as you incorporate a few essential practices into the search.