Evaluating Candidates for Your Team

Updated: August 18, 2023

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There are a number of factors to consider when assessing whether a candidate is a good fit for the role and for the team. Defining a good fit can be very specific to the team’s purpose, the group culture, and the position itself. A candidate could be an excellent programmer or know the most current tools and tricks, but if they aren’t a good fit for the team, the potential they have is unlikely to be reached.

Team Science

Whether you’re building a team from scratch, have a small group, or are adding to an existing team, often technical hires in biomedical research spaces are inherently involved in team science and collaborations. Finding candidates that fit your team or lay the right foundation for one takes asking the right questions during interviews, engaging collaborators (if you’re just building your team or it is small) and team members to participate in panel or group interviews, and evaluating both the candidate’s skills and work style.

Harvard Business Review suggestions asking:

“Questions that assess whether they can co-create on a team. When I ask the teams I’ve worked with in the last 10 years why their last major strategic effort failed, they rarely mention that the team didn’t get along. But they do say that there were cracks in the team — roles that weren’t being filled — and no one was able to step in to fill them. Because the world changes quickly, the work does too and teams can’t stay in their predetermined roles. Teams need to figure out new terrain together. You might ask candidates, “How would you handle a situation where it’s become clear that there is a gap on your team?” Interviewees are often told to use “I” to get credit for work done, but “we” is probably a more realistic depiction of how work gets done. Then follow up to learn how they felt about the situation: Were they proud of catching the gap? Concerned that it existed in the first place? This will help you see if you are dealing with a team player or a know-it-all. You want to find people who can play together, filling in the gaps between predefined roles to get the work done.”

Structured Evaluation

Just like you don’t want to wing it when asking interview questions, if you’re the hiring manager, don’t wing when asking for feedback from the interviewers. Help prepare the other interviewers by asking them to provide specific, structured feedback about candidates. You can do this by providing candidate evaluation forms or a grading rubrics. Structured evaluation techniques and tools help take biases out of hiring and more accurately predict future performance.

Reference Checks

Often technical candidates might be changing from industry to research and back. This means that reference checks may mean you will have to interpret the relative value of the input for the research context depending on the environment the reference works in. Try to think of framing questions that are open ended but also focus on the topics or issues most relevant to success in the research environment, knowing that their prior environment might have been very different. Consider providing a very brief description of the role the candidate has applied for and the environment or goals of the group to provide a bit of context for the reference.

Here are some places to start when thinking about generating your plan for checking references:

  • https://www.roberthalf.com/blog/evaluating-job-candidates/tips-for-how-and-why-to-check-references
  • https://www.apollotechnical.com/best-questions-to-ask-references/

Finally, here is a quick rundown of an approach to integrating all you’ve learned about a candidate through interviews, technical assessments and reference checks.

Updated: August 18, 2023

Edit this Page via GitHub       Comment by Filing an Issue      Have Questions? Ask them here.