How to build a structured hiring process

Nov 2, 2019

Structured hiring is a talent acquisition process for eliminating bias, evaluating candidates and scaling your team. These are some steps you can use to implement structured interviews at your company


Recently I attended a tech recruiter meetup sponsored by Codility in San Francisco south of Market Street at a coworking and events space called Parisoma. The topic of the evening was Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in tech recruiting. The panel was made up of industry experts working for Bay Area tech companies. A major point of discussion for the evening was structured hiring and how to build a quality, scalable hiring process at a tech company.

Structured interviews are how you remain objective as a company when evaluating individuals. To have a structured hiring process you need to be clear on the core criteria and competencies required for the role. The hiring process and timeline needs to be clearly defined. Interviewers need to ask candidates the same questions and each interviewer needs to be clear on what traits they are evaluating the candidate on. Building a structured interview process takes a lot of work! The good news is that as you set it up you build your team’s hiring muscle, critical thinking skills and thoughtfulness about the business. Candidates notice when they’re in the funnel of a dialed in hiring process. Even when they don’t get an offer it still can be a fantastic experience. Building a structured interview process is a powerful way to build an awesome team and grow your business in a healthy, sustainable way, while eliminating bias.


Establish clear objectively measurable criteria of what you’re hiring for


Even before a job description gets written or published to the company’s website it’s important to have a kickoff meeting with the hiring manager to break down the job requirements into objectively measurable criteria. Start by breaking down the job into “must have” required competencies and “nice to have” skill sets. Behavioral and technical competencies belong as required skills for a job. Relevant industry experience normally belongs in the nice to have category. After going through this exercise there still could be a daunting amount of required skills the hiring manager wants the candidate to have. Normally it’s ideal to have three to five required skills you’re searching for. If the list is long or difficult to find in the talent market, ask the hiring manager who on their team has these skills. Where did they come from? What have you had to teach and what do people absolutely need when they walk in the door on day one? It can be helpful to bring data to this meeting. For instance, if the hiring manager lists Ruby, Scala, Closure and under-water-basket-weaving as required skills for the job, pull up information on LinkedIn or your other talent sourcing software to show how many candidates have those skills. From there, ask the hiring manager “would you rather choose from a larger pool of candidates or a smaller pool of candidates” for this job? After showing them the data and invoking critical thinking about what’s required to do the job you may be able to drop under-water-basket-weaving to the “nice to have” category. This will open up your search and allow you to focus on delivering the talent your team needs to build the business. Hiring should solve a specific, well defined pain you’re feeling in the business.

Once you’ve established the core hiring requirements for a new position, ensure that the criteria are objectively measurable. Saying we need a “Javascript rockstar” is not objectively measurable. What one engineer on the interview panel defines as “rockstar” or “ninja” could be drastically different from what another interviewer qualifies as rockstar. However, if you said the candidate must have “a firm understanding of data structures and algorithms” or has previous experience building production React.js applications those you can measure better. Hiring is not an art not a science but when initially setting up a role define what you need to hire for in a way that you can measure. The goal here is to bring someone in to solve business problems and build the company culture.


Interviewers are clear on what they’re evaluating for


Once you’ve defined the objectively measurable criteria you’re hiring for. You need to assemble the team that’s going to be interviewing candidates. Hiring is a skill that people get better at with practice. It takes training to be good at hiring and it doesn’t come naturally to everyone. To help the team hire give clear assignments on what each interviewer is evaluating. When an interviewer goes in to interview a candidate they should know specifically what they’re interviewing them for. Interviewers need to know what they’re trying to find out by talking to this person. What interviewers are evaluating for should correlate directly with the objectively measurable criteria you defined for the role. This way after the interview is done you’ll have data on each of the criteria you’re evaluating for.


Ask candidates the same questions in interviews


One important way to bring structure to your company’s interview processes is to have interviewers ask candidates the same questions. That doesn’t mean that the follow up questions have to be the same or that the conversation is scripted or robotic. But if you’re asking candidates different questions it’s not an unbiased hiring process. Before the job opened you took the time with the hiring team to define the role and determined who is evaluating for what. The follow up step here is to determine what questions each interviewer will ask the candidate. With the same questions, evaluating for the same criteria you can make apples to apples comparisons with the post interview feedback data you collect.


Feedback is given quickly and hidden from other interviewers


The goal should be for interviewers to give feedback on their interviews right after interviews or at maximum within 24 hours. There are a few reasons for this. The first is that the interview is fresh in the interviewers mind and they can give the most accurate feedback right after the interview has concluded. If interviewers wait or lag on giving feedback after an interview the hiring process can stall and bias creeps in. Interviewers are likely on the same team and talk to each other. Feedback results needs to be hidden until it is collected. You don’t want one interviewer’s opinion biasing everyone else’s. Additionally, the talent and hiring market in the Bay Area moves quickly. If it takes your company extra time to collect feedback that’s more time for the candidate to move forward in processes with other companies. Feedback is important for recruiters working on the role. Without feedback it’s impossible for recruiters to know definitely what they need to look for and how to calibrate their search.

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