Friday, January 8, 2010

Should I hire external interviewers?

From a reader, based on a previous post here.

I have a question that’s in context to an earlier post on getting interviewed by a younger person. I’m the only HR person at a startup that has fourteen employees. We currently don’t have interviewers within the startup for specific skills. We are planning to hire external interviewers from agencies to take interviews for these skills. I’ve been assigned to find out the feasibility of going with this model. There is a possibility that we would have younger external interviewers taking interviews for senior roles. Would it impact the way candidates perceive the startup? If we choose to go with this model, what should we look out for?


Well, it’s an interesting thought. At the startups that I worked, we had used the services of external interviewers and must say that we had a so-so hit. But I did get to learn a lot from that experience and here’s my take on the model.

First, since your question is based on my previous post, I’ll repeat that as long as you have competent interviewers, the interview process should go on just fine. Don’t get confused with years of work experience and competency. Especially in a startup that most often relies heavily on the latter.

Well, coming back to your question. What deliverables are you expecting from the external interviewers? If you are hiring them to identify the best fit candidate from start to end, then you may want to rethink that strategy. Yes, it’s critical for the external interviewers to understand the job requirements before starting the interview process. However, the key to make this is work is to ensure that the external interviewers are to only assess specific skills. Their selection process should be very objective. That should be the very reason you would want to hire external interviewers. After they have done identifying the right fit candidate, you then continue with your normal interview process. The final decision or call on hiring a candidate should rest with the people running the startup. Period.

Would this impact the candidate’s perception? I don’t think so. Really. Every startup needs to be sold like an idea and that applies even to candidates. If that’s true, then candidates would have got enough information about the startup from you, before coming down for an interview. So, sparing the odd candidate, most of them wouldn’t really change their perception of the startup. Should you tell them about hiring external interviewers? Maybe, just maybe, you may not want to emphasize on that. As long as you have chosen a fair selection process and one that lets you make the final decision, it should work fine.

What to watch out for? Set the right expectations for their role in the hiring process. Never let them do the selling. Track deliverables regularly, but don’t micromanage their interviews. It’s quite obvious that they’ll charge you a fee for taking interviews, that shouldn’t force you to ask them to select candidate(s) in a hurry. Your $x dollars spent now will multiply 2x/3x times, which way would you want it to go? Spend it on firing a wrong fit candidate in 3 months or making money from a right fit candidate that can deliver the best for your startup’s product/service. The choice is simple. Isn’t it?

Good luck!