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5 fundamental blocks of the interviewer training process

Building an interviewer training process that scales successfully is all about the long game.

It’s rooted in creating opportunities for learning that go well beyond a classroom context. It’s about making sure learning and knowledge are sustained over time, rather than forgotten. It’s built on collaborative learning, yet caters for individual development needs. Above all, it’s thoughtfully created, both in content and in structure.

The best interviewer training processes have five key building blocks in common:

  • Intentional and proactive, not a checkbox exercise: Implement interviewer training as an essential process in your organization’s hiring ecosystem to deliver better outcomes.
  • Ongoing, not one-off: Ongoing, continuous learning reduces knowledge decay over time and means your team are constantly sharpening their skills.
  • Peer-driven and collaborative: Collaborative learning formats like shadowing create shared ownership of training goals and foster efficient knowledge transfer.
  • Personalized and contextual, not one-to-many: Interviewer training needs to deliver personalized, actionable learning opportunities that respond to specific development goals.
  • Rigorous and credible: Everyone, no matter their experience of interviewing, should follow the same training process and quality controls.

Intentional and proactive, not a checkbox exercise

Academic and industry research consistently highlights that interviewer training has a bit of a mistaken identity problem. It’s primarily seen as a way of ensuring hiring managers avoid bias — and a costly lawsuit — while in the interview room. 

But this mindset limits interviewer training to a very narrow scope. It becomes a preventative or even reactive measure for compliance purposes, rather than a proactive one. Building an effective interviewer training process relies on reframing this narrative to one that enables organizations to build a more efficient, consistent, and fair hiring experience — for everyone involved. 

What this means in practice

Instead of avoiding discrimination accusations, organizations should target delivering fairer hiring outcomes. Instead of viewing interviewer training as a launchpad to hire more people more quickly, organizations must buy in on how it contributes tangibly to business success beyond the scope of hiring, such as building a better product. Instead of short-term training models that impart limited understanding, organizations must focus on long-term knowledge and skills development.

Interviewer training needs to become embedded as an essential process at an organization-wide level, not just as a hiring add-on. It needs to feed into conversations around your culture and mission, diversity, equity and inclusion goals, and ongoing employee learning and development milestones.

Ongoing, not one-off

For time-poor talent teams, one-and-done interviewer training is often a powerful lure. This is because it comes with the unspoken expectation that the moment the training ends, you’ll have a brand new cohort of freshly-trained interviewers, ready to weigh in on hiring decisions.

Schedule the training, line up the calendars, and the hard part’s over — right?

Not exactly. This expectation is not only simplistic, but it also fails to take into account different levels of learning style and ability, and how your trainees retain the information shared in the training session.

What this means in practice

Research consistently shows that one-and-done learning models rarely deliver long-term results. It’s why cramming right before a test is a better predictor of your short-term recall skills than how well you’ve internalized the knowledge long after the fact.

Enabling ongoing learning doesn’t mean retraining, or that you need to funnel people back through the exactly the same process they already followed every quarter. This won’t incentivize your trainees to learn how to interview better — at best, they’ll be able to memorize the contents of your presentation, and that’s not an actionable way to ensure quality and consistency at scale.

Instead, organizations need to consider how to extend the impact of their interviewer training to deliver a long-term return on their investment and drive deeper subject matter expertise. On a day-to-day level, this means providing ample access to theoretical and practical resources to supplement this knowledge development, like courses or technology solutions. 

Long-term, this requires a larger shift towards a learning culture, and fostering productive relationships that result in a trickle-down of knowledge.

“One training session is not enough to make sure your hiring managers have mastered the basics of a good quality interview, let alone to keep them calibrated. But I don’t think doing refresher training every few months is the answer — that’s not interesting for your trainees, and it’s not teaching them anything new. 

In the case of unconscious bias training, it’s more important that interviewers have a grasp of how bias happens, and are given actionable pointers on how to improve, rather than memorizing the specific terms for different types of bias.”

Margaret Buj Profile Image
Margaret Buj
Interview coach and Lead Technical Recruiter, Mixmax

Peer-driven and collaborative

Recruiting and talent teams often find that the success and scalability of their interviewer training program is hampered by their limited capacity. This is when collaborative, peer-driven learning models like mentoring can be immensely powerful.

Peer-driven learning is particularly effective for interviewer training, because it means talent and recruiting teams can share the training load, and quickly expand capacity with limited resources. In short, it can help remove the impact of training bottlenecks by leveraging existing resources.

But it also means that organizations can make sure their quality bar stays high, and that knowledge transfer is more effective. Studies on peer learning in the classroom have shown that it facilitates learning for both the mentor and the mentee — but it also increases confidence and accuracy in decision-making.[10]

What this means in practice

To harness the power of peer learning, organizations can foster mentor-mentee relationships between their certified interviewers and their trainees. This relationship will not only help drive critical alignment in what good looks like for your organization and ensure high quality knowledge transfer takes place, but also helps trainees see the skills in action, driving deeper understanding.

The most important part, though, is that it drives shared accountability and buy-in on each participant to hit shared learning goals. Mentors are incentivized to help trainees succeed because it helps them keep building an organization they want to work for, and trainees get focused, one-to-one training that gives them actionable points for development.

[10] Jonathan G Tullis and Robert L Goldstone, ‘Why does peer instruction benefit student learning?’, Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications (2020).

Personalized and contextual, not one-to-many

Most of us are familiar with the one-to-many context for learning — after all, it was a big part of our school education. In an organizational context, learning has been done in much the same way — give or take a couple of decades and usually, fewer paper airplanes. And that makes sense; it’s a highly successful way of sharing knowledge to large groups more quickly.

While this approach might have helped us through our formative years (not to mention memorizing our multiplication tables), it’s unlikely to be the most effective delivery method for interviewer training.

Research into classroom-based learning gives us a clue as to why. We know from studies that larger class sizes can negatively impact knowledge uptake and transfer, ultimately reducing the amount of information retained.[11] Meanwhile at the top of the class, one-to-many learning formats may also result in instructors altering lesson content for mass delivery rather than learning outcomes, meaning student knowledge development is negatively impacted.[12]

In the classroom, varying learning outcomes typically impact student skills development at an individual level. But in the interview process, they can translate directly into inconsistency, bias, and a poor quality hire down the line. While group-level interviewer training may help interviewers learn the practical skills, it won’t provide a direction of travel for individual development needs.

What this means in practice

Learning is personal, but guiding each employee with a personalized development plan isn’t a viable option — not even when organizations have a huge recruitment team at their disposal. Instead, this is the perfect moment for organizations to leverage technology and encourage a more self-directed approach to learning. 

Research shows that training is important for knowledge development, but that the success of training is dependent on how motivated your trainees are to find opportunities to apply, adopt and adapt what they’ve learned to different scenarios.[13] Individual preferences, needs, and situational characteristics — such as how your organization approaches motivating employees to learn — are critical in this regard.

Online courses and instruction are one option, but emerging research on microlearning shows that it could be another helpful tool that better caters for the diversity of learning styles and needs within an organization. 

Microlearning hinges on delivering ‘snackable’, targeted lesson content that is delivered at the point of need, and provides instant feedback.[14] When this approach is combined with tech, it means that trainees have an option for developing their knowledge that is contextual, delivered at point of need, and breaks learning down into smaller pieces that better fit in with the flow of work.

[11] Kevin Belanger, Angela K Dills, Rey Hernández-Julián, Kurt W Rotthoff, ‘Class size, learning and knowledge decay’, SSRN Electronic Journal (2017).

[12] James Monks and Robert M Schmidt, ‘The impact of class size on outcomes in higher education’, The BE Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy (2011).

[13] Jason L Huang, Brian D Blume, J Kevin Ford and Timothy T Baldwin, ‘A tale of two transfers: Disentangling maximum and typical transfer and their respective predictors’, Journal of Business Psychology (2015).

[14] Isa Jahnke, Yen-Mei Lee, Minh Pham, Hao He and Linda Austin, ‘Unpacking the inherent design principles of microlearning’, Technology, Knowledge and Learning (2020).

Rigorous and credible, not reliant on shortcuts or biases

As humans, we’re impatient. We like quick fixes, because they’re based on our need for instant gratification. It’s why internet crash courses claiming we can learn a skill in a couple of hours are so compelling, and make us part so easily with our cash.

But the truth is that there’s no quick fix for learning the skills needed to lead a consistent, fair interview process. There’s no crash course for unlearning all the biases your interviewers have collected over the course of their lifetimes, or that bad habit of stacking interview questions they’ve picked up in their last couple of roles. And despite what some online resources might have you believe, there’s no two-day quickstart course that can build long-term knowledge and skills development.

What this means in practice

Your interviewer training framework needs to be as credible and rigorous as you expect your interviewers to be once they’re sitting in front of a candidate for real. This means that your training content must be based on best practice and structure that aligns with what good looks like for you.

It means making sure everyone follows the same process and learns the same best practice, whether they’ve never interviewed someone before, or they’ve been interviewing candidates for 20 years. It means everyone must also be held to the same quality bar, and re-evaluated on a regular basis to make sure that standards are upheld.

And it also means that if your interviewers are falling short, you need to be prepared to have some hard conversations to preserve trust and belief in your hiring process. For Angela, this was a no-brainer when she factored in the importance of preserving candidate experience alongside her organization’s hiring bar.

“We didn’t want our interview training framework to just become a process where people would enter one end and exit the other, certified to interview by default. So many training options on the market relied on this approach — trainees would watch a video, attend some live training, and they’d get their certification.

In that scenario, there are no quality gates at each step of the process. Nobody owns the decision of whether or not this person should be an interviewer or not. 

Sometimes we’d get to the end of our training process and we’d need to have a tough conversation with a trainee because they just didn’t have the skills or qualities we needed to uphold the quality of our interview process. If we couldn’t get there with an individual, then they didn’t make the team. And that’s okay — some people just aren’t meant to interview. 

Having that quality gate was important to us, because it meant we could protect our hiring bar and our commitment to candidate experience.”

Angela Miller Profile Image
Angela Miller
Head of Recruiting, Instabase

Key takeaways

  • Interviewer training needs a range of key building blocks to create a scalable, sustainable process.

  • Organizations need to focus on creating a training framework that is proactive and intentional, rather than an output-focused checkbox exercise that delivers certified interviewers after one round of training.

  • Blending collaborative and actionable personalized learning opportunities can help reduce operational bottlenecks, increase knowledge transfer, and create mutual ownership between trainees and certified interviewers.

  • For best results, organizations need to build a process where everyone, no matter their experience, is trained and evaluated by the same criteria.