Why LinkedIn’s Head of Recruiting Never Interviews Candidates in a Conference Room

May 17, 2018

What’s the difference between an interview and an interrogation? Sometimes, not that much. They can both be nerve-racking exchanges in suffocating rooms where the power dynamics never favor the person answering the questions. So when it comes to interviews, maybe it’s time to think outside the stuffy box.

In fact, our global survey of 9,000 recruiters found that reinventing the interview is top of mind for a lot of talent acquisition professionals who yearn for something that will improve their ability to assess candidates and create a better candidate experience.

That's exactly why Brendan Browne, LinkedIn’s VP of Global Talent Acquisition, has decided to shake it up.

“I am choosing to never interview again in a conference room,” Brendan says, “so I can improve the candidate experience and blow people’s minds.”

In this week’s Talent on Tap episode, Brendan shares three tips for getting candidates out of typical interview scenarios in order to not only improve their experience, but also get a more authentic view of who they are.

1. Try walking meetings to boost candidate engagement

Brendan says that reinventing the interview process and creating a more memorable experience for your candidates can be easy. “Get up,” he says. “Enjoy the great outdoors. Get some fresh air.” Which Brendan does before offering his top tip: “Take a walk.”

Whether you choose to walk inside or outside, Harvard Business Review says that walking meetings lead to increases in both creativity and focus. Building on recent research about walking, HBR found that people who participated in walking meetings “were 5.25% more likely to report being creative at their jobs” and “8.5% more likely to report high levels of engagement.”

A walk also allows you to showcase your office, campus, or neighborhood, which can elevate your employer brand. Ted Eytan, MD, medical director of the Kaiser Permanente Center for Total Health and a champion of walking meetings, told HBR that this kind of low-key exercise releases neurochemicals that make the walker more relaxed, allowing them to give better answers and recruiters to get a better picture of the candidate.

2. Interview candidates in a unique location to help them relax and uncover their soft skills

Brendan’s decision to shun the conference room is so on trend. Recruiters at Daimler AG now take candidates out in a company-manufactured Mercedes for interviews. Havas Worldwide, a global advertising agency, and Jet.com have interviewed candidates on a Ferris wheel—the hiring process comes full circle.

Brendan says shaking it up doesn’t require a Mercedes Cabriolet or the Navy Pier Ferris wheel. “Swing by the coffee bar if you’ve got one in your office,” he says. “If you don’t, go to your local coffee shop. Here’s why it matters: Science tells us when someone has a drink in hand, they’re far more relaxed. You’ll see their authentic selves and who they really are.”  

3. Change the interview script to create a better experience—and learn more about your candidate

In the same way a stroll through your offices can give you a chance to show off your facilities, it can also provide an opportunity to show off your people. Give your candidates a chance to make a connection—with a potential teammate or someone you think they might be interested in meeting.

“One thing a lot of our candidates like to learn about is social impact,” Brendan says. So on his office rambles he often “bumps” into Meg Garlinghouse, LinkedIn’s Senior Director of Social Impact, and grabs five minutes with her.

Changing the interview script—or tossing it out entirely—by bringing in other people has other benefits. It can reveal candidates’ soft skills, such as their ability to get along with other people and even their capacity to handle adversity.

For example, Walt Bettinger, the CEO of Charles Schwab, takes candidates out for breakfast—and then asks the restaurant staff to bring his guest the wrong meal. “I do that because I want to see how the person responds,” Bettinger said in a Q&A with The New York Times. Bettinger added: “It’s just another way to get a look inside their heart rather than their head.”

Brendan says the same is true of his coffee breaks: “You can see how a candidate interacts with staff, which is always valuable.”

And value is what you’re trying to create.

If you’re tired of the conference room sit-down, your best candidates probably are too. Now is the perfect time to not only think outside the box, but to leave it behind altogether.

Talent on Tap is a biweekly series in which Brendan Browne breaks down the hottest topics, biggest challenges, and most enticing opportunities in the world of talent. Talent on Tap will also give you an opportunity to hear from other organizational leaders, subject matter experts, and thought leaders in the space. Stay tuned for the latest.

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