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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Management

Here's How to Structure Your Interview Process to Maximize the Chances You'll Make the Right Hire


Making a new hire requires a lot of time and effort—which is no big secret if you’re a recruiter! But it’s not just recruiters dedicating their resources to hiring: Everyone from hiring managers and potential team members to senior leaders and receptionists can be called in to participate in some aspect of the interview process. Yet for an activity that touches so many people, interviewing is not always given the respect it deserves.

Some interviewers treat the entire process with disdain, as a waste of time that could be better spent doing almost anything else. Others might not be so openly against interviewing, but they treat their time with candidates as simply a chance to chat and casually discuss work history or common acquaintances. And yet others walk into the interview room with no game plan whatsoever, figuring that they’ll just wing it or let the candidate guide the conversation.

These approaches to interviewing aren’t just ineffective—they also lead to negative candidate experience, tarnish your employer brand, and decrease your offer acceptance rate.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

The key to maximizing your hiring success is to implement a structured interview process. This involves outlining exactly what you’re looking for before you even write the job req and creating a framework for each step of the process so that every person who’s involved knows exactly what the purpose of the session is and which criteria they should be evaluating a candidate against.

Want to learn the basics of setting up a structured interview process? Read on for a simple three-step framework to help you get started.

Step 1: Define Who You’re Trying to Hire

The first step of setting up a structured interview process is really understanding and defining the role. Going through this process helps ensure that recruiters and hiring managers are aligned, which reduces chances of confusion and miscommunication further on in the process.

Start with the basics: the role name, the department, and who the person will report to. Then be sure to consider the business objectives of making this hire. How will this person contribute to your company’s bottom line? Finally, consider what you expect the person to accomplish in their first year in the role.

Step 2: Decide How You’ll Evaluate Candidates

Once you’ve defined what the role looks like within your company, you can decide how you’ll evaluate the candidate. It might help to begin with a few general categories like basic requirements (e.g., visa status, location), necessary hard and soft skills (project management, proficiency in a particular software), and hiring manager preferences (autonomy, communication style).

Next, you’ll want to define the hiring criteria for this particular role. In other words, what are the required skills, personality traits, and qualifications someone would need in order to accomplish all the things you set out in step 1? Some companies, like Oscar Health, really dive in here to define the “success drivers” for a particular role, looking at the key characteristics that indicate a candidate has a high probability of success. (Read more about Oscar’s approach here.)

Step 3: Outline the Interview Process

In this final step, you’ll design the actual interview plan. This is where you’ll match each stage of the interview to a particular set of criteria. The number and types of interviews you conduct will vary depending on your organization and the specific role, but here’s a general framework you can work from:

Stage 1: Recruiter Screen

This step involves having the recruiter review applications and screen out candidates who are obviously not a fit—for example, those who don’t fit your basic education or location requirements or have the right type of experience.

Stage 2: Hiring Manager Screen

This step involves conducting a phone screen. It allows the interviewer, generally the hiring manager, to get an initial sense of each candidate and review their work experience at a high level to understand whether it aligns with the role.

Stage 3: Skills Testing

This step involves asking the candidate to perform a take-home test. The idea here is to give them a task that’s reflective of what they’ll have to do on the job and give their hiring manager or teammates a chance to see how they approach their work.

Stage 4: In-person Interview

In-person Interview #1—Culture Fit

This step involves assessing candidates for culture fit at your company and can be conducted by an employee from any department—not only the candidate’s potential teammates. Interviewers can determine if the candidate’s personal values mesh with your company values and find out what motivates them at work.

In-person Interview #2–Team Panel

This step involves having a few members of the team interview the candidate so they can get a sense of what it’d be like to work with this person. How would they fit in with existing team members? Would their experience and knowledge complement the rest of the team?

In-person Interview #3–Hiring Manager One-on-One

This step involves having the candidate meet with the hiring manager. In the earlier hiring manager screen stage, the hiring manager will have assessed the candidate’s general qualifications and aptitude for the role, but this stage gives the hiring manager the chance to explore the candidate’s traits and working style to really get a sense for what their working relationship would look like. Keep in mind that this is an opportunity for both hiring manager and candidate to evaluate each other, so the hiring manager should be open about their management style and expectations.

It may seem like putting all this thought in before an interview takes place is creating a lot of extra work, but in fact it’s just the opposite! When you begin the hiring process in a thoughtful and intentional way, everyone who’s involved feels more confident since they understand exactly what their role is and how they should be evaluating the candidate. Plus, candidates walk away with a much better sense of the role and working environment. So, the “extra” time and effort actually leads to less work—and greater success—down the line.

Excited to try this out in your organization? Download “Designing a Structured Interview Workbook,” an interactive resource that guides you through each step of the structured interview design process and makes it simple to put into practice.

For more awesome (and useful!) advice on hiring, check out our employer resources hub.