Interviewer Shadowing: the secret of the most effective hiring machines in the world

Siadhal Magos

Siadhal Magos

23 Sep 2020 • 4 min read

Interviewing. It’s the most outcome defining point in the hiring process. High performing interviewers are your company’s frontline defence against hiring the wrong people but they must also double as the face of your company ensuring that exceptional candidates leave their interviews impressed. Put simply, interviewers determine whether an organization will succeed in identifying and attracting the right people.

So how can you be sure that your interviewers are performing at their peak? How can every hire your company makes improve the average? How can your interviewers be trained such that they are truly capable of intentionally identifying and attracting talent?

What to aim for 📈

Effective interviewers are calibrated with the organization’s values, provide in-depth and targeted feedback on candidates, ask questions that test the limits of a candidate’s knowledge, and are aware of the risks of their unconscious biases.

Ineffective interviewers fail to ask appropriate questions, provide weak feedback on candidates, make their decision in the first 30 seconds, fail to understand the requirements of the role they’re helping to hire for, and — above all — they make bad decisions as a result.

Don’t we all want more of the former, and less of the latter?

How the most successful companies in the world are achieving this 🎉

The best organizations in the world rely on interview shadowing as the primary way to train interviewers to the standard they require, and keep them there.

Amazon have their Bar Raiser program, where all successful candidates need to be vetted by an objective and trusted interviewer — the ‘Bar Raiser’ — before an offer can be extended.

Google have their independent, data-driven hiring committees that move the responsibility for hiring decisions for the whole company to a relative-few highly trusted decision makers based on the information their interviewers have managed to capture from a candidate.

Facebook’s hiring teams have different interviewers trained on specific competencies. In all these cases (and more!), a consistent interview shadowing program lays the foundation for creating the population of effective, aligned interviewers that these processes rely on. Facebook believe in shadowing so strongly they have based their entire interviewer training program exclusively around shadowing!

Interviewer shadowing allows trainees and current interviewers to learn and improve skills within the environment in which they will actually use them, not a classroom. It enables trainees to receive feedback based on things that actually happened, rather than theoretical feedback on hypothetical situations. It enables the development of interviewing skills uniquely tailored to the organization they’re in and the things that matter to you, not undifferentiated skills that are unlikely to attain a competitive advantage in the war for talent.

What is interviewer shadowing? 👥

Shadowing is when the trainee interviewer wishing to improve their interviewing skills observes another talented/respected interviewer conducting an interview.

Reverse Shadowing is when a trainee interviewer conducts an interview, while an experienced interviewer within the company observes. Afterwards, the experienced interviewer provides feedback on how they ran the interview and can also offer a second opinion on the candidate to the hiring committee or decision-maker.

How does interviewer shadowing benefit the organization? 🚀

Applying shadowing practices can help everyone improve their interviewing.

Trainee interviewers

  • Engaged Learning: Interviewer training shouldn’t be a box ticking task. Shadowing engages prospective interviewers by tailoring their training to them whilst learning in an interactive environment. Classroom exercises or online tutorials are never as effective as hands on learning.
  • Expert Coaching: Your company has unique values and your interviewers should reflect these. Interviewers get to learn from the best interviewers in your company which calibrates them quickly and efficiently with company values.
  • Fast Track: Shadowing allows you to recognise promising interviewers quickly, so you can have access to your best new interviewers with minimal delay. This then reduces the interview burden on your existing interviewers (as candidate interviews can be spread amongst more trusted interviewers).

Trained Interviewers

  • Motivation: Measuring people on their interviewing skills motivates them to aim to be great at interviewing. Hiring standards will grow organically within your company as people compete in this positive sum game. Without shadowing, people see no opportunities for growth or progression within their interviews so aren’t motivated to improve after their initial training.
  • Continuous improvement: It seems crazy to spend so much on training a key skill only to then never review someones progress. With shadowing every interviewer is always getting better by having their interviews assessed and assessing others. This means the bar for hiring at your company is always being raised.

The organization:

  • Confidence: You can be confident that hiring standards across the company are held to a high bar. This results in a high-level of trust among colleagues that each person has earned their place. With single time training methods interviewers can go for years without any kind of review of their practices, and poor interviewing only becomes apparent when it is too late (when you’ve made too many bad hires!).
  • Cross Function: Shadowing encourages collaboration across teams in your company and aligns their hiring standards.

Conclusion 🏁

Interview shadowing is by far the most effective way to train your interviewers. Though it can be time consuming, the best companies in the world use it extensively to gain advantages in the war for talent and avoid even more costly mis-hires. Importantly, cutting-edge tools — not least Metaview Shadowing — are emerging to make shadowing more convenient and even more effective. If you’re looking to hire with the best of them, then there has never been a better time to start your interviewer shadowing program.

Metaview helps ambitious organizations run amazing interviews.

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