Interview Debrief

Great teams start with great interviews.

By recording live interviews, our platform harnesses the power of artificial intelligence to help teams run a faster, better interview process.

Request a Demo

Interview Debrief

Let's talk about interview debriefs. Some of us love them and can't wait to share our thoughts on the future of a candidate in our organization- and some of us groan at the thought of sitting in a meeting with a panel of colleagues and having to analyze every aspect of an applicant's resume, experience, and interview scorecard. But it doesn't have to be that way - and, no matter how we feel, interview debriefs are a required part of the hiring process. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the concept, let's take a step back.

What is an Interview Debrief?

An interview debrief is a formal discussion held after an interview with a candidate. The interview "debrief" (meaning a review or gathering of data following the completion of the interview) is an opportunity for the interview panel to come together and share their thoughts, impressions, and observations of the candidate. It's a reflective exercise where each interviewer can provide feedback on the candidate's skills, qualifications, and overall fit for the position. It's also where you'll be sharing your candidate scorecard from the interview (if you have one). More on this later.

Why is an Interview Debrief Important?

Let's use a scenario to answer this question. Say that you're the new Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of a young startup. You're close to closing your Series A and the board has set huge growth goals over the next year and you need to scale fast. To meet these objectives you'll need Sales Development Reps (SDRs), Account Executives (AEs), maybe an SVP of Sales, and at least 2 marketers to drive leads so sales can build the pipeline and drive revenue.

To understand the true value of the interview debriefs in this scenario, think about what's at stake. With ambitious growth targets on the horizon, every hire needs to not just fill a gap, but also be a driver of momentum. The interview debrief offers a platform for the panel to carefully evaluate each candidate's potential impact on the future of the company.

Like the "facets" of a diamond, each member of the panel will bring a different perspective that can help the group make a well-informed decision. This collaboration is crucial to ensuring that the right candidate is selected for the role and that any potential red flags or concerns are addressed before offering them the job. In the fast-paced environment of a startup nearing its Series A funding, the debrief acts not just as a review mechanism, but as a strategic tool in building a robust team that aligns with the company’s ambitious plans. You can also add tools like interview intelligence software to uncover additional candidate insights - but we'll come back to this.

Interview Debrief Template

So let's talk about a typical interview debrief. In this section, we'll cover the questions to ask during an interview debrief and give you the tools to build your own interview debrief template. 

First, let's start with the interview debrief form. This is a document that you'll use to structure your debrief and record your team's thoughts on each candidate. It typically includes basic information about the candidate such as their name, job title, etc, and will include the relevant technical skills, strengths, and weaknesses uncovered in the interview. The form also includes sections for each interviewer to share their evaluation and scoring of the candidate based on predetermined criteria- we covered this topic in a previous article on interview preparation if you'd like to revisit the topic.

Next, your hiring manager or team leader should have a list of objective questions to ask the panel. These will help guide the discussion and ensure that all areas of the candidate's qualifications are covered.

Hiring Manager Debrief Questions:

  1. What was your overall impression of the candidate?
  2. How did their skills and experience align with what we're looking for in this role?
  3. Were there any notable strengths or weaknesses observed during the interview?
  4. Did the candidate have a good understanding of our company and its mission?
  5. How well do you think the candidate would fit into our team culture?
  6. Were there any red flags or concerns that came up during the interview?
  7. Based on their performance in the interview, how likely are they to succeed in this role?
  8. Would you recommend this candidate for the next round of interviews? Why or why not?
  9. Any additional comments or thoughts on the candidate's potential fit for the role?

At the end of the debrief, it's important to review each interviewer's scorecard and come to a consensus on the candidate's overall score. This will help guide your decision-making process and help you take a more objective, data-driven approach to selecting a candidate.

The challenge will be eliminating human bias at this step of the process. Humans rely on their gut instincts more than we'd like to admit and allow years of human evolution and experience to shape our decisions. As you can imagine, this can lead to terrible hiring decisions because the natural human bent is to hire people who look, talk, and act like ourselves - also known as bias.

Pillar's AI-powered candidate scoring tools can help eliminate subjectivity in this step. Our interview intelligence software empowers candidates and interviewers by providing unbiased data and insights on a candidate's skills, experience, personality traits, and predictive analytics on their success in the role. If you'd like, you can learn more about this by booking a demo to see how it works.

Interview Debrief With the Hiring Manager

Going a level deeper on the interview debrief process, let's talk about the post-interview debrief with the hiring manager. The role of the hiring manager in a debrief is to be an objective observer. They should be actively listening to the feedback from each interviewer and understanding how that feedback aligns with the needs of the role and the company's goals as well as asking deeper questions to assess the candidate's fit.

The hiring manager will use this information to make a final decision on whether or not to move forward with a candidate. They will consider any red flags or concerns raised during the debrief to determine if the candidate is a good fit but may require additional support or training in a certain area. They will also consider the overall impression of each interviewer and how well the candidate aligns with the company's culture and values.

The hiring manager's job is to gather all the pieces of information from the debrief and make an informed decision on whether or not to move forward with a candidate. Their role is crucial, as they have a big-picture understanding of the primary factors.

Interview debriefs with the hiring manager should end with a final decision or the next steps to achieve a final decision so that everyone is on the same page. Once all of the interview debrief questions have been asked, it's time to move from the interview stage into a formal offer.

Interview Debrief Example

Companies like Apple, Facebook (META), Amazon, and Uber all have slightly different ways of approaching an interview debrief. For instance, at Apple, the recruiter chats with each interviewer separately before pooling feedback for the hiring manager. This way, everyone can share their unique views on the candidate, and consider what they'd bring to the proverbial table.

Facebook, on the other hand, has a unique practice of having every interviewer present during the debriefing process. This allows for a more collaborative discussion and allows the hiring manager to ask follow-up questions or clarify any discrepancies in feedback.

Amazon takes a different approach by having a designated debriefing meeting after every interview with all of the interviewers present. This allows for open communication and real-time discussion of each candidate's strengths, weaknesses, and overall fit for the role.

Before we go any further, it's important to note that the strategies mentioned in this section are based on info available publicly through HR forums and other hiring sites. Please note that each company's processes may have changed from what you see in the previous sentences and should be used as an interview debrief example and not "set in stone."

It's clear that different companies use different approaches to their interview debriefs, but the end goal is always the same; to make an informed and unbiased hiring decision. Understanding these examples highlights the importance of a structured and thoughtful debriefing process. That said, let's look at some interview debrief best practices. These best practices will help you refine your hiring process, making it more streamlined and focused on finding the best candidates for your organization.

Interview Debrief Best Practices:

  1. Prepare for the Debrief: Before holding the interview debrief meeting, ensure all interviewers have submitted their individual feedback, observations, and scores. This preparation allows for a more structured and focused discussion during the debrief.
  2. Set a Clear Agenda: Start the debriefing with a clear agenda that outlines what will be discussed. This ensures that all necessary topics are covered and keeps the discussion on track.
  3. Encourage Open and Honest Feedback: Create an environment where all interviewers feel comfortable sharing their honest opinions and observations about the candidate. This open dialogue is crucial for a comprehensive assessment of the candidate's fit.
  4. Utilize Structured Scoring: Use a structured scoring system to assess candidates on specific competencies and skills relevant to the role. This approach helps mitigate bias and ensures a more objective evaluation of each candidate.
  5. Focus on Evidence-Based Feedback: Encourage interviewers to provide feedback based on specific examples and evidence observed during the interview. This reduces subjectivity and provides a clearer picture of the candidate's capabilities and fit.
  6. Discuss Red Flags and Concerns: Allocate time to discuss any red flags, concerns, or discrepancies in feedback among interviewers. This is critical for addressing potential issues early and ensuring that all perspectives are considered before making a hiring decision.
  7. Agree on Actionable Next Steps: Conclude the debrief with a clear decision or actionable next steps, whether it's moving the candidate forward, rejecting them, or gathering more information. Ensure that all interviewers are aligned on the outcome and understand the reasons behind the decision.

Interview debriefs with a recruiter, hiring manager, or HR can all benefit from utilizing standardized best practices like the ones listed. Having HR, recruiters, and hiring managers aligned with the best practices for conducting interview debriefs is pivotal in fostering a unified and efficient hiring process. This alignment ensures that the entire recruitment team speaks the same language, evaluates candidates through a consistent lens, and makes decisions based on a shared set of values and criteria. When combined, all of these minimize the risks of miscommunication leading to higher quality, unbiased decision-making.

In conclusion, mastering the post-interview debrief is not for the faint of heart- after all, the candidate's livelihood and the culture of your company rest on your decision. But having a defined process that's inclusive, unbiased, and reflective of your organization's commitment to hiring top talent is a surefire way to achieve success in your hiring endeavors.

If you're looking to streamline your recruitment process and ensure you're making the best hiring decisions, give Pillar a try! Our interview intelligence includes a suite of tools to help you score and assess candidates with AI-powered predictive insights. Book your demo today for a closer look!