Architecting the interview process for success: 4 steps to creating a structured interview

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6 mins, 31 secs read time

How well do interviews actually determine a candidate’s likelihood of success on the job? It all depends on how well you’re interviewing!

During his presentation at the Greenhouse Recruiting Optimization Roadshow, Jan Fiegel, Head of Recruiting at Oscar Health, explained that if your interview process is unstructured, you may as well just flip a coin and hope for the best. In other words, Jan is a big advocate of the structured interview. While unstructured interviews simply have the candidate walk the interviewer through their résumé and involve much improvisation on the interviewer’s part, structured interviews focus on determining whether a candidate truly has the skills needed to succeed in a particular role.

So, creating a structured interview process doesn’t only drastically improve your chances of making the right hire, it also forces you to think ahead and determine which of a candidate's skills will be most beneficial to your team in the future. In addition, it keeps you focused on the most important criteria for selecting a candidate and helps you maintain objectivity and legally defensible approaches to hiring. When you put this into practice, you’ll see an overall better quality of hires who demonstrate higher success on the job.

So what does a structured interview process actually look like? And how can you implement one in your company? Check out Jan’s 4-step process here:

1. Define what success is

Start by clearly outlining what success looks like for the role. What is the problem you’re trying to solve with this hire?

At Oscar Health, hiring managers have to submit a detailed req approval at the beginning of the hiring process. This requires them to get crystal clear on the purpose of the role, the compensation, the reporting structure, and the rationale for making the hire.

After all, if you haven’t clearly defined who you’re looking for or why you’re trying to hire them, how will you know when your search is over?

2. Identify the success drivers

Once you know what success looks like for the role, you can identify the “success drivers” or qualities that indicate a candidate has a high probability of success. These will vary depending on the company and role and include a vast array of core abilities and competencies.

But, make sure you’re selecting the right success drivers for the role. For instance, Jan warns against using a time-based metric like “Five to seven years’ experience” as a success driver. He cautions, “We all know that five to seven years’ experience doesn’t make you good at something—it just means you’ve been around. Osmosis is not learning.”

So in order to make sure that both the company and the candidates are on the same page when it comes to success drivers, Oscar Health presents candidates with a “performance profile,” a part of the job spec that outlines what the candidate should expect to achieve during their first year on the job. For example, a candidate who’s applying for a lead recruiter role should, in the first month on the job, expect to find their bearings, get to know their team, and build key relationships. In the first three months on the job, this person should have made a few high-impact hires, created a growth plan for everyone on their team, and executed one meaningful project.

There’s enough leeway in the performance plan to allow the person who has been hired to have a hand in defining their own success. In this case, Jan specifies that the employee should carry out one meaningful project, but he’ll let the hire determine the specific details of what that project should be.

Jan promotes the performance profile approach because it really opens up the role to people from different backgrounds—for example, it doesn’t matter whether a candidate has never worked at a startup or has only worked at tech companies. Possessing the success drivers is so much more relevant than specific experiences they have listed on their résumé. Plus, framing the job in this way allows candidates to “self-calibrate.” Instead of measuring themselves against a checklist of experience, candidates can ask themselves whether they have the ability to achieve what’s being outlined in the performance profile and actively choose to apply to jobs that genuinely excite and challenge them. This means that some unqualified candidates will weed themselves out of the process before they even apply, which saves you, the recruiter, time and energy, allowing you to focus on qualified candidates.

3. Choose your assessment

Now that you’ve got an overview of what success will look like in this role, you can plan the best way of assessing whether a candidate has the potential to be successful. There are three factors to consider when outlining this assessment: the topic, the format, and the assessor. [In general, the assessor will be the person (or people) conducting the interview, but if you decide on another type of assessment, like a case study or take-home test, it will be the person who’s responsible for reviewing it].

Jan suggests choosing a few of the success drivers as the topics. The format could be anything from a take-home test or case study to a role-play or panel interview – whatever makes the most sense for the topic. Finally, it’s important to be strategic about choosing the best person to make the assessment. Don’t feel like it always needs to be someone from your department. You may find that people from other teams are especially adept at measuring a particular skill or competency. There are some skills, like structured or analytical thinking, that can exist across departments. For example, at Oscar Health, there’s one employee who’s very skilled at structured thinking, so he’s asked to evaluate all candidates’ structured thinking skills, no matter which department their role will be in.

If you are involving people from different teams and departments, make sure to brief your assessors on the particular role in question so that they have context and feel confident. It’s also essential to provide training to anyone who’s conducting interviews, which ensures consistency across teams and departments.

4. Discuss feedback

After all the assessments have been conducted, get everyone together in a room to discuss their opinion of the candidate. Jan recommends doing this within 24 hours of the interview so that their experiences are fresh in their minds. He also suggests asking everyone to put in their vote at the same time at the beginning of the session. Why? When executives or other leadership weigh in, it can be difficult for other employees to disagree with them. Therefore, it’s beneficial to the process to have everyone vote before possibly being swayed by the heavyweights’ opinions.

Also, it may be the case that candidates pass certain stages of the assessment but don’t do as well on others. This is not necessarily a deal-breaker; you’ll just need to decide which success drivers are most important for the role. The purpose of the discussion stage is to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to share their impressions, which provides a well-rounded view of the candidate; what one person observes, another may not, so it’s important to hear from each person.

Make the process work for you

It may seem intimidating to overhaul your entire interview process this way, but don’t feel like you have to do it all at once. Jan suggests taking a gradual, pragmatic approach. Once you begin to see what’s working and what isn’t, you can adjust the program in whichever way makes sense for your organization.

We’ll leave you with this: The interview process is your opportunity to make a positive impression on candidates and help your company get closer to achieving its goals. So perhaps it’s time to stop leaving it all up to chance?

Want to learn more about the value of Oscar Health’s structured interview process?

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