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What is a debrief?

Definition: In a professional context, a debrief is a structured meeting or discussion that takes place after the completion of a project, task, event, or activity.

The primary purpose of a debrief is to review what happened, analyze the outcomes, identify successes and areas for improvement, and derive lessons learned to inform future efforts.

Debriefs can occur in various settings, including military operations, business projects, educational activities, and emergency response scenarios.

In recruitment, a debrief refers to a meeting or discussion that occurs after key stages of the hiring process, such as after interviews with a candidate or at the conclusion of the recruitment cycle. The primary purpose of a recruitment debrief is to gather the hiring team’s insights, evaluate candidates’ performances, and make informed decisions about the next steps in the hiring process.

What is candidate debriefing?

Candidate debriefing is a post-interview process where feedback is provided to candidates about their performance during the interview or selection process.

This feedback can be given regardless of whether the candidate is moving forward in the hiring process or not. The purpose of candidate debriefing is not only to inform candidates about their status but also to offer constructive feedback that can help them in future applications, whether within the same organization or elsewhere.

Benefits of Candidate Debriefing:

  • Enhances Candidate Experience: Providing feedback demonstrates respect for the time and effort candidates put into the application and interview process, contributing to a positive overall experience.
  • Builds Employer Brand: A thoughtful debriefing process can improve the organization’s employer brand, making it more attractive to potential future applicants.
  • Encourages Continuous Improvement: For candidates, receiving constructive feedback is an opportunity for learning and professional growth, helping them to perform better in future interviews.
  • Facilitates Future Hiring: Maintaining a positive relationship with candidates through debriefing can create a talent pool for future openings, especially for those candidates who were strong contenders but not selected for the current role.

What is an interview debrief?

An interview debrief is a meeting or discussion held by the hiring team after interviewing job candidates.

This process is essential for evaluating candidates’ performances, consolidating feedback from all interviewers, and making informed decisions regarding the next steps in the hiring process. The interview debrief aims to ensure a structured and objective approach to assessing each candidate’s suitability for the role and the organization.

Examples of good debriefing questions

Good debriefing questions are designed to elicit detailed feedback, encourage reflection, and gather actionable insights that can improve future performance and decision-making.

These questions can help the hiring team consolidate their observations, share insights, and reach a consensus. Here are examples of effective debriefing questions tailored for recruitment:

  1. What were your initial impressions of the candidate’s professionalism and ability to fit into our team culture?

Helps assess cultural fit and interpersonal skills.

  1. Can you provide specific examples of how the candidate demonstrated the core competencies we’re looking for in this role?

Seeks concrete evidence of required skills or attributes.

  1. Did the candidate ask insightful questions that indicate a strong understanding of the role and our company?

Evaluates the candidate’s engagement and interest.

  1. Based on the interview, how do you rate the candidate’s problem-solving abilities and critical thinking skills?

Assesses key cognitive abilities relevant to the job.

  1. In what ways do you think the candidate’s background and experiences will add value to our team?

Identifies unique contributions the candidate could make.

  1. Were there any inconsistencies in the candidate’s answers or concerns about their qualifications that need further clarification?

Highlights areas that may require additional investigation or follow-up.

  1. How did the candidate handle questions about challenges or setbacks? Did they demonstrate resilience and a capacity to learn from experiences?

Looks for evidence of growth mindset and adaptability.

  1. Do you have any reservations about the candidate’s ability to perform in the role or adapt to changes in our industry?

Identifies potential red flags or areas of concern.

  1. Compared to other candidates we’ve interviewed for this position, where does this individual stand in terms of overall fit and capability?

Facilitates comparison and helps in ranking candidates.

  1. Is there anything about the interview process itself that we should adjust based on this candidate’s feedback or our experience during the interview?

Reflects on and seeks to improve the interview process.

Key Aspects of a Recruitment Debrief:

  1. Candidate Evaluation: The hiring team reviews each candidate’s interview performance, qualifications, skills, and overall fit for the role and the organization’s culture. This often involves comparing notes on candidates’ responses, demeanor, and how well they meet the job requirements.
  2. Process Review: Discuss the effectiveness of the recruitment process itself, including the efficiency of different stages (e.g., screening, interviewing), the quality of candidates attracted, and any challenges or bottlenecks encountered.
  3. Consensus Building: A debrief aims to reach a consensus among the hiring team members on which candidates are the strongest fit for the position and should move forward in the process or receive a job offer.
  4. Feedback for Candidates: Deciding on the feedback to be provided to candidates, especially those not selected, to ensure a positive candidate experience and maintain the organization’s good reputation.
  5. Improvement Opportunities: Based on the debrief discussion, identify opportunities to improve future recruitment efforts. This could involve refining job descriptions, adjusting interview questions, or improving communication and coordination among the hiring team.
  6. Action Planning: Determining the next steps, including any additional interviews, and assessments required, or preparing to make an offer to the chosen candidate.

Recruitment debriefs are crucial for ensuring that hiring decisions are made collaboratively based on a comprehensive evaluation of all candidates. They help to enhance the fairness and effectiveness of the recruitment process, leading to better hiring outcomes and contributing to the organization’s overall success.


When should a debrief session be conducted?

A debrief session should ideally be conducted soon after the interviews with a particular candidate or group of candidates are completed. Prompt scheduling ensures that the details of each interview are fresh in the minds of the interviewers, leading to more accurate and insightful discussions.

Who should participate in a recruitment debrief?

All members of the hiring team who were involved in the interview process should participate in the debrief session. This may include recruiters, hiring managers, team leads, and any other stakeholders who interacted with the candidate and can provide valuable insights into their fit for the role.

How can we ensure a productive and unbiased debrief session?

To ensure a productive and unbiased debrief, establish a clear structure for the session, including a set of questions or criteria to guide the discussion. Encourage open and honest feedback, ensure every interviewer has the opportunity to share their perspective, and focus on objective criteria and job-related evidence to support opinions.

What do we discuss in a debrief session?

In a debrief session, discuss the candidate’s qualifications, experience, skills, and cultural fit based on the job requirements. Evaluate their responses to interview questions, problem-solving abilities, and overall demeanor. Address any concerns raised during the interview and compare the candidate’s performance against the selection criteria.

How do we handle differing opinions about a candidate in a debrief?

Differing opinions about a candidate should be addressed openly in the debrief session. Encourage interviewers to share the evidence or observations supporting their views. Discuss these differences constructively to reach a consensus or identify areas that may require further clarification from the candidate.

Can we use debrief sessions to improve our interview process?

Yes, debrief sessions can be an excellent opportunity to reflect on and improve the interview process. Discuss what worked well and what didn’t, including the effectiveness of interview questions, the structure of the interview, and the candidate’s experience. Use these insights to make necessary adjustments for future interviews.

How do we decide on the next steps after a debrief session?

Based on the collective feedback in the debrief session, decide whether the candidate should move forward in the process, require additional interviews or assessments, or be informed that they are no longer being considered. Plan any follow-up actions, such as reference checks or offering the position.

What if we cannot reach a consensus on a candidate during a debrief?

If a consensus cannot be reached, consider additional steps to gather more information, such as a second round of interviews focusing on the areas of concern, assessments, or reference checks. Alternatively, a decision-maker, such as the hiring manager, may need to make the final call based on the available information.

How do we communicate the outcomes of the debrief to candidates?

The outcomes of the debrief should be communicated to candidates through a clear and respectful message. For candidates moving forward, outline the next steps and timelines. For those not selected, consider providing constructive feedback based on the debrief discussions to help them in future applications.