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Interview Team Discussion Fiascos

Kennedy's Column

If you think you've experienced some bad meetings, consider the unorganized discussions of candidates that can sometimes take place at the end of an interview schedule.

In these discussions, there is rarely a review of the qualities and skills the position requires; everyone assumes they already know what they want in, say, a developer, analyst, or project manager. That's a problem, not only because there is no consensus, but because interviewers tend to think the best candidates are people just like themselves. Without anything to disabuse them of this notion, they're likely to be off base right from the start.

From that point on, things can only get worse. Here's an example from a recent team discussion held by one of our high-tech clients:

Act I. People start talking about the candidate in a random fashion. In general the comments are negative. Someone complains about an answer the candidate gave to one of her questions; someone else chimes in with a similar complaint; and so on.

Act II. The momentum to reject the candidate out of hand builds. No one volunteers an "itemized response" in which the candidate's strengths are discussed, and then her weaknesses. The atmosphere here is more Roman Forum than corporate office. In effect, the candidate has already been thrown to the lions, and no one is about to rescue her.

Act III. One by one, interviewers around the room change their evaluations from "recommend" to "not recommend." Unfortunately, for the candidate, this is indeed the Final Curtain.

Employees can be coached to handle these discussions more effectively. Our Effective Interviewing! training specifically addresses how to debrief team interviews in an objective manner.