The Dos and Don'ts of Group Interview Feedback Sessions

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Ashley Petrovich

Ashley Petrovich is the Director of People at Namely, the all-in-one HR, payroll, and benefits platform built for today’s employees.

Most HR departments know this to be true: two heads are better than one when it comes to conducting interviews. Scratch that: The more heads you can put together when assessing a candidate, the better.

It’s highly beneficial to have more than just one person conduct interviews. Why? Candidates should get to meet and interview with various members of the very team they’d be working on. When candidates get to meet with their potential new close circle of co-workers, you not only ensure that the assessment of the candidate will be both unbiased and well-rounded, but you also get an accurate glimpse into how well he or she will fit in with the group as a whole.

Assessing for cultural fit is key throughout the entire hiring process—and that’s exactly the benefit reaped in how we do interviewing at Namely. Our “group interview” approach has contributed to our workforce quadrupling to over 250 employees in the past year alone. Clearly, interviewing should be a team effort: you work together; you hire together!

How we do it

We bring together the core team members who will work with a new hire and schedule to have each of these people sit down with them. Afterwards, all of the interviewers meet together in a “group interview feedback” session to discuss their individual conversations with the candidate and thoroughly determine as a group whether the candidate has the qualities, skills, and cultural fit needed to succeed.

You must assess the team dynamic. According to Leadership IQ, a leadership training website from leadership expert Mark Murphy, 15% of new hires who don’t succeed at their companies is a result of their attitudes and personalities not being suited for their particular team and work environment. Luckily, there is a way to lessen the risk of a new hire not fitting in: using group interviews as a fine-tooth cultural comb.

Checklist: the dos and don’ts of group interview feedback

To get the most out of this style of interviewing —and to make sure you’re efficiently assessing for cultural fit—you need to get the most out of your group interview feedback session. After everyone meets with a candidate, discussing their experience with them is crucial to ultimately making the right decision—one that is both unbiased and well-rounded. Hearing team members' feedback can spark a new idea about the candidate which you may not had thought of yourself. Thus adding more people (and their perspectives) to the screening process helps to avoid whiplash decision-making. Overall, holding an interview within a group feedback session aids in your pursuit to make the right hire the first time around.

Check out this handy list of what you should and should not do to get the most out of these feedback sessions so that you can be sure to hire the best fitting candidate for your team:

DO use a rating scale. Each interviewer should be sure to report a rating on the candidate. Even if it’s as simple as a thumbs up or thumbs down, this will guarantee consistency in the following conversation. Instead of each team member touching on different moments of the interview, everyone can react to the attributes of the candidate overall for a more fluid discussion.

Before the interviews, speak with your team about which characteristics and skills of a candidate are most important for determining a good fit and add those to the points to discuss afterwards. Use of a scorecard is an easy way to make sure everyone is on the same page about which characteristics and skills matter most. This guarantees an evaluation of the most relevant qualities of each candidate and leaves out those irrelevant to the search.

DO NOT let too much time pass after the interview before providing feedback. Notes are great, but team members can provide the best feedback of a candidate shortly after conducting the interview, when the impression of the candidate is fresh in their mind. If too much time passes, memories become fuzzy. Meeting immediately after the interview will lead to crystal clear comments and the best recall of everyone’s interactions. Every candidate may look fine from a broad perspective, but it’s in the details where we really have the opportunity to distinguish between them.

Whenever possible, DO meet face-to-face. In a world of remote employees, meeting in person may be difficult. But, when reviewing candidates after an interview, a face-to-face conversation is best—even if it’s via Skype or Google Hangout. This allows each interviewer to react to each other’s takeaways and discuss their impressions in more detail. These conversations create a more relaxed, active setting for exchanging opinions.

DO NOT let the team lead speak first. The team lead is the top influencer of their group. This means their impression of the candidate could affect how the other team members view the candidate. To avoid any skewed depictions, make sure the leader shares their comments last.

DO NOT let one person dominate the conversation. Post-interview feedback should give everyone the opportunity to contribute to the hiring of a new team member. But, if a single team member takes over the conversation, it leaves little room for other contributors and guarantees that the hiring decision will not be a balanced, collaborative one.

Give everyone a chance to provide their opinions of the candidate, either by going in a random circle or developing your own order—perhaps by going in alphabetical order and moving through feedback that way. Once again, make sure the team lead speaks last to avoid influencing the rest of the team. The more each person contributes, the more comprehensive the hiring decision will be.

DO consider the order in which everyone spoke with the candidate. Order isn’t only important when it comes to the post-interview conversation. The order that team members spoke with a candidate can also affect the impressions of each team member. While listening to everyone’s comments and impressions, take into consideration whether someone spoke with the candidate first—which is when the candidate was at their freshest—or last. Team interviews can be draining and it is likely the candidate will get tired towards the end, especially if they’ve already spoken with four people. Consider that their interview skills may have dwindled a bit by that point.

DO be specific. When communicating post-interview feedback, be sure to be descriptive. Each claim about the candidate should tie back to specific answers to questions or certain behaviors to avoid biased assumptions. For example, instead of just saying, “I think the candidate will fit in with our team,” a team member could say, “This person would get along with our team because she has a ton of experience with employee give-back programs, is a master recruiter, and has organized office-wide service programs in the past. Plus, remember when she quoted Friends? Loved it!”

It can be difficult to think of these specific examples after the interview, so be sure you and other team members take thorough notes during or immediately following the interview. And, if a justification isn’t legitimate—say, critiquing someone’s fashion or hairdo—say so. Keeping irrelevant qualities out of the decision-making process is a large asset of the group dynamic.


Collaboration results in the best hires

Interviewing within a group can be an effective asset when expanding your team, especially with the speedy hiring that startups and fast-growing companies are known for. When the entire team collaborates to choose a new member, the odds of finding the right match are high. Once you’ve properly coached your teams on how to best go about the group interview and group interview feedback session, the only thing left to do is watch the home runs pile up—one new hire at a time.

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