How to build an interview process that scales

With this guide, you can: Develop an interview process for your organization, using Lever's most important features to hire top talent quickly and efficiently.

Hiring is time-consuming and expensive. Getting it right is crucial, and getting it wrong can be fatal - especially to companies trying to scale quickly. A single bad hire can cost up to a quarter of a million dollars - and organizations that lack a standard interview process are five times as likely to make a bad hire. (source)

Below, we'll show you how to use Lever to organize your interviews, automate your process, and use feedback to improve and scale over time.

This guide covers:

  1. How to define the interview questions for each stage of your process
  2. How to get more colleagues involved with hiring - while respecting their calendars
  3. How to automate your interview process and eliminate busywork
  4. How to use feedback to improve your process over time
  5. The most important change you can make right now

How to define the interview questions for each stage of your process

Time is money. Scaling companies know they need to avoid spending too much time interviewing the wrong candidates - time that could be spent wooing the right candidates, or doing their core tasks. An efficient interview process screens most candidates out during the "cheap" interview stages, and reserves "expensive" interview stages for its best qualified candidates:

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Organizing and prioritizing your questions ahead of time will help you identify inappropriate candidates early on in the process - before you've invested time and money into a lengthy interview process.

Which questions need to be asked and when do they need answers?

In other words, if a hiring manager phone interview is the final screening process before an on-site interview - and an on-site interview is "expensive" - what does a hiring manager have to find out before they feel confident inviting someone to the office?

Tip: Having trouble coming up with questions? Lever's blog features dozens of interview question sets, covering every stage of the interviewing process.

Now that you've decided what to ask and when, help your team remember by building these questions into feedback forms. Feedback forms keep your team organized, prepared, and focused on the criteria that matters. They also capture interview feedback in a structured way, so that you can gather insights about your overall hiring process - more on that later!

Remember to choose the most appropriate answer format, identify required questions, and use feedback form groups to organize your feedback forms:

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Tip: Need help getting started? Check out our feedback form templates.

One key best practice we want to highlight: we recommend that you make your overall rating question required on every feedback form. Why?

First, this ensures that your team's feedback is action-oriented: neutral feedback or notes without any overall recommendation won't move your hiring decision forward. (When we hear from a company trying to tighten up a slow hiring process, this is one of the first features we check!)

Second, requiring a decision will help surface any points in the interview process where you might not be asking the right questions. If a hiring manager doesn't have enough information to make a rating decision one way or another, that's a sign that your team needs to rethink your question set. We'll discuss this further in How to use feedback to improve your process over time.

How to get more colleagues involved with hiring - while respecting their calendars

Organizing your interview process into structured feedback forms means you can involve more of your team in the hiring process. It's common to see 1-2 people shouldering the burden of interviewing at small companies. But this is unsustainable! You need the expertise of your entire team to make the right hiring decisions. You need the time of your entire staff to prevent scheduling bottlenecks and interviewing fatigue. By providing instructions, structured questions, and specific areas of focus, even brand new interviewers can participate in the process. For example:

  • General hiring dealbreakers should be handled by a recruiter if possible.
  • Career motivations may be best assessed by a hiring manager.
  • Pure technical evaluations (for example, grading homework assignments or pairing assignments) could be handled by junior members of your technical team.

But some of these team members have never interviewed before!

We see this all the time! After all, nobody is born knowing how to interview. 22% of employees feel they lack the skills to interview and hire people effectively. (source)

An interview training session will open up the hiring process to greater participation throughout your company. Better yet, it will be a great refresher for experienced interviewers. During this session, you should cover how interviewing is done at your organization, which interview questions are illegal in your area, how to guard against unconscious bias, and how to provide your candidates with a great experience. (We go into more detail here.)

Once you've identified who will be responsible for each segment of the interview process, you can build out a default interview plan:

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Building out your default interview plans mean you no longer need to store all this process in your head! Ditch the post-it reminders outlining what goes into an engineering on-site, or how long each pairing session should be. Default interview plans empower recruiters and hiring managers to do their own scheduling - no recruiting coordinator necessary.

How to automate your interview process and eliminate busywork

Now that you've invested your energy into the work that requires your team's expertise, let Lever take care of the busywork!

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How to use feedback to improve your process over time

Don't just "set-it-and-forget-it": just like your organization, your interview processes are always evolving. It sounds a little strange, but we like to tell companies who are just getting their interview processes off the ground to "focus on the failures". Treat each failed interviewee as an opportunity to learn:

Did we identify them as a bad fit as early/as "cheaply" as we could have?

A quick peek at your Conversion Rates report will help you identify large-scale patterns. Are you conducting on-site interviews will lots of candidates who turn out to be underqualified? (P.S. If you're a hiring manager, you can see the Conversion Rates report for a specific job posting in our Job Posting Dashboards - it's at the bottom!)

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Should we have asked any questions earlier in the process?

If so, update your feedback forms! You can edit these any time. In general, try to make sure most of your general dealbreakers (location, basic qualifications, timeline) are asked during an initial phone interview.

Are there any adjustments we should make to our job description, based on the expectations of the candidates we're speaking with?

Edit your job postings to attract the right talent. If you're overwhelmed by underqualified candidates, are your requirements too vague? Are you being honest about which candidates you'll consider? If you aren't willing to interview candidates without X on their resume, make this explicit in your job description and application.

Were my colleagues missing crucial information they needed to decide whether a candidate should move forward?

Add those questions to a feedback form for an early interviewing stage. We strongly recommend making the overall "Rating" question required. There's no neutral option - interviewers are forced to decide whether a candidate should move forward to a more "expensive" stage. If interviewers don't have enough information to know whether a candidate should move forward - if they find themselves craving a "3" rating - find out what would make their decision easier. Make sure earlier stages of the interview process gather this information ahead of time.

How long did it take us to collect feedback?

A good benchmark to aim for is returning feedback within 48 hours. Fun fact: Lever can help you identify your worst offenders! Our clock starts ticking the moment an interview is over, until the moment the interview feedback is submitted. Our Interview Calibration report can sort by interviewer, so you can follow up with anyone who is slowing down the hiring process. (P.S. Hiring managers can see which feedback forms take the longest time to get returned in our Job Posting Dashboards - halfway down the page.)

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The most important change you can make right now

If you're feeling overwhelmed, don't worry! Designing an interview process doesn't happen in a day. You may be reading this thinking, "I have a lot to do - where do I start?" Based on our experience helping thousands of companies scale quickly, we've identified one specific change which will immediately help your team move faster, make better decisions, and set yourself up for future improvements:

Collect interview feedback in feedback forms - not notes.

It can be tempting to jot down quick notes on a candidate profile in a casual, unstructured note. But by moving that feedback into a feedback form, you immediately get a lot of value:

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  • Use Lever's advanced search to locate your highest-rated candidates right away.
  • Take a bird's eye view of your pipeline in Lever's Interviews report (if you're an admin) or Job Posting Dashboard (if you're a hiring manager): is the team happy with the candidates they've spoken with so far? Does the pipeline need fresh talent?
  • Force your team to move the hiring decision forward by making the overall "Rating" question required. This tiny change focuses your team on the most important question: did this interview move this candidate closer to getting hired by your company?

Whether you're about to build your organization's interview process from the ground up, make a series of improvements, or simply take your first step towards better hiring, we're here to help. Remember, if you have questions along the way, our Help Center and our Support team can guide you!

What's next?

Even the most beautiful, efficient interview process can't help you hire the best candidates if the best candidates aren't interested in interviewing with your company! Grab their attention with the right job descriptions.

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