I still remember my interview with ThoughtWorks from 15 years ago.

Two ThoughtWorkers(Rohit and Mojo) entered the room together and introduced themselves. Rohit was a senior leader at ThoughtWorks. He guided teams on software delivery practices. Mojo was a developer with 2 years of experience. They told me that they were pairing on the interview. I remember finding it a bit odd and confusing in the beginning. But once the conversation got going, it turned out to be one of the most pleasant and interesting interviewing experiences of my career. It felt like a conversation among friends rather than an interview.

The way Rohit and Mojo conducted the conversation made me feel pulled to this company and its culture. And so, when I got the offer, I accepted it. Even though they offered a lower salary than I was already getting!

I’ve been actively involved with interviewing in my career. While earlier in my career I’ve conducted them alone, over my last 15 years at ThoughtWorks, I have paired with other ThoughtWorkers on almost every interview. Based on my experiences and observation I’ve come to hold a strong conviction that pairing on interviews improves the experience as well as outcomes for the interviewers, the organization and the candidate.

In this post I’ll share some ways in which pairing helps everyone involved. I've seen these benefits over and over again and that’s why I strongly believe that every organisation should make pairing on interviews a practice.

#1 You get to learn from the other interviewer

When you pair on an interview, you get a window into how the other interviewer thinks. You often pick up new functional knowledge from your pair.

For example, I love it when my pair kicks off conversations about a programming language or design pattern that I've not used much. I get to learn something about those topics just by listening to the conversation between my pair and the candidate.

You also get to observe how your pair interacts with the candidate. This is a great way to learn how to have effective interview conversations yourself.

For example, whenever I’ve paired with Mushtaq and Prabir in Social Change interviews at ThoughtWorks, I’ve observed how they construct a logical chain of thought in the conversation with their questions. Over time, I've also been able to pick up these skills of weaving a narrative for the entire conversation through questions such that all the questions connect up rather than being separate pieces of conversation.

The best thing about pairing on an interview is that you can get feedback about how you did as an interviewer from your pair. This is a great way to improve your interviewing skills. And since interviewing skills have a big overlap with general leadership skills, this feedback is invaluable.

I like use the following questions to seek feedback from my pair:

  • Which were the most effective questions I asked?
  • Did I listen well?
  • Did I make it a safe space?
  • Was I honest in painting a picture about life at ThoughtWorks?

Inputs on these kinds of questions are a great source of reflection for me. My pairs are the only people who can give me this kind of feedback on my interviewing skills. So I always plan an extra 15 minutes to get their feedback after an interview together.

#2 You can conduct more effective interviews

Pairing on interviews helps increase the effectiveness of an interview. This works in both small and big ways.

Better Time Management
If you lose track of time in a conversation that you've initiated, chances are that your pair will call out that it's time to move to another topic.

Get help when you're stuck
Sometimes in an interview you can feel a bit stuck. You aren't sure how to go deeper into a conversation to learn more about how the candidate thinks. When I get stuck like that, I am assured that if not me then my pair will find a way out to get the conversation moving further.

Make questions clearer for the candidate
Sometimes in the flow of a conversation you may frame your question in an unclear or ambiguous manner. When that happens, your pair can either intervene and clarify it or ask you to do so.  This helps the candidate get the best opportunity to answer your questions.

#3 You make better decisions with more confidence

Once the interview is over you get to discuss your assessment with your pair. This conversation forces you both to be clearer about your assessments. This is a big advantage of pairing as compared to a situation where you’ve done the interview alone. In that case you don’t have any good way to validate your thinking and assessment even if you need it.

I like to follow these steps with my pair after an interview:

  1. Take a few minutes to think about the interview individually, take some quick notes and come up with an initial assessment for the candidate.
  2. On a countdown, we share our initial assessment. We do this stone-paper-scissors style using your fingers and thumbs. This step ensures that we've expressed our initial assessment without getting influenced by each other.
  3. We take turns to share the reasons behind our initial assessments of the candidate. We avoid any debate at this point, both of us make the effort to listen to the other person's perspective.
  4. We take a couple of minutes individually again to come up with your final assessment.
  5. We share our final assessments again on a countdown. Usually there's consensus at this point and then we're done, if not then you go back to step 3.

This conversation amongst the pairs helps in two ways. You become clearer about your assessments and the reasons behind them. And you get to hear the other interviewer’s assessments and their reasons. If they match, you get more confidence about your assessments. If they do not match initially then you both learn about the different perspectives. After some more deliberation you can converge on the final decision together.

This improves the quality of decisions and it also increases the confidence behind the decision.

#4 It makes interviewing less stressful

Interviews can be stressful. Not only for the candidate but also for the interviewer. It can at times feel like a burden to make these decisions on behalf of the organization since they can make a big difference to the candidate's life.

When you pair with another interviewer you share this responsibility with them. This reduces the stress associated in this critical decision making process. Holding and directing the conversation also starts feeling easier and more natural when you are pairing with someone. You know that you are not alone trying to do this difficult conversation and decision making process.

And when you are more relaxed as an interviewer, it also helps the candidate to worry less and bring more of themselves into the conversation.

#5 The organization can train and onboard new interviewers efficiently

Interviewing is a skill. And like all other skills there is a learning curve involved in picking it up. Organizations can conduct interviewer training and create documents that guide new interviewers but there is no better way to onboard new interviewers than pairing them with experienced ones. Pairing on interviews can smoothen and speed up people's journey along this curve significantly.

When new interviewers pair with people who have more interviewing experience in the organization, they pick up Org. specific things like interviewing mindset and hiring philosophy and also generic things like good interviewing etiquette, and conversation techniques through direct observation.

It also helps for the two interviewers to have meta conversations about what worked well in the interview and what they could have done to increase the effectiveness of the interview. These conversations can help the new interviewers know what to focus on when they do more interviews.

#6 You keep interviewing anti-patterns at bay

Pairing up interviewers is a good way for organizations to ensure  that they avoid negative behaviours in the interviews. When two people are conducting an interview together they know that a peer is watching them. This reduces the chances of either of them engaging in behaviours like putting undue pressure, being a show off and being rude or dismissive with the candidate.

Having two people together taking the responsibility of conducting an interview and making the assessment decision also reduces the impact of personal biases of one person on the interviewing process and the assessment.

So that’s how everyone benefits in multiple ways when you pair on interviews.

I highly recommend you to try pairing on interviews, if you don’t do it already. And if you already pair on interviews in your Organization, then keep up this good practice and become more aware of the gains you can get when it’s done well.


  • Thanks to Chitra for reviewing the drafts of this post and suggesting significant improvements.
  • Cover Image: CoWomen on Unsplash

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