How to Train Your Hiring Managers on Proper Candidate Interview Techniques

Barry Lenson

To effectively attract top talent and stay competitive, organizations must reevaluate and enhance their talent acquisition processes to engage candidates before, during, and after the interview, using personalized communication at every step as part of an overall strategic candidate experience journey.

Recent Bersin by Deloitte research shows that developing strong relationships with hiring managers is the top driver of talent acquisition performance and four times more influential than all the other performance drivers measured.

More specifically, it is imperative to enable effective hiring manager and team interviews. At the interview stage, candidates are excited to speak to a hiring manager but they still have expectations of a personalized and fair experience. In order to ensure a positive candidate experience through the interview process, hiring managers must be given the appropriate training, tools, and assistance to ensure interviews are effective and engaging, and then ensure everyone involved in the interviewing process applies the same predetermined system of measurement to their interviews.

RelatedWhat the Candidate Experience Really Means in Recruiting & Hiring

If a job seeker had a poor experience during an interview a decade ago, he or she would be less likely to apply again in the future, accept a job offer, or buy that company’s products or services. They would also probably tell their inner circle about the poor experience.

This still happens today, although the ubiquitousness of social media and employer review sites have dramatically expanded the dynamic and size of our inner circles. As a consequence, news of a poor candidate experience can travel much faster and further. Research shows that candidates who had a poor candidate experience are far more likely to tell others not to apply to a company, and may even write a negative Glassdoor review.

Training Hiring Managers to Interview Well

According to Candidate Experience Awards data, candidates who were dissatisfied with the interview process cite distracted interviewers, late or no-show interviewers, and non-job relevant questions as key drivers of dissatisfaction. Begin with an assessment of hiring manager skill gaps based on interview audits and a general understanding of manager demographics. When introducing training for hiring managers (which should be mandatory from the CEO level, not “mandated” by HR), make sure you have executive buy-in. Present it as a refresher for longtime managers, and as new training for new hiring managers.

Training can be stand-alone or part of a managerial training program. At the University of Texas at Austin, interview training is one module in a larger managerial training program. The HR department also offers several stand-alone classes on unusual hiring situations, such as hiring international applicants.

The interview is the single most important candidate selection tool after the application

and/or resume. We have developed a list of interview suggestions and tips for managers: Recruiting and Interview Guide Tips.

Communication with your hiring managers is not optional if you want to create a consistent and successful interviewing process. Implementing a regular hiring manager feedback mechanism through surveys or focus groups or assigning dedicated account managers can align people around a joint goal: to hire the best qualified people for your company.

Legal and Compliance Issues in Interviewing

Interviewing consistency is not just important for the candidate experience, it also directly impacts legal and compliance issues. At the very basic level, training for hiring managers — especially those new to the industry — should cover what cannot be discussed or asked during an interview.

In the U.S. there are specific candidate questions that managers should avoid asking because they violate specific employment laws. If your candidate is located in California or New York, it is against the law to ask questions related to salary information.

Questions asked on application forms and during interviews can create significant legal problems for employers if the questions run afoul of federal, state, and municipal laws that prohibit unlawful pre employment inquiries.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) expressly prohibits disability-related pre employment inquiries made prior to extending a job offer to an applicant. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 has no express prohibition, but the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) cautions that questions concerning an applicant’s age, gender, race, color, religion, or national origin may be used as evidence of discrimination. Other federal laws include provisions that protect the confidentiality of an applicant’s medical information, prohibit hiring decisions that discourage union membership, and restrict employment decisions based on an employee’s financial history.

This is where structured interviews come in. Many hiring managers, particularly those used to working without a net (or HR department), may prefer unstructured interviews. There is a case to be made for these types of interviews, but the cons tend to outweigh the pros. In a structured interview, questions are determined in advance and consistent. In unstructured interviews, the questions are not set in advance or may come from a loose set of notes from a hiring manager.

In structured interviews, the data is quantitative, the research is descriptive, and the data collection validates results, especially when a large number of hires are required. From an HR compliance standpoint, having structured interviews helps make the hiring process consistent across all candidates lessening the risk for discrimination based on certain protected classes as discussed in Title VII, the ADA, GINA, and ADEA.

In an unstructured interview, the data is qualitative, the research is exploratory and often incomplete, and data collection is null, as the questions are more likely to probe personal details about a candidate to assess fit (and can often cross into the “too personal” category).

Read more on how to create a structured interview process in our post, The Hiring Manager’s Guide to Structured Interviews.