On Our Minds

The Second Round: What to Share and How to Share It

In advance of second round interviews, we are frequently asked some variation of the following two questions:

”Should I share my feedback from first round interviews with my colleagues before they meet candidates?  Shouldn’t I allow them to form their own opinions?”

To these questions, we respond: “yes and yes.”

To make the best use of everyone’s time, we believe that it is important to constructively share what came out of the first round of interviews, while encouraging interviewers to form their own assessments – ones that enable the hiring manager to confirm or disprove initial observations and delve more deeply into potential fit for the role.

We recommend the following three steps.

  • Put the current set of candidates in context – Before meeting candidates, interviewers should understand each candidate fits into the broader context of the search.  Typically, we share the following:
    • Statistics – How large was the applicant pool? How many candidates have advanced to this stage thus far? While each candidate should be judged on his or her own merits, without regard to how many candidates came before or will come after, interviewers benefit from having a sense of how robust the pipeline has (or has not) been.
    • Source – More importantly, interviewers benefit from knowing where each candidate came from and his or her level of interest in the role. For instance, did the candidates at hand proactively apply?  Were they cold called?  An active job seeker who proactively applied for the role will typically need less cultivation than a passive candidate who was invited to apply for the role.
    • Process – Interviewers should have a sense how extensively candidates have been vetted and who has done the vetting.  Similarly, interviewers should have a sense of what the remainder of the interview process looks like.  This will enable interviewers to understand where their feedback fits in to the larger assessment and will enable them to consistently set candidates’ expectations.
  • Revisit the competencies for the role – On an ideal planet, interviewers know the competencies they are expected to assess. On the planet we inhabit, second round interviewers are often unaware of what the competencies are, either because they have never heard them or, after hearing them, promptly forgot them. Having an interviewer that doesn’t know the competencies can, at best, be a waste of time and, even worse, alienate candidates. For instance, we recently ran a search in which a senior leader was integrated into the interview process after the competencies were defined and second round interviews were already underway.  We later learned (to our dismay) that this leader had been asking candidates questions about external relationship management when the role was actually an internally-facing position that would require a heavy dose of writing and project management.  Needless to say, the input she had been gathering was off-topic and the questions she was asking were baffling to the candidates.
  • Share candidates’ areas of strength and areas to probe – This is the most important part of the preparation.  Beginning second round interviews with this initial understanding enables interviewers to spend time uncovering potential stumbling blocks rather than digging into areas that have already been identified as strengths.  For instance, in a recent process, there was a front-runner that lacked deep content knowledge.  With that in mind, interviewers spent their time delving into how the candidate got up learning curves, dealt with ambiguity, and interacted with experts when he lacked expertise.  He shared compelling examples how he navigated these complexities in his current job and, furthermore, seemed energized by the questions he was asked.  He was hired enthusiastically and is off to a very strong start.

When well prepared, second round interviewers are equipped to not only assess, but also cultivate, candidates under consideration.  Interviewers come to debrief meetings ready to share meaningful feedback and candidates engage in substantive conversations with a well-coordinated team, ensuring a productive day for interviewers and a cultivating experience for candidates.

- By Michelle Kedem

filed under For Organizations   |  posted on February 09, 2015