So the first interviews are over. Now it is time to review all the candidates that you have seen. This is a very important step and one you must take as soon after the first interviews are concluded as possible.
If you have conducted several interviews over a short time period then your memory of each of the candidates you have seen may be beginning to blur into one another. During the interviews we suggested that you took notes, and one of the reasons for these will now be apparent. At the very least your notes should enable you to distinguish between the various candidates you have interviewed.
If more than one of you was involved in the interviewing process it is important that you get together and discuss your findings as a group. You should review each candidate in turn, discuss their strengths and weaknesses, and to decide on the next steps to take:
- Do you think that you have interviewed the ideal candidate?
- Will you conduct second interviews?
- Will you need to cast the net wider in order to interview more candidates?
Looking at each of the candidates in turn, you need to compare and contrast how each candidate performed against the job description and person specification. Which candidate matched all the essential requirements of the role, and most or all of the desirable requirements? Which candidate most closely matched your organisation’s culture? Which candidates proved unsuitable for the role after interview? If you have used selection tests as part of the interview, then which candidates scored highest?
As far as possible, you are looking for facts, rather than instinct, to form the basis of your analysis. So look through your notes, and any scoring methods that you used to establish which interviewees performed best.
Instinct, however, can play an important part. You shouldn’t ignore it completely. You may have had a gut feeling during the interviewing that one particular candidate would perform best in the role, and would fit in well in your organisation. It would be risky to appoint on the basis of a gut feeling alone, but if you are able to support this instinctive reaction with some solid fact and evidence, then you may well have identified the right candidate.
Your first choice
The first interview can often reveal a clear ‘first choice’ candidate to you, although members of an interview panel can often disagree. More common is to have a shortlist of two or three candidates whom you will want to meet again for a second interview. There are a number of steps that you must take:
- Identify the candidate(s) whom you will want to interview for a second time. You should contact them to arrange a suitable time and location for the second interview.
- Send a polite rejection letter to candidates whom you interviewed, and who you would not employ for the role, even if your preferred candidate(s) turned the job down. The letter should thank them for their application, and for attending the first interview.
- You may have a reserve list of candidates. Although they are not in your preferred shortlist for second interviews, you may want to interview them again if your preferred shortlisted candidates turn down the job. You should send these candidates a polite ‘stalling’ letter, promising that you will get back in touch once the initial interviews have been reviewed and analysed.
Second interviews are not always necessary. If you work in a smaller organisation, have conducted the interviews alone, and think you have met the right candidate for the position, then why spend more time interviewing them again? It is a personal decision, but you should always remember the costs associated with recruitment. If you get it wrong, you will have to start the recruitment process all over again. So it does no harm to interview your preferred candidate for a second time, just to make certain.
In larger organisations, you may have a number of first interviewees that you want to see again. They each have different strengths and weaknesses, and the second interview can be used to reveal the best candidate. With care, your first interview analysis and review has identified a shortlist of perhaps four or five candidates at most. If you have a longer shortlist than this, then you should probably look back over the first interviews and try to reduce it further.
Second interviews are often mishandled. Many organisations call applicants in for a second time, only to meet the same people and ask the same list of questions. There is little point in conducting second interviews if this is what you plan to do. You should use the second interview to:
- Introduce candidates to other members of the management team, or the department that the successful candidate will work in.
- Ask a different selection or type of questions.
- Give candidates one or more selection tests.
- Ask shortlisted candidates to make a presentation.
- Probe further into a candidate’s perceived area of weakness.
You should try to include one or more interviewers who were not involved the first time. They may offer new observations about particular candidates.
Second interview outcomes
The second interview, together with any selection tests you employ, should result in one of three outcomes:
- You identify your preferred candidate
- You decide that none of your shortlisted candidates is suitable
- You still have more than one preferred candidate
Clearly the first outcome is ideal. You should make the candidate an offer of employment, and begin the process of bringing them in to your organisation. Remember not to reject the other second interviewees until your preferred candidate has accepted your offer, has passed any fitness or medical tests, and you have followed up their references to your satisfaction.
If you find that none of your second interviewees is right for the role, then don’t be afraid to admit it. It is more common than you think. Don’t be tempted to appoint one of the candidates in any case. Look back at your reserve list, but if no other likely candidates emerge, then it is probably time to re-advertise. You should review the wording that you used in your advertisement to see if you can amend it in a way that will attract more suitable applicants second time around. Some organisations also add the words ‘Previous applicants need not apply’ to ensure that they do not receive another application from a candidate that they have already rejected.
The third outcome, where you still have two or more candidates after second interview, is trickier. You need to go back to all the evidence that you have available. Score each candidate against the job description, the person specification, the tests, the presentations, the interview performance. Both candidates may be able to do the job, but you must be able to identify a winner using all these criteria.
Even if the second interviews have identified one outstanding candidate, you may still feel nervous about committing yourself by making an offer. There are one or two methods you can use to confirm that you have found the right candidate and have made the correct decision. If your preferred candidate is willing, a job preview might be the answer.
However well your preferred candidate has performed in tests and in interviews, the greatest test of how suitable he or she is comes when they actually start to do the job itself. Only then will you see how well your new employee:
- Copes with the demands of the job
- Handles pressure and stress
- Gets on with colleagues and staff
- Manages the staff they are responsible for
- Delivers the performance targets they have been set
But what about if you could see your preferred candidate perform in the role before you confirmed their appointment? Sounds attractive, doesn’t it? In theory, offering your preferred candidate a job preview gives both you and the candidate that opportunity:
- You have the chance to see them perform the role
- The candidate gets the chance to see if the role suits them
In practice, however, there are some pitfalls to avoid, even when trying to organise a simple three day job preview:
- Can you put together a realistic three day’s work that would be part of the selected job holder’s actual role? If you can’t, or it would be difficult to do so, then it may not be appropriate to offer a job preview. After all, there is not much point in establishment how well your candidate can do work that they will not have to do once they have joined your organisation.
- How realistic is it to expect your candidate to commit to a job preview? If they are already employed elsewhere, for example, then it would be unfair to expect them to try to take several days off work to undertake a job preview. It would be unrealistic to expect them to leave their current role altogether to take up a speculative job preview for your organisation. However, if your preferred candidate is not currently employed, or their circumstances are such that it would not be a problem, then a job preview might suit both you and the candidate.
The idea of a realistic job preview is to show the candidate what the job is really like, and to see how they perform in the role. Your candidate may welcome the idea, especially if they are unsure about whether the position is right for them or not. But under no circumstances should you penalise or judge a candidate on the grounds that they are unable to commit to a job preview.
A job preview is just one way to be as certain as you can be about the decision you have made. Remember that you have already followed a methodical step by step process to arrive at your decision:
- You have listed the demands and responsibilities of the role in a Job Description.
- You have identified the essential and desirable requirements of the ideal candidate in the Person Specification.
- You have compared and contrasted all the applications you received against these two documents.
- You shortlisted for interview the candidates who fitted the requirements best.
- You reviewed and assessed the interview performance of each candidate against these optimum criteria.
- You may have asked shortlisted candidates to perform one or more practical or behavioural test.
- You shortlisted again, and conducted second interviews.
- You may, or may not, have asked your preferred candidate to undertake a job preview.
Making a decision
You should now be in a position to commit to a decision to make an offer of employment to your preferred candidate. Any doubts you still have might be put down to nerves, or could indicate that none of your shortlist is suitable. Always bear in mind that the perfect candidate almost certainly doesn’t exist. Assuming that you have identified your preferred candidate, it is time to make them an offer.
Post interview analysis: Checklist
- Have you reviewed the performance of each candidate as soon as the first interviews are completed?
- Has instinct led you to favour one particular interviewee?
- Do you have a ‘first choice’ candidate?
- Will you hold second interviews?
- How will they be different from the initial interviews? Who else can you involve?
- Have the second interviews identified one candidate above all others?
- Do you feel ready to make your preferred candidate a job offer?
- Have you rejected all of your second interviewees?
- Would a job preview be appropriate in your case?
- Is it time to make your decision?