Guide: Train your interviewers

Introduction

Interviewing can serve many purposes: it provides a way to find great candidates and it can also solidify company culture, create camaraderie, and provide a sense of belonging for existing employees. Giving your employees power to help inform hiring decisions has the added impact of creating a feeling of ownership among your team. Using employees, who are owners and stewards of company culture, to conduct interviews keeps them engaged.

Guide: Train your interviewers

Make interviewing everyone’s job

At Google, internal research shows that interactions with interviewers are the top-mentioned factor in candidate feedback -- more important to candidates than the type of work, the benefits, or their interactions with recruiters when assessing the overall hiring experience. Google communicates that to interviewers, and emphasizes their critical role in the interview process and company culture.

For this reason, and the practical fact that the hiring team is interviewing thousands of candidates every year, Google wants interviewing to be part of every Googler’s job. The hiring team tries to identify a wide range of interviewers across demographics and job levels. Once the team identifies them, interviewers learn about desired attributes for candidates and review the interview process as a whole. The more interviewers understand what they’re looking for and how it fits into the larger picture, the more effective they can be.

build Tool: Use the interviewer training checklist

Make it your own. Customize the tool below.

Here’s a list of questions that address basic practices and general information to consider when training your interviewers.

Do your interviewers...

  • Understand your company hiring process and their role in that process?
  • Know how to prepare for an interview (develop questions, budget time, review resumes, etc.)?
  • Have the skills needed to conduct an interview that leaves the candidate feeling great about your company regardless of whether or not they get an offer?
  • Know how to conduct a legally compliant interview?
  • Know how to provide effective feedback and give a meaningful interview score?
  • Understand the post-interview process?

Google's interviewer training checklist

Use, and add to, this list to help prepare your interviewers.

build Tool: Share the interviewer cheat sheet

Here’s a list of practices and tips to help prepare your interviewers and remind them why interviewing is so important.

Make it your own: customize the tool below.

Google's interviewer cheat sheet

This cheat sheet includes tips for interviewer questions, interviewer behavior, and how to avoid the most common traps.

Guide: Train your interviewers

Have interviewers practice

One of the best ways to train interviewers is to give them practice so they have a consistent frame of reference for what is a great, mediocre, or poor interview. At Google, this is called calibration. Calibration across interviewers is one of the most important ways to ensure valid ratings.

Some groups calibrate new interviewers by having them shadow more experienced interviewers. After interviewers have shadowed a few interviews, the hiring team may ask them to “reverse shadow” where the new interviewer runs the interview and the experienced interviewer observes to provide feedback.

Here’s how the reverse shadow process looks:

Before the interview:

  • The new interviewer sets up an informal meeting with the experienced interviewer.
  • The new interviewer presents their plan of action on how to conduct the interview, including what questions they plan to ask (including follow-up questions), what they expect the candidate to answer, and how these questions will help make a decision.
  • The experienced interviewer should give feedback at this time.

During the interview:

  • The new interviewer leads the interview.
  • The experienced interviewer sits quietly and observes but should jump in if needed to steer the interview in right direction. This will ensure that the interview is high-quality.

After the interview:

  • Both the new and the experienced interviewers independently write feedback, including an interview score ranking the candidate. This step is really important! This ensures that the hiring committee gets feedback from all experienced interviewers.
  • After the shadowing and reverse shadowing, the new interviewer can set up an informal meeting with the experienced interviewer to discuss the quality of interview questions, quality of feedback, and any other tips on how to conduct the interview. They compare interview scores to assess any discrepancies.
  • Google's independent hiring committees rely heavily upon interview feedback to make the ultimate hiring decision. Therefore, it’s also important for the hiring committee to give interviewers feedback on the usefulness of their interview assessment. We call this “feedback on feedback” as the committee tells the interviewer how they might improve their interview feedback. Yes, at Google, we love feedback.
Guide: Train your interviewers

Write clear feedback

Interviewer feedback is critical to making a hiring decision, so Google's hiring team gives interviewers the following guidance to write helpful feedback and avoid common pitfalls:

  • Don’t write vague statements or summarize the resume. Statements like "seems smart" or "graduated from a great school" won't help hiring committees make a decision.
  • Don’t reiterate info from the rubrics. The rubrics contain the bulk of your assessment. For example, in "Underwater Basket Weaving," when you check the "Excellent" box you're telling the committee that your candidate did things like clearly incorporate efficient use of material into basket planning. So explain more in your comments -- give examples instead of restating information.
  • Don’t get distracted by personality and "fit" or evaluate attributes unrelated to the job. Stay focused on the key attributes that make someone successful in the role.
  • Don’t procrastinate. Write interview feedback as soon as possible, while it's still fresh in your mind.

In Google's hiring process, this feedback is then passed to the hiring committee to inform their decision. Since no one on the hiring committee actually interviews the candidate, they’re entirely beholden to the written feedback they receive. Our hiring committees will provide “feedback on feedback,” letting interviewers know if their feedback was helpful, too long, too short, or if they should be focused differently.

Guide: Train your interviewers

Avoid common interviewer mistakes

At Google, the hiring team collects feedback from candidates and uses it to inform and improve the interview experience. Based on this internal candidate feedback, the hiring team shares these basic tips with interviewers:

  • Show up on time. Being late throws off the candidate’s confidence, might take away from other interviewers' time, and shows a general lack of respect.
  • Don’t jump right into the questions. Candidates and interviewers both mention this often as a negative experience.
  • Make eye contact. A common complaint from candidates is that the interviewer was buried in note-taking. Take thorough notes, but conversational interviews require a high level of interaction.
  • Be humble. Another common piece of feedback is that interviewers seem like gatekeepers, judging a candidate in a high-pressure situation. No matter the candidate’s performance, the goal is to have them feel like they answered a challenging but role-related question and that you are working with them to assess their skill, not showing off your own.
  • Reassure the candidate. Don’t let candidates believe they are failing. Not all candidates will be successful in their interview, but it does not help them to feel like they don’t have any chance at success.