When making hiring decisions, it can be a good idea to get a range of input into the decision-making process. After all, great candidates aren’t just great because of their background and skills; they’re also great because they fit well in the team.
Their potential colleagues can be the best source of input to evaluate that fit, as well as to provide another set of perspectives about whether their background, skills, and experience will help to fill any existing gaps.
But, in order to serve in that role effectively—and to avoid any potential legal or regulatory risks—it’s important for employees who will be part of an interview panel or process to receive training before they join the team.
Have a Clear Idea of Why You Need Them
Ellen Mullarkey is Vice President of business development for the Messina Staffing Group. “If you’re going to involve non-HR employees in the hiring process, you should do so with a specific goal in mind,” she advises. “Before you even ask for their involvement, you have to know why you’re bringing them to the table. What is the value of having them in the interview? How will their expertise lend itself to finding the best candidate?”
Make Sure They Understand Their Role
Don’t just ask employees to sit in on an interview panel without ensuring that they fully understand their expectations.
“It’s always a good idea to include non-HR staff in a job interview, particularly staff with specialist knowledge in the position you’re recruiting for, as they’re able to understand and interpret specialist terms and skills which general HR workers might not recognize,” says Matt Dunne, hiring manager at Healing Holidays. But, he adds, “It’s important that non-HR workers realize their role in the interview.”
In addition, staff should understand the role, if any, they will play in helping to make a hiring decision. Will they be asked to rate candidates, and will these ratings be incorporated into the overall ranking? Will they get a “vote” on whether specific candidates will be invited for a second interview or made an offer? Or, will their input be used as another point of view in an advisory way?
These are good ways to incorporate employee input, but be clear about how you will use this input so you can effectively manage their expectations and don’t disappoint them if their “favorite” candidate is not selected.
Make Sure They Understand the Process
Before the interview, Dunne suggests ensuring that employee participants know the structure of the interview, who will lead the interview, their role in asking questions, etc.
“You should also make sure that non-HR staff know not to ask too many questions or to talk too much during the interview,” says Dunne.
Make Sure They Do Their Homework
Participating in an interview panel is a responsibility that employees should take seriously and prepare for. This means reviewing candidates’ application materials ahead of time, understanding the interview process and their role in asking questions, and understanding the role they will play in making a hiring determination.
Make Sure They Understand Important Do’s and Don’ts
Those who are experienced in conducting interviews understand the basics of what they should and should not do. Chief among these do’s and don’ts relates to asking prohibited questions.
Employees participating in a panel interview need to know the types of questions that are—and are not—allowed. This means, at a very basic level, that only questions that relate specifically to the requirements of the job may be asked. No questions that delve into protected areas (e.g., questions about race, religion, sexual preference, etc.) should be asked—or even alluded to—during the interview process.
While specific training to ensure compliance is a best practice here, in situations when this training can’t be provided, the HR leader and hiring manager should work together to develop questions, let individual employees know which—if any—they will be responsible for asking, and make sure they understand that their primary role is to be observers and to help weigh in on the hiring decision.
Guide Them in the Evaluation Process
Pete Sosnowski is cofounder of Zety and an HR specialist. He suggests asking all interviewing staff to rate each candidate and compare the ratings with the average ratings given by recruiters. “This allows you to compare the candidate’s suitability from an HR perspective and from a team-specific perspective,” he says.
Have Realistic Expectations
While employees may be interested in playing a role in the candidate assessment process, not all may feel comfortable being active members of the process.
“If your employee is uncomfortable talking during the interview, that’s okay,” says Mullarkey. “If they’ve never interviewed anyone before, don’t expect them to lead the meeting. You can bring them in to consult without having them ask questions. They can sit back and listen to the conversation, then give you their opinion after the interview. Not everyone is equipped to be a great interviewer, but their expertise can still help you in the hiring process.”
Getting input from the employees potential candidates will be working with can be a powerful part of the candidate assessment process. But don’t leave the process to chance.
Make sure that employee participants understand their role during the interview and when making a decision. And, if they will actually be asking interview questions, make sure they have a solid understanding of the types of questions that should not be asked.