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I will be on 2 interview panels later this week, interviewing candidates for open positions. I work in information security as an IT auditor and am also the team lead for my team. One open position is on my team, and the one on the Information Security team.

Today, the coworker who is part of the interview panel for both positions asked me what I thought about the candidates based on what was given to us by HR and written in their resume. I declined to answer because I did not want to bias other interviewers opinions before they even met the candidates. Due to me having a 1 year of experience in the company, and also the team lead of my team, my colleague may be unduly influenced by what I say. In short, I want to avoid groupthink. I think it's important that each panelist feel free to speak his / her mind about job candidates without undue influence of other interviewers on the panel. (for or against).

I did not want appear unhelpful or rude but I also wanted the interview process to be fair and all interviewers to have their thoughts heard. If asked for feedback after everyone has interviewed the candidate I would not hesitate to give my honest opinion of the candidates.

Did I do the correct thing by declining?

Is the request of my colleague for feedback prior to meeting the candidate improper / unprofessional?

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    I agree with your premise of waiting until after the interviews to discuss candidates. Add long as you explained why to your coworker, I see nothing wrong here. – HorusKol Mar 6 '18 at 0:39
  • Was this is a formal request for feedback or just your coworker chatting about the resumes you have? – David K Mar 6 '18 at 13:38
  • This is probably opinion-based (or company-specific). I've been exposed to interview processes at top companies where interviewers were not allowed to discuss candidates before submitting feedback, as well as companies where they were forced to (although both of those were admittedly after the actual interview, and there were measures in place to prevent just having people agree with the HIPPO, so maybe that doesn't apply to before the interview as well). – Dukeling Mar 6 '18 at 16:52
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    Did I do the correct thing by declining? - primarily opinion based. – Mister Positive Mar 6 '18 at 20:04
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Did I do the correct thing by declining?

Not really

Is the request improper / unprofessional?

Not really

Nothing here is improper but it's also not very efficient. It's typically a good idea for the interview team to decide on roles and responsibilities ahead of the interview based on the candidate info. This can be done bu the hiring manager or together as a group. The idea here is to make sure you get complete coverage of all aspects of the candidate and her resume and don't duplicate questions or rehash the same thing 5 times.

Example: "John focuses and soft skills and team work", "Alice goes after technical depth", "bob drills into why he changed industries 3 years ago", etc.

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    This doesn't seem to answer the question being asked - should panelists discuss candidates before interviews... This is different from discussing how interviews should be conducted – HorusKol Mar 6 '18 at 0:40
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    @HorusKol. It's only answering it implied. In order to divvy up the work you need to look at the resume and look for interesting points to dive into. That typically requires discussing the candidate up front but not through the lens of "should we hire her", but "what are potential points of concern and what questions should we be asking" – Hilmar Mar 6 '18 at 13:51
  • You should be asking the same list of questions for every candidate - the questions derive from the job specification for the role you are filling, and what you want to know about things like "cultural fit". – HorusKol Mar 7 '18 at 23:00
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    I disagree. A good interview is based on a gap analysis of the specific candidate. It's not a test like "you score 90+ points and you are in". I've done 100+ interviews and there is way more to it that just the job specifications – Hilmar Mar 9 '18 at 12:17
  • You're right - it does go beyond the job spec, but you should still ask all candidates the same list of questions - their reactions and responses are how you evaluate them. I've done plenty of interviews, too (lost count, though). I don't see that it helps to evaluate each candidate by separate criteria, though – HorusKol Mar 9 '18 at 13:55
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You should clarify with this colleague, but most likely the intention was to do some initial filtering. If you feel any of the candidates' resumes means that they don't really warrant inviting in for an interview, this is your time to speak up. It's important to filter out candidates that probably won't ever have a shot at getting the position, to prevent wasting both their time and your own.

Apart from that, I think there are two schools of thought on whether or not you should discuss the candidates beforehand.

One way to look at it is that if you discuss the resumes beforehand, you can identify any potential lines of questioning that are apparent from the data you have, i.e. "I don't see a lot of foo experience on the resume even though we do a lot of fooing, we should ask them about that." In this case you can also decide which of the panelists will focus on what aspect of the candidate, i.e. one person focuses on technical skills, another on previous employers and a third on personality and work ethic. This tends to lead to smoother and more organised interviews since the interviewers are working together to fill in the same blanks.

Another school of thought is that each interviewer should remain impartial and should reserve any judgement until after all the candidates have been interviewed. This approach means that discussing the resumes beforehand is a bad idea since as you stated, you might influence each-other's opinions about the candidates. This school of thought puts more burden on the individual panelists to decide by themselves what they feel they should know about the candidate in order to make a judgement. It also tends to lead to interviews that jump topics a lot as every panelist will usually ask whatever question they have next on their list in order to get their blanks filled in.

My personal opinion is that the right approach for your company is dependent on the specific company and on the role. In the case of a security officer, I think the first approach is the right one as this allows the group to come to the right list of 'blanks to fill in' together and during the discussion of these blanks it's likely that more lines of questioning will be identified than if every interviewer were thinking about it on their own. If you really prefer to have everyone remain as objective as possible, you probably still want to have a discussion on what attributes the ideal candidate should have, divided into 'must-haves' and 'nice-to-haves'.

  • You should be asking all your candidates the same questions - just because some has a lot of foo experience on paper doesn't mean that they have the foo knowledge your company actually needs. – HorusKol Mar 7 '18 at 23:01

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