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Slate Interviewing Brings Big Benefits | Hear Insights from Hubspot Global VP

Creating Predictable, Scalable Hiring Through Slate Interviewing

Why should you embrace slate interviewing? Imagine this: your dream candidate charmed your pants off on the phone screen, knocked it out of the park in their first hiring manager conversation, and is your early favorite to land the full-time offer. There’s just one teensy snag: you’re not the only one to notice how great they are, and they’ve got two other competitive offers already in hand. Time to streamline the process and get them to the offer stage, right?

Not so fast.

It can be tempting to push someone through your hiring funnel regardless of who else is in the process, but according to HubSpot’s former Director of Recruiting Becky McCullough, this approach is, in a word, problematic. (Editor’s note: at the time of the podcast recording, Becky was Director of Recruiting. She is now VP of Global Recruiting & Talent Development for Hubspot. Congrats, Becky!) 

How the talent acquisition team interviews at scale using slate interviewing

The meaning of slate interviewing

Instead, HubSpot’s talent acquisition team employs “slate interviewing,” meaning they advance groups of interviewees in cohorts. As Becky explains, there are numerous advantages to this approach, such as creating a predictable, repeatable process, and discouraging biases in the case of referrals or internal candidates.

Related resource: Are you concerned about unconscious bias? Learn more in our latest research and peruse solutions for better DEI practices

Slate interviewing versus the iterative process

Becky believes “there’s a misconception that the iterative process allows you to move more quickly. The reality is you see more bias. This includes recency bias, for example. You’re also always hinging the success or failure of your search on one candidate.”

While slate interviewing takes more time upfront, it makes the overall process of building a candidate pool faster in the long run. 

Becky says, “Ultimately, you’re not gonna be riding one horse to the tape, to use the metaphor. You’ll ensure you are looking at your candidates in pools.” 

Level the playing field with slate interviewing

Interviewing candidates in batches or slates has been shown to mitigate bias. “Rather than launching a role, and maybe you get a good candidate, let’s interview them and make a decision on whether or not we want to move them forward in the process. Then, we wait a few weeks, and interview another candidate.” 

Think about each stage of the process as a slate. Becky spends a few weeks upfront looking at all the possible candidates for a role. She’ll end up with an initial slate of about twenty candidates. Then, she evaluates them in aggregate, or a batch. She later makes a decision on what subset of those is qualified enough to advance to the next round. The same process goes for the next stage in the interview process. 

Becky says, “The important piece is you evaluate candidates in aggregate so you’re leveling the playing field across the board.”

Be transparent with candidates

Explain the process

Becky encourages hiring teams to be transparent with candidates about the process. “Candidates will respect your commitment to creating an inclusive process. A candidate who doesn’t understand the importance of the discipline around our process is probably not someone we want to have at HubSpot.

We are incredibly committed to creating an inclusive process at every stage of the funnel. It ultimately comes down to being explicit and upfront. We explain why we care about a consistent experience and emphasize we care about making the best decision for the candidate and hiring team.”

Make the timeline clear

Becky is also transparent with candidates around timelines. “One thing teams have to be super comfortable with is it may mean you lose a candidate for reasons outside of our control. Maybe they are held to a deadline or have another offer. We have to be comfortable because at the end of the day, we care about the greater good of our process.”

However, this doesn’t mean you have to “give candidates radio silence for a few weeks while you catch everyone up. It just means you’re being more transparent about the steps in which they’re going to be evaluated. You can still be checking in with them, offering resources to help them prepare for their interview, aligning on their expectations, and checking in on their motivations.”

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Originally published August 2018. Revised by the Hired Content Team July 2023.