The Wrong Interviewer Can Scare Your Talent Away!

by Jobbatical July 05, 2016

Who knows your company better than the CEO?

When a communication manager needed a second interviewer for her candidate, she faced a dilemma: her boss, the director of marketing, was on maternity leave. The marketing director reported to the CEO. Other department heads wouldn’t have a good sense of her prospective hire’s job. Who should conduct the second interview?

She asked the CEO.

This manager was smart. The CEO loved marketing; he regularly popped into their department to see what campaigns they were working on, and sometimes sat in on advertising agency presentations — which made sense, since their work would represent his company.

He was an excellent interviewer choice because:

  • He understood marketing.
  • He could enthusiastically explain the company’s mission.
  • He knew company culture, since he created it.
  • He was gregarious, and accustomed to putting line staff at ease.

The wrong interviewer can botch conversion

This example points up a crucial aspect of interviewing that’s often missed: the wrong interviewer can cost you a great candidate. Highly qualified talents are not concerned with finding their next position; recruiters court them. And if the tech team leader is not the best face of the company, having this person handle the interview could send a candidate scurrying in the opposite direction.

Dan Portillo, Talent Partner at Greylock, explains that recruiting is a three-step process: sourcing, evaluation and conversion. If you’re going to source superb candidates, you don’t want an inexperienced, argumentative or biased interviewer to stall or ruin the conversion process.

Would you tell a potential client that you only want to meet them in your office? Would you treat a prospect arrogantly, assuming they should be grateful to work with your company? Of course not.

But both these scenarios happen frequently with candidate interviews.

Top talent look for companies that value their skills, where they can grow along with the business. They want to work for companies that treat them as real human beings who can make a valuable contribution, not as disposable resources.

The person who conducts the interview is the linchpin that will determine whether the talent decides to join your company, or to explore other opportunities.

The buddy test

In the age of social media, people still occasionally meet up with their friends in person after work to quaff a beer or two. Shocking but true.

You can use this digital downtime in an interview capacity. One way to see if a candidate is a good fit for your company is to invite him or her for a brew (or soft drink). It gives the candidate a chance to see their prospective colleagues in a social setting as well; interviewing is a two-way street.

The “beer test” can also be a good way to choose between two desirable candidates when you only have one opening: who seems like the best match for your culture and team?

Look beyond the obvious

If a technical team leader isn’t able to deliver the company message effectively — they are amazing at what they do, but don’t wear the company mission hat comfortably — select someone who is able to tell your story clearly, with pizzazz. You might have one interviewer for culture and a second interviewer for skills, if one person cannot do both.

Bottom line: don’t scare accomplished talent away with a poor interviewer. Choose someone who glows when they describe the company’s vision. This is why the CEO is often the best early stage interviewer, as the communications manager understood. By the way, her CEO approved the hire, and the new employee remained happily on board for many years.

Originally published at on July 5, 2016.

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