Look beyond the interview: When to give a candidate a second look

Look beyond the interview: When to give a candidate a second look

Interviews are an important part of the hiring process because they allow the hiring team to connect with candidates and learn more about them. Though interviews can be helpful for understanding who each potential hire is and what they're capable of, sometimes an interview doesn't tell you everything you need to know about how that person may perform in a role. For example, a programmer who doesn't like to make eye contact may not feel like the perfect interviewee, but they may be the perfect person for your front-end development role.

Looking beyond the interview means considering everything a candidate has to offer, rather than only thinking about their interview performance. By evaluating your own biases and creating a realistic idea of what a great potential hire looks like, you can increase your chances of finding and hiring an effective candidate. If you're a hiring manager or specialist, learning more about when to give a candidate a second look can help you accurately assess aptitude and avoid accidentally overlooking great options.

Why give candidates a second look?

Hiring teams constantly balance the pressing need for a new hire with the desire to get it right and find the perfect talent for the position. Being too selective during the process may limit options and make it more difficult to hire a new addition. These are some benefits you may experience when you choose to give a candidate a second look:

  • Provide a different structure: A second look for a potential hire can often mean a second interview. During the second interview, you can offer a different structure than the first, potentially helping to make the candidate more comfortable and boosting their performance.
  • Widen the hiring pool: Highly restrictive criteria when it comes to hiring can significantly shrink the hiring pool, making it more difficult to hire quickly.
  • Avoid rejecting a great option: Taking a second look at candidates doesn't mean you'll hire them for sure, but it allows you the flexibility to consider all your options before making a decision. Just because a potential hire doesn't have a certain credential or doesn't behave a certain way during the interview doesn't mean they won't be great in the role.

Reasons candidates may not interview well

Though interviews are an integral part of the hiring process, a candidate's performance within an interview may not always be indicative of their performance in the role. These are some reasons why a potential hire may not interview well:

Anxiety or nervousness

When candidates are genuinely excited about the role, it can cause nervousness or anxiety. A candidate experiencing either of these may have a harder time accessing their long-term memory and forming answers to questions. External factors like poor traffic and wardrobe malfunctions can also cause more nervousness in candidates.


Neurodiverse candidates may be overwhelmed by too many sensory inputs in the interview room. They may also have difficulties understanding tone, facial expressions, and body language. Traditional interviews may not be the best for assessing and understanding a neurodivergent individual's ability to be successful in the role.

Gaps between interviews

If the potential hire has been at their current position for a substantial period of time, it's likely they haven't been interviewed in a while. Interviewing, like anything else, is a skill that you can build and work on. When you try doing something again after several years, it can be difficult to perform at your highest level.

"Taking a second look at candidates doesn't mean you'll hire them for sure, but it allows you the flexibility to consider all your options before making a decision."

When to consider the candidate again

There's no such thing as the perfect potential hire, and this means it can be very difficult to hire someone with all the perfect skills, experiences, and credentials. Of course, there are factors like poor character or the lack of a necessary credential that can automatically disqualify a candidate. When you're considering subjective reasons for rejecting an option, also consider important reasons for reconsidering. These are some reasons to take a second look at a candidate who doesn't interview well:

Unique or rare skills

Depending on the industry, there may be specific skills or experiences that are hard to come by. A potential hire who struggles to answer questions during the interview but has a highly rare skill may be more valuable than you think. Consider how long it might take to find another candidate with this skill, and how difficult it may be to teach this skill to current employees. If the answer is that the skill is truly unique, it may be worth reconsidering the potential hire.

Personality for the job

Some jobs require more personality than technical skills, especially those that are client-facing. If you find a candidate who has a great personality during the interview but may not answer questions perfectly, consider how important personality is for you. For example, the candidate for a social media role may use internet slang and be excited during the interview. This interview behavior may not be traditionally professional, but it can make them a great choice for the social media role.

Capacity for growth

Just because a candidate is lacking a specific skill or set of knowledge doesn't mean it's best to reject them for the position. Instead, consider how likely the potential hire is to be open to growth and learning opportunities. If they participate in continuing education and show other signs of being engaged in developing their skills, their capacity for growth may be more important than the specific abilities they possess. An outstanding capacity for growth means the candidate can be more flexible and grow with the role and within the organization.

How to look beyond the interview

These are some things you can do to look beyond the interview and be sure you're successfully evaluating how successful a potential hire may be in a role:

Create a realistic goal for the new hire

The first step to looking beyond the interview is to determine what is really important about the potential hire for the role. Rather than creating a list of traditional characteristics for a good candidate, evaluate the current top performers within the company. Isolate the traits that make them great at their jobs, and look for these traits in your candidates. This can help you avoid rejecting a potential hire for reasons that may not actually affect their ability to perform well in the role.

Evaluate your own biases during hiring

Everybody has implicit biases that affect our interactions and perceptions unintentionally. Consider what your internalized biases might be and combat them by intentionally taking a second look at candidates. Any time you have an initial gut reaction when reviewing a potential hire, stop yourself from setting their resume to the side. Review the facts and determine exactly what it is about their skills, experiences, and credentials that make them a poor choice. If you can't find anything substantial, you may be making the decision with your implicit bias.

Gather multiple opinions about the candidate

Your initial reaction to a candidate during an interview may be that they aren't a good fit. If you're interviewing people alongside other hiring professionals, ask them for their opinions of the potential hire. After an interview in which you're the only hiring professional, consider scheduling an interview with the whole team to gather opinions from other professionals. This can help you learn if you've missed any important traits or unique skills that may make the candidate valuable to the company.

Though interviews can help you connect with potential hires and easily chat about their experiences, how a candidate performs in the interview may not be indicative of their potential for the role. Looking beyond the interview can help you hire people who bring their best to the team. Taking a second look at candidates can also help widen the hiring pool and create a diverse workplace.

More tips for interviewing and hiring:

Use these soft skills during interviews to connect with potential hires.

Watch out for these ten things candidates shouldn't do during interviews.

Ask some effective interview questions and look for next-level responses.

Explore the candidates' leadership potential by asking these leadership interview questions.

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