The sharpened focus on what Product needs in talent allowed them to make some significant structural changes to their process.
2. Standardized the number and focus of interviews
In FY 2018, candidates for associate product managers, product managers, and senior product managers at LinkedIn had anywhere from one to 12 interviews. On average, each hire required 30 hours of interviews.
“We decided,” Amy says, “to get it down to six interviews — a recruiter phone screen, a technical phone screen, and then four onsite interviews. And rather than try to assess seven different competencies in one 45-minute interview, we said let’s go deep in one focus area per 30-minute interview.” Occasionally, the six interviews will be followed up by executive interviews when the team feels it needs to collect additional information.
For the convenience of the candidates — and to accelerate the process — the four onsite interviews are now back-to-back, with short breaks between each. Amy says that in cutting back the number and length of interviews, Product has reduced the average number of hours interviewing each hire from 30 to 12. And the newfound hiring speed has not had a negative impact on diversity efforts: Since the new process rolled out, 47% of hires have been women.
The initial response to the new interview structure? Pushback. “Product managers,” Amy says, “were telling us, ‘Whoa! Thirty minutes isn’t enough.’”
Amy and her team pushed right back. “Before,” she says, “we were actually asking you to assess seven areas in 45 minutes. Now we’re asking you to assess one area in 30 minutes.”
And the more people they’ve trained, Amy says, the less pushback they’ve received.
3. Provided interview training that fully explains the key competencies — and uses role-playing to develop alignment
Amy and Caroline worked with LinkedIn’s Learning & Development team to develop a brand-new training session that was custom-built to support the new process. The class runs for two hours, trains 16 interviewers, and includes a thorough analysis of each of the four key competencies that they look for in candidates. Ryan, Caroline, and one other Product executive attend each session to introduce the competencies and answer any questions that arise.
The training sessions include reminders about what is being assessed for each of the key competencies. For example, for “takes initiative and gets stuff done,” the prospective interviewer is reminded to weigh whether the candidate can make progress in suboptimal or constrained circumstances.
The Product team has also assembled a dozen or so questions to explore each competency. For example, to assess “builds quality products,” a suggested question is, “What new feature would you add to LinkedIn?”
The training includes role-playing, in which one team member plays a candidate and another, the interviewer. “We give them three minutes to role-play a question-and-answer scenario,” Amy says. “Then we ask everyone else to score.” All the trainees are given a ping-pong paddle and write their scores — 1 (do not hire) to 5 (exceptional) — on it.
“We’re trying to show the variation that exists in assessment,” Amy says. “One person might score the interview a 2 but somebody else gives it a 5. So, we’ll say, ‘Tell me why that answer was a 2 for you?’ And that person will say, ‘Well, I felt it was missing x, y, and zed.’
“To the other person, we’ll say, ‘You gave a 5. You obviously felt that that was a really strong response. Why was that?’”
And now the interviewers have a chance to calibrate and share a sense of what looks good, bad, and ugly.
4. Modified the feedback collection process
First, it asks every interviewer to provide a rating from 1 to 5.
Second, each interviewer is asked, “Would you hire this person for this position?” Previous feedback had often been squishy: “The candidate was OK. Not for my team, but maybe somewhere else at LinkedIn.” Or, “Not right now, but maybe at another time.”
Ryan’s response to all that waffling? “If you don’t believe they are a hire for your team,” he said, “then they’re not a hire for LinkedIn.”
Third, the form has space for the interviewer to list the questions they asked. Over time, this will allow the talent acquisition team to see if some questions are better than others at revealing superb candidates.
Fourth, interviewers are asked to provide an assessment that includes a recount of answers that demonstrated the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses.