WeWork Talent Acquisition Talks Interview Slates and How to Get the Information You Need About Candidates

Raise your hand if this sounds familiar: You bring in a candidate for a role, you and your team interview them without much preparation (including asking them similar questions over and over), then realize after they’ve left that you didn’t get all the answers you needed from them. Wouldn’t it be better if you could set up an interview slate that gets you everything you need to know about a candidate by the time they leave the interview? Labs mentor Emma Parkinson, a WeWork talent acquisition associate, shares four tips that can help you put together slates that screen candidates effectively and thoroughly.

1. Hold a kickoff meeting before you start interviewing anyone

“Your goal is to create a slate that gives you all of the data points you need about candidates and ensures you’re not asking repetitive questions in each interview,” Parkinson says. In order to do that, you need to align everyone who’ll be meeting with the candidates (if you’re a small team, that’s probably your whole team) on what each of them should focus on. So start by bringing everyone together to review the ins-and-outs of the role you’re hiring for, the competencies you’re testing for, and to start creating questions for each interviewer to ask.

“It’s important for the hiring manager or whoever is taking lead on recruitment to give interviewers examples of what ‘rockstar’ candidates, ‘pretty good’ candidates, and candidates who aren’t a fit look like,” Parkinson says. This meeting is also where you’re assigning different competencies to different team members and doing an overview or reminder of what you can and cannot legally ask candidates during interviews. In the U.S., questions about marital status, where candidates live, and if they have children, for example, are off limits. “And if the candidate brings these topics up, you should reroute the conversation rather than talk about them,” Parkinson says.

Finally, set up your scoring system so you can debrief after everyone meets with the candidate and review. “You want your interviewers to know how they should be assessing candidates so they can write down their notes and feedback afterwards,” Parkinson says.

2. Put your competencies in the correct order

Slates vary by role, but they typically include a phone screen, a culture screen, an at-home project (which should be prepared and ready to send before interviews start) or in-person test (or both), and interviews with the hiring manager and teammates. The phone screen always comes first, and for many roles, the order that follows afterwards doesn’t have a significant impact on the outcome of the interviews. But “in my experience of building tech interview panels, you need to hit on certain things in a certain order, like coding, then design and architecture, then a debugging exercise,” Parkinson says, so make sure you’re ordering your slate correctly for the role.

3. Build in a break and use it to screen for culture

Culture screens are highly important, especially at early-stage startups where new hires help set the culture moving forward. And they can help break up the blocks of formal questioning when you’re bringing in candidates for a series of back-to-back interviews. You can do them over coffee, lunch, or any slightly more casual setting than an interview. “Your team’s culture cheerleaders should do these screens, including people that the new hire may not work directly with,” Parkinson says.

4. Train your team on how to interview

It’s important that everyone who meets with candidates has some sort of training on how to conduct interviews. If you haven’t hired an HR or talent lead yet, or don’t have the resources to send the team to hiring and interview training, do some research on local hiring and interview laws to educate your team on them. And make sure the whole slate of interviewers understands how important it is to show up to the interviews prepared, having read the candidates’ resumes in advance and knowing what questions they need to ask.

Parkinson also recommends setting up a shadowing system for team members who are less experienced with interviewing. “They can sit in on interviews led by colleagues who have more hiring experience and once they’ve shadowed enough times, they can conduct interviews on their own,” she says. Once everyone is trained, you’ll have a team of people who are capable of creating and conducting slates that lead to even more top-notch talent joining your company.

Interested in connecting directly with this mentor? Ask your Labs Manager for help.

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