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How can interviewing with Direct Reports enhance the candidate experience?

Does having Direct Reports conduct interviews with leadership hiring, add value to the candidate experience?

 

We have noticed an increase in the trend of including direct reports into the leadership hiring process. Done well, this is a win win situation; it empowers the team, gives them a voice in the hiring of their new leader and gives them a better glimpse into the future about what this new figure head brings to them and their role. For the interviewee this can be rich in terms of insight; they get to see the capability of the team, a greater understanding of the culture and a deep dive into the live challenges facing the department.

 

In short this can be a high impact way to elevate the employee experience and find true potential leaders for the team. There are, however, some things to consider to make sure it delivers on it’s promise.

 

The Preparation

Is it an informal process and are the team appropriately prepared to ask the right questions (particularly in the case of inexperienced interviewers). Do they know what they are trying to achieve in the meeting? Do they have questions prepared? It pays to be prepared ensure people do not go “down the rabbit hole” of explaining issues, or asking questions that aren’t relevant to the end goal. This can feel like a total waste of the candidate’s time and negatively impact engagement. I have also experienced people being ruled out of the process as the team simply haven’t “liked” the person they are meeting very much, or who have walked away feeling “grilled” by the team, and gaining very little from it, other than a loss of interest.

 

It is important to establish the purpose of them being part of the hiring process. For instance, they aren’t assessing whether they can do the job role itself, but rather how will they get the best out of their team and how will they engage with/ develop the team. You want the team to have confidence in this leader coming in, that they will enable them to achieve their goals.

 

Will the Hiring Manager be in the interview?

 

There are pros and cons to having the Hiring Manager in the interview, the obvious pro being the ability to keep the line of questioning on track and, of course, reduce the amount of pressure on the interviewers, after all the responsibility for the hire will ultimately lie with the Hiring Manager.

 

The hiring manager being present would give the potential hire a clear understanding of how open the team are able to be in front of the Exec team/ SLT. But on the flip side, this could prevent an openness as the team may not feel as entrusted/ empowered having the hiring manager in the room, which would impact the level of insight for the candidate.

 

A way around this would be to have the hiring manager in the interview for the first 5-10 minutes to “set the scene” and ensure the right tone is set for everyone, establishing the purpose so as not to confuse the candidate or interviewers.

 

A panel or a 121 meeting? 

This is dependent on the size of the operation, but with the team interviewing for their new “boss” they may want to hire the people they like the most, and have the best connection with. A panel interview assists in re-addressing this balance towards more objective decision making, allowing them to share and discuss feedback, and the removal of the perceived pressure to decide. From the candidate’s perspective the panel gives a greater insight into the array of personalities, and the individuals perceptions of the biggest challenges within the department.

 

Formal or informal?

The responsibility here is with hiring manager to ensure that this is set up for success. Speaking to an array of leadership talent, the general feedback is that this should be more informal, it shouldn’t be an interview as such, but also not just a chat (lessens the impact and value for both sides). Again, the set-up is important, with clear parameters set for the meeting. It is important to remember that this can be new territory for a director/ C-Suite, the value add needs to be for both parties and provide a platform for further exploration/ insight into the role, or the new hire, but shouldn’t necessarily be a “yes or no” outcome.

 

Stage?

Where does this meeting/ interview belong in the process. Too early in the process, and you risk putting the wrong people in front of the team or losing people that you have not had a real chance to get to know. Too late, and the team will feel the decision has already been made anyway.

For me, I’d include it as an informal meet and greet after the hiring manager is comfortable, they are the right person for the job role. So I’d suggest prior to presentation stage.

 

Conclusion

With the right preparation, of both the candidate and those conducting the “interview;” this should be a powerful piece of the hiring puzzle. The new hire will be able to assess the personalities/ capabilities in the existing team, get “under the hood” of existing challenges of those closer to the detail and really strengthen their buy in to the role. On the other side of the coin, direct reports can get excited about the person coming on board and feel really valued by their current organisation. However, it is important to note that the responsibility for the hire will be from the Hiring Manager, and the team need to fully understand what their part to play is, in the end-to-end process. A one-sided grilling, where the candidate isn’t able to really engage with the team, may just lose you the best person for the job.

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