One. That’s How Many Interviews You Need to Hire the Right Candidate.

If you’re like most companies, you’ve already shifted to virtual interviews because let’s face it: The traditional process used at many organizations — multiple in-person interviews, meetings, and weeks of decision-making — isn’t going to work in these times. But is there more that you can be doing right now to improve your hiring process?

Now’s a good time to consider deploying the one-and-done interviews — that is, having the candidate partake in just one interview — to break the status quo of recruiting and hiring. Startups have used this approach for some time to find the right employees without sacrificing their values, beliefs, and sanity.  Plus, fast-growing companies don’t have time or resources to go through the usual weeks upon weeks of recruiting and hiring. They therefore understand the importance of using a simplified approach that gets down to the nitty-gritty. 

Now, even if your company does have the time and the resources to do things the conventional way, it doesn’t mean you should. With so much of hiring virtual right now, and with time being of the essence, it makes sense to leverage one-and-done interviews.

Of course, if you’re going to do only one interview, you’ve got to make sure that the other elements in your hiring process make sense. So here’s how to strip back your approach, using just three steps to your process, to get straight to the point and eliminate the fluff around hiring. 

1. Simple Phone Screening

Starting with a phone screen is still important — especially to narrow down the pool of applicants — and it doesn’t require a lot of change from conventional hiring approaches. 

This step is particularly important to use as a conversation to get to know candidates and make them comfortable with your company. To do that, try leaving it unstructured. This may sound counterproductive, but doing so is critical for getting to know candidates and allowing them to shine. Asking broad questions like “Tell me about…” and “How do you deal with…” allows for open interpretation and gives candidates a chance to direct where they want to go with their answers. It also shows that you care about what they have to say and that you value their insight. 

Leaving the conversation unstructured and asking questions that are up in the air will also get past what you already know from their resume. You can use this time to get interviewees to think deeper about answers. After all, textbook answers will not fly in this kind of screening, and frankly, there isn’t time for them.

2. The One-and-Done Interview

One interview may sound crazy. It may not seem like enough time to get to know a candidate — but for the right candidate, it is all you need.

When there are too many interviews with too many people, the process can seem endless. Instead of putting candidates and hiring managers through virtual meeting after virtual meeting, the earlier phone screen can and should have set up the one-and-done interview for a deeper conversation. There is no need to re-ask questions that have already been answered. Instead, dive right into what you still want to know and use this opportunity to elevate the candidate experience.

That said, one interview doesn’t necessarily mean only one interviewer. You can have a panel interview, but with a caveat: Allow only people who will directly work with the candidate to be present. (You wouldn’t have the head of marketing in an interview for the IT department, would you?) 

And if you do need to incorporate others, try a different approach with just a few people, like a hiring manager and a peer, in the first part. Then, after the interviewee is comfortable and has opened up, bring in the necessary executive for the last part of the interview. This helps make sure that every minute counts. It also won’t overwhelm the candidate with too many people at once (be it virtually on a call/in video chat or in-person once we’re all out of lockdown). 

This approach keeps already booked calendars from being bogged down with back-to-back calls and eliminates the need for multiple discussions. Online scorecards for each candidate, along with other methods of open communication, can help organize information, too. Efficiency is key, right now more than ever.

3. Pilot Project

Now that you’ve identified your top candidates, it’s time to determine if their talk matches up with their skills. This is where the best of the best will shine.

A pilot project can help determine the actual skill level of candidates and how they will perform in real-time at your company. It helps to gauge whether they truly are the perfect fit, as well as shows them what working for your company looks like. Especially in a remote environment, the pilot project can help reveal people’s work ethic and how they best use their resources.

Hiring managers should assign projects that are applicable to the position, such as having marketing candidates execute ideas for new campaigns or having a potential content manager write a new blog post. This will show what candidates can do as well as how they do it, providing deeper insights into their work process. If they show amazing motivation while working at home, imagine what they can do with the full amount of tools once they are in the office.

At the same time, consider giving candidates access to your office messaging channel to interact with other employees as part of the project. They can use this opportunity to ask for help, as well as get experience with your company’s communication methods.

Today, remote hiring and adapted processes are necessary to keep hiring moving through the pipeline. A one-and-done-interview approach allows both sides of the hiring process to understand expectations in a quick and efficient manner.

Nina Cofer is a product marketing manager at Breezy HR, an applicant tracking system based in Jacksonville, FL. Nina’s entrepreneurial spirit, creative mind, and artistic talent have given her more than a decade of experience working in marketing, pay-per-click advertising, web and graphic design, and search-engine optimization.

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