Jacob Kaplan-Moss

Training Interviewers

What’s the best way to train folks to conduct job interviews?

I have a process I’ve used for about five years that seems to work well. It’s loosely based on the “see one, do one, teach one” methodology used by many medical schools.

Here’s what I do:

1. Training

I’ll spend about an hour covering the practice of interviewing: how to ask questions and follow-ups, take notes, correct for unconscious bias, handle difficult situations, etc. We’ll usually also role play interviewing (i.e. have new interviewers ask each other questions and role-play answers). I’ll observe and give feedback.

2. Observation

Next, I’ll invite a new interviewer to watch me interview. They’ll observe, and we’ll debrief after, but they won’t participate in the interview nor be involved in the decision.

Now, I’m against having multiple interviewers in an interview (panel interviews make candidates more nervous, which gets in the way of measuring what you’re really looking for in an interview). So, I conduct interviews with observers in a very specific way. At the beginning of the interview, I introduce the observer, explain that they’re there for training purposes, and won’t be talking or be involved in the decision-making at all. After that, I have the observer turn off their audio and video (or, for in-person interviews, move out of the sight-line of the candidate). This helps us both pretend the observer’s not there.

After the interview, I’ll debrief with the observer. I’ll answer whatever questions they have about how I conducted the interview. I’ll ask them about what they noticed, what they might have asked if they were in my shoes, and what recommendation they would make if they were involved in the hiring team.

3. Practice and Feedback

The next step is to turn things around: have the new interviewer actually conduct an interview, but with me observing. I’ll observe, but not participate, and the new interviewer will make the hire/no-hire recommendation (possibly with my input, but usually not).

Structurally, this works exactly as above. At the start of the interview, the new interviewer will introduce me, explain that I’m just there to give the interview feedback, but won’t be asking questions. I’ll turn off my video and observe.

Afterwards, I’ll debrief with the new interviewer, just like above. I’ll give them feedback on their interviewing technique, and we’ll discuss their recommendation and why they made it.

Sometimes we’ll repeat this step more than once, but often a single interview/feedback cycle is enough to give me confidence that this person is ready to interview on their own. (Of course if they want more feedback, I’m always happy to do this again.)

4. The Student Becomes the Master

Now, they’re ready to interview, and I slot them in to hiring rounds as they come up.

Once they start to feel really confidant with their interviewing skill (usually this takes around a dozen interviews, give or take) I invite them to begin teaching others. They walk through this same process with someone else, taking the role of the teacher.

This works out great: the number of potential interviewers grows exponentially, and pretty soon everyone who’s interested can be ready to help interview.