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Imagine this: You’ve just finished interviewing one of the candidates for an open position on your team. It might be tempting to step away after the interview and “sleep on it,” letting your thoughts about it percolate in your brain for a while before writing anything down. Resist that temptation, though—the longer you wait to write down your notes, the more likely you are to forget things. That’s especially true if you’re interviewing multiple candidates in the same time frame.

Instead, organize your notes right after the interview concludes and debrief with your colleagues as soon as possible. Whether this debrief happens asynchronously—via emails, chats, or shared documents—or in a synchronous meeting, it should happen right after all interviews are completed. This gives each stakeholder a chance to share their thoughts while they’re fresh, minimizing the chances that they’ll forget things or become biased by other factors.

If your team chooses to have a synchronous debrief meeting through video conference or in-person, we’re here to help you conduct the most productive and equitable version of that meeting possible. 

Let’s talk about what an effective interview debrief is, how to run it and manage disagreements, and make the best hiring decisions for your team and the company as a whole.

What is an interview debrief?

An interview debrief is a meeting of the hiring team—hiring manager, recruiter, and other interviewers and stakeholders—to discuss each candidate and make informed decisions together.

Over the last ten years or so, hiring has become a very important part of company success. It used to be a more cyclical, rote process that focused on “putting butts in seats,” but now many businesses have come to realize that it’s vital for their revenue to get hiring right the first time around. It’s not just about hiring people to do the job—it’s about hiring the right people to do the job.

Especially for companies that move fast and interviewers who have busy schedules, the practice of immediately writing down post-interview notes and observations isn’t necessarily easy or appealing. For teams that decide to run debriefs after an interview has concluded, they find that a little bit of time after every interview can go a really long way towards making a hiring decision and feeling confident in the chosen candidate.

Interview debriefs are a direct answer to issues with cyclical hiring, miscommunication amongst the hiring team, and quality of hire. It doesn’t matter how long the debrief is or whether it’s synchronous or asynchronous; as long as your team dedicates the time it needs for the debrief, then it’s successful.

How to run an effective interview debrief

It’s almost guaranteed that there will be unique and different opinions from each member of the team during the interview debrief. Below are some of the tips we recommend to help you run the most effective debrief possible.

1. Make sure your team is prepared before you start

Make sure all participants have recorded notes and scores for every candidate they interviewed. If you have access to interview recordings—or even better, an interview intelligence platform—ask team members to review the highlights of conversations they were not part of prior to the debrief.

2. Follow the recruiter

The recruiter or hiring manager who oversaw the interview process should lead and moderate the conversation, and other colleagues should defer to their leadership. The recruiter is responsible for keeping track of time and making sure all teammates are heard equally. It may be helpful for the recruiter to review interview clips or existing notes from the interview intelligence platform to help guide the conversation.

3. Maintain a structured discussion flow

A structured discussion leaves less room for bias and creates more equitable opportunities for everyone to contribute their opinions. We recommend the following steps:

Step 1: Introduce the discussion.

Explain the purpose of the debrief and provide an overview of the process. Establish any necessary ground rules—for example, to not interrupt during another colleague’s speaking time and respect each other’s opinions.

Step 2: Review the candidates.

Follow a structured order when reviewing each candidate. Announce the candidate to be discussed, and ask each teammate who participated in (or reviewed the highlights of) an interview with them to give their scores and commentary for each of your role pillars. A role pillar is a specific trait or skill that you would like the new employee to possess. Share all scores and general comments in succession and in order of seniority—least senior to most senior, to avoid bias based on deference—before opening the floor to conversation and debate. 

For each role pillar or section, probe major discrepancies. Explore why there are differences of opinion and invite commentary to compare them. If you need to lead the floor with specific questions, consider some of these to get the conversation started:

  • What did you like most about this candidate?
  • Did this candidate possess the core competencies we’re seeking for the role?
  • Is there anything you’re worried about with this candidate that would prevent them from moving forward?
  • Does this candidate align with our company values?

Step 3: Review the candidate pool all together.

Once all candidates have been discussed, examine their scores in aggregate. You can compare candidates easily using an editable scorecard like this one. Allow additional time to discuss candidates who performed similarly. You can also use the additional time for teammates to offer any last-minute commentary. Plus, don’t forget you can go back to your interview intelligence tool to rewatch any interview highlights to refresh your memory. With this, you can rely on the candidate’s actual words in the interview to make a decision, instead of your notes or memory.

Step 4: Make a decision.

This doesn’t necessarily have to be a final decision on who to hire for the position, but at the end of the debrief, you should be able to walk away with actionable next steps for the candidates discussed.

How to manage disagreements

An unavoidable part of the decision making process is knowing how to disagree respectfully with your teammates. If there are conflicting opinions on the hiring team and no consensus on who to hire for the position, there are a few different ways you can manage these disagreements during the interview debrief.

Empower hiring managers to own the decision

While recruiters typically drive the interview debrief conversation, hiring managers drive the final decision on which candidate to hire. Sometimes hiring can spin into a purely democratic process where everyone must give a thumbs up to the best candidate—but that’s simply not always realistic. Know it’s okay to disagree and share concerns, but it’s ultimately up to the hiring manager to make the decision on who they want to manage and bring to the team.

Program disagreements into your scoring system

Sometimes it’s best to get ahead of disagreements before they occur. As a part of your scorecard system, you could make it so that a candidate must score above a certain threshold from each of the interviewers and stakeholders to be discussed in the debrief and eligible to move forward. By doing this, you can secure agreement with everyone before the debrief happens, effectively eliminating any disputes.

Set expectations up front

Before your team makes a decision—possibly before the interview process even begins—make sure to set expectations correctly. Ensure everyone on the team knows that no matter whether they were thumbs up, thumbs down, or on the fence for the chosen candidate, the team should come together to support the new teammate and set them up for success when they onboard. If someone wasn’t entirely sold on the candidate and they let that show when that person joins, it can affect the team as a whole—no matter how perfect that new hire is for the role.

Compare candidates in their own words

It’s useful to compare your notes from one candidate to the next, but it’s something else entirely to compare candidates’ actual answers to interview questions. With BrightHire, you can access interview recordings after the interview is over and highlight specific clips or answers to review later. This makes it that much easier to directly compare one candidate’s answer to another’s, helping you and your team make the most informed decision possible.

Making great hiring decisions

Recruiters, TA teams, and hiring managers need to work in lockstep to make the right hiring decisions. Amazing work happens when there’s a true partnership between all interview stakeholders. That partnership requires a good bit of work upfront, but it really pays off down the line.

Think about this through the lens of the classic tortoise and the hare fable. The hare’s team may be prioritizing velocity to get someone hired as quickly as possible and get the work done sooner. However, the tortoise’s team did more work in the beginning to ensure quality—in the process, the candidates, and the debrief process—and took their time to hire the right candidate for the job. The tortoise used available market, business, and interview data and made evidence-backed decisions, ran effective interview debriefs, and ensured the entire team was on the same page. Would it surprise you to know the candidate hired by the tortoise was more successful and worked at the company longer than the candidate hired by the hare? Of course not!

The secret to making great hiring decisions is really no secret at all—know what the team is looking for in a candidate and what the non-negotiables are, know how to come to a yes or a no decision together, and know how to debrief together in a respectful and productive way. When you have all of that prepared and empower the team with knowledge they need, the right hiring decision will come naturally.

Nail your debriefs with our interview debrief template

Interviewing candidates and sharing your thoughts with your team doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming. With some work on the front end before the interview process begins—and team alignment around what a good candidate is and isn’t for the role, how to run the interview, and how to collect feedback after the interview concludes—interview debriefs will become second nature.

Download our Productive Interview Debriefs Template to get started on running your own successful debriefs.

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