Interviewing a candidate should only take 2 weeks. 5 candidates, all neatly scheduled, flow through the 14 day process in perfect order – and you can make a decision on day 14 followed by champagne and gluten-free cake.
The reality is, of course, more complex. Making time for all your decision-makers to meet candidates is tough – but vital. The reality of juggling business-as-usual, board meetings, holidays and other work commitments is messy.
So how do you get around this quagmire?
- Make sure you start the process with a shortlist pool of 4 to 5 candidates. If you only start with a few and then add others half way through it will push the process to 4-8 weeks
- In advance, write 3 outcomes the successful candidate will need to achieve by the end of year 1 – keep checking against these in your assessment of the candidate. For a more in-depth read: “Who: The A Method for Hiring”
- Be clear with candidates what the interview process is. Even better, set it out on the job spec
- If you ask candidates to do a piece of written work give them at least 7 working days – 10 is even better
- Have one person in your team take charge of scheduling and report every week on the process
- If the process is delayed, relay this immediately to the candidate and give them windows of when next stage is likely and get this scheduled in
- Don’t ask a candidate if they are free today or tomorrow – we urge all candidates to turn down same day or 24 hour offers for interviews. In our experience, asking someone to drop their plans in a working week at 24 hours notice creates a fraught experience for everyone involved.
- Offer them interview times before and after work days or even weekends – is it fair to ask someone to take holiday in a first or second interview?
- When you make a decision and make an offer, send them the whole contract so they have all the information. I accepted a role as Country Manager once and when I asked about options they said just start the role and “we will sort out options after you start”. Against my better judgement that’s what I did, I needed the money but it’s not fair to put people in that position. Asking board members to interview candidates is useful if they have done the role (e.g ex CEOs). VCs who have not been active will give you a clever answer but if they have not been operators it’s unlikely to be a good use of precious time.
- If the candidate wants the offer increased, move quickly (under 24 hours) and make a counter offer or get on the phone and explain why you can’t make a counter offer or why you want to stick to your same offer.
- Culture fit – this one is controversial and (even though I expect to some challenge for taking this view) I always counsel that you are not hiring for a new friend: you are hiring for a specific set of tasks to be achieved. Of course, if you sense arrogance, laziness or an attitude problem, then listen to your intuition. I’ve heard some bad reasons not to hire people: “find them boring”, “too millennial”, “not my type” none of which are good enough or specific enough. (While we’re on the topic, this “Airport rule” – if you can’t see yourself stuck in an airport with them for 5 hours – is nonsense. Any tech professional knows that when you’re stuck at an airport for five hours it’s time to head for the bar and double-screen Netflix and Slack
- When you let down a candidate, write them a decent email and give them something tangible. This is about giving dignity so they can go to their partner and friends and explain why they didn’t get the job they have spent the last 3 weeks preparing for. They may still hate you, they may just hate you less.
(I got turned down at SoundCloud over 5 years ago…I still hate them).