Achieve Hiring Excellence: Why would you hire someone you can't recommend?

“When you have to write your ideas out in complete sentences, complete paragraphs it forces a deeper clarity.” – Jeff Bezos

At Amazon, we were required to write feedback on every candidate we interviewed. It was a key method in preventing snap judgements from interviewers.  Written feedback from every interviewer about a candidate was required to defend their hire or no hire vote to the rest of the interviewing panel.

Writing feedback can be extremely difficult and time consuming, but is a critical tool that challenges interviewers to think more deeply about candidates. Would you really want to hire someone that you can’t write a positive recommendation for?  

Great feedback should provide a comprehensive summary of a candidate by concisely outlining the pro’s/con’s/unknowns about a candidate and specific examples of demonstrated behaviors. Here’s a quick process for how our team approaches writing candidate feedback:

Step 1: In general, interviewers should go into an interview with predefined topics that they are assigned to evaluate.The first step should be to list the interviewer’s impressions based on those topics as Pro’s, Con’s, and Unknowns.

Pros represent positive attributes the candidate demonstrated during an interview. Con’s (actual observations) and Unknowns (question marks) both represent risk:

Pro: The candidate demonstrates drive and ambition.

Con: The candidate did not demonstrate drive or ambition.

Unknown: I have questions about the candidate’s drive/ambition.

Step 2: Add examples about how a candidate has demonstrated the characterizations we observed during the interview:

Pro’s: The candidate demonstrated ambition by setting aggressive goals in addition to goals already established by the management team. The candidate put in extra time to achieve those goals resulting in a promotion.

Con’s: The candidate did not demonstrate drive and ambition as the candidate never set goals and was unable to provide concrete examples of going above and beyond.

Unknown: While the candidate expressed drive and ambition by talking about goals they wanted to achieve for themselves, it was difficult to assess whether they acted on any of these goals.

Step 3: Write whether you are inclined or not inclined to hire a candidate. Is your position validated by the data points you’ve collected and written down? Is there enough information to make a judgement?

Feedback on a candidate should be like a dossier. If your feedback is consistently missing information, consider whether your team is asking effective interview questions or needs interview training.

Once feedback is collected from every interviewer, debrief as a group. We’ll explain later how to how to conduct effective debriefs. Generally a debrief will review the collective written feedback to determine consensus on a hire/no hire decision.

If you’re considering implementing written feedback as part of your hiring process, we hope you’ll let us know how the exercise is helping your organization by leaving a comment.