Candidate Debriefs – An Overlooked Part of Candidate Interviews

Written by
Lucas Price
June 25, 2023
6 min

It’s a surprisingly controversial topic in the hiring world: should your team meet to discuss a candidate after the interview loop is completed? This meeting, called an interview debrief, can be a way to quickly disseminate opinions from key stakeholders in your company on how candidates performed in the interview and how you should proceed on a role you’re hiring for.

But other times, it can be a way to put too many cooks in the kitchen or gather people who aren’t interested in or prepared to provide feedback to help move the decision forward. So, can a debrief benefit your company when hiring for your next sales role? Or is it just another meeting that should have been an email?

Let’s dive into the pros and cons of debriefing throughout the interview process and some ideas on how to do it the right way.

Why Debriefs are Counterproductive if Done Wrong

Debriefing can be a hard part of the process, especially if your company doesn’t have a solid framework around how to do so.

For teams that don’t post sales roles regularly, it can feel like a whack-a-mole process where sometimes it’s valuable, but you’re not sure which parts of it helped last time and have trouble replicating the process consistently. For some, it becomes far too time-consuming, especially if it’s a role your company has hired for many times before. Or maybe your team has some urgency bias and feels getting everyone’s schedules aligned only holds up the process.  

Feel too painfully familiar? Rather than focusing on why you shouldn’t be debriefing while working to fill a sales position, let’s look at the most common ways companies set themselves up to fail when doing candidate debriefing.

  • Lack of structure. Companies may not have a structured process for conducting debriefs after interviews. This can lead to inconsistent evaluation of candidates and a lack of clarity around what criteria the hiring team should be evaluating.
  • Bias. This stems from a lack of structure. Without structure throughout the hiring process, hiring team members may have unconscious biases that affect their evaluation of candidates during the debrief process. For example, they may be more likely to favor candidates who are similar to themselves or who have similar backgrounds.
  • Misaligned expectations. Hiring team members may not communicate effectively throughout the interview process, leading to misunderstandings or misinterpretations of each other's feedback and how they approach candidate interviews. This can result in a less accurate evaluation of the candidate.
  • Inconsistent timing. Some companies may rush the debrief process, not allowing enough time for a thorough evaluation of each candidate. Others may want to do a debrief after interviewing every candidate, even for roles they’ve hired for multiple times. Others may not have a consistent plan and let the discussion around certain candidates drag on too long without deciding on a resolution. Without knowing what to plan for, it can be hard to get buy-in from every stakeholder in the hiring process.
  • Overdominant voices. The interview process is meant to gather independent opinions, but sometimes during a debriefing, someone who has strong opinions dominates the discussion. Or, reversely, if interviewers don’t have strong opinions, they may let a well-respected leader talk first and stakeholders may change their opinions to conform to the leader’s.
  • Lack of follow-up. If a hire doesn’t go well, companies don’t revisit their hiring or debrief processes to refine them and make improvements. This can negatively impact the company's reputation and make it more difficult to attract top talent in the future.

Few initiatives at your company would succeed if they were approached in this way. Debriefs for hiring processes that may not happen regularly or are just getting developed have little chance of helping your company.

However, conducting a debrief after an interview can help companies to make more informed hiring decisions and improve their interview process for future candidates. It allows the hiring team to compare notes, identify areas of concern, and make more objective decisions based on a range of perspectives.

So let’s look at how the debrief can help you and how to set it up for success.

Let’s Talk About the Pros of Debriefing

Why would a debrief help your team?

When a debrief is combined with a structured interview process and consistent scorecard, your team gains a powerful tool for objectively discussing candidates and comparing their ability to perform well within the role.  Hiring decisions are human decisions. The best decisions are not made by a score on a computer, they come from careful deliberation. For example, you might hear something from other interviewers during the debrief that help you better recognize important information or context you may not have picked up on in your interview with the candidate. This collaborative debrief process can be a critical way for you to learn about blindspots with the candidate and make better decisions.

Using tools like a well-organized debrief meeting can increase the quality of the process and the quality of hiring decisions. Because failed hires are so expensive, it’s worth the time upfront to invest in the process to make better decisions.

A structured interview makes the debrief process easier by providing a clear framework for evaluation. The hiring team can compare notes on each candidate's responses to the structured questions and use this information to evaluate the candidate's fit for the role.

A structured process can help with the debrief meeting after interviewing a candidate for a sales job in several ways:

  • Consistency. A structured interview asks every candidate the same questions in the same order, ensuring that every candidate is evaluated on the same criteria. As a result, you have a more objective comparison of candidates, which can make it easier to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate.
  • Improved hiring process. Stakeholders in the interview can share their experiences and provide feedback on the candidates and the process from their view.
  • Focused evaluation. A structured interview focuses on specific skills and experiences that are relevant to the sales job. By asking targeted questions related to the role, the hiring team can get a better sense of whether the candidate has the skills and experience necessary to succeed in the role.
  • Data-based decisions. A structured interview collects data on each candidate's responses to specific questions, which can be used to evaluate the candidate's performance in a more objective manner. This data can be compared across candidates to identify trends and patterns in their responses.
  • Enhanced communication. By bringing the stakeholders in the hiring process together with a structured approach to debriefing, team members can better align on hiring goals and how to improve the process if a new hire doesn’t work out.
  • Collaborative decisions. The person leading the debrief meeting will be able to draw out everyone and their feedback out, rather than pushing a specific point of view. Scores and notes captured during the interviews will encourage disparate points of view rather than allowing everyone to follow the leader. This creates an environment where your team can remain open to new ideas but can also recognize that different viewpoints on candidates are helpful in making a well-thought-out decision.

Ready to start the debrief process? Here are a few things you can do to kick it off at your company.

Once you set up a structured interview process, you can fairly evaluate all candidates against a common scorecard and create an even base from which you can analyze each candidate. This gives you a natural framework for your debrief. Your team can review the candidate scorecards, evaluate how candidates meet the most important criteria for this role, and discuss notes each interviewer took throughout the interview process.

Once you have a structured interview in place, a debrief meeting will have a natural framework where you can discuss each candidate. Here is a sample agenda for a debrief meeting:

  • Does anyone have any comments they’d like to share about the candidate?
  • Does anyone have questions about the candidate for other interviewers?
  • Has anyone changed their recommendation about whether to offer this candidate the role?
  • Is there any additional information we need to gather about this candidate to make a decision?

By covering these specific topics, the hiring team can make a more informed decision about the candidate's fit for the sales job. Doing so will also ensure that they are making a hiring decision based on a comprehensive evaluation of the candidate's skills and experience.

The good news is that with a tool in place like Yardstick, you can build a natural sales hiring framework that easily supports structured interviews based on your company values and leads to impactful debrief conversations. Ready to get started? Talk with us today!

Spot A-players early by building a systematic interview process today.

Connect with our team for a personalized demo and get recommendations for your hiring process.
Raise the talent bar.
Learn the strategies and best practices on how to hire and retain the best people.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Raise the talent bar.
Learn the strategies and best practices on how to hire and retain the best people.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Related Post

The Failed Sales Hire Problem and Solutions to Fix It

Lucas Price
5 minutes
Failed sales hires have always been an expensive problem, but it’s only gotten more severe in recent times.
Use Data to Improve Sales Hiring

Mastering Sales Hiring with Data-Backed Candidate Profiles

Lucas Price
5 minutes
Build a candidate profile to measure candidates against to consistenly find top talent.

Mastering Role-Playing Interviews: A Key to Identifying Top Sales Performers

Lucas Price
5 min
Let’s consider why you should include mock scenarios as part of your hiring process and how to set those up.