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How to Conduct a Lifeline Interview and Why You Should

It’s no secret that making the right hires is crucial for running a successful business. A consistent hiring process helps you accomplish this. Not only should a hiring process help you evaluate candidates, it should also provide a positive candidate experience and get those candidates excited to join your team. 

At CareerPlug, as a hiring software company, we are in a unique position to “practice what we teach” with our hiring process and create exceptional candidate experiences that help us truly get to know our candidates and show them we care about their professional development. 

A lifeline interview is the perfect way to do this. The purpose of a lifeline interview is for you and late stage candidates to get to know each other so you can both decide if it’s a good fit. Our lifeline interviews at CareerPlug consist of moving candidates down their timeline from past work and educational experience to future career vision. We also ask candidates to share any personal goals and dreams they have if they are comfortable doing so. 

These types of interviews have positively impacted how we hire at CareerPlug, so we want to share some tips for incorporating them into your own recruitment process. 

Why we conduct lifeline interviews at CareerPlug 

The lifeline interview sets us apart at CareerPlug and has become a cornerstone of our recruitment process. These interviews serve as an evaluation tool for us and help candidates make their decision to join our team. 

Lifeline interviews help us make the right hires 

One important aspect of lifeline interviews is that they help us determine whether we will be able to help someone reach their career goals. We want to make sure we can give a candidate what’s important to them in the next few years. If their vision doesn’t align with the position and the available growth opportunities, it might not be a good fit. 

A lifeline interview can also help us get to know a candidate on a deeper level than traditional interviews. The way someone frames their professional life story helps us see their journey from their perspective and can give us a better understanding of their level of self-awareness. 

What kind of mindset do they have? How do they approach their goals? These kinds of questions help us determine if it’s a good culture fit and whether a candidate has the right motivation and ability to do the job. 

Remember, not only are we evaluating candidates during interviews; they are evaluating us as well! A candidate with many options may be swayed by the lifeline interview since it shows we are invested in both their personal and professional growth. 

Becca Cinfio, a recently hired layout artist had this to say about how the lifeline interview influenced her decision to join the team: 

“I really appreciated the lifeline interview portion of the hiring process because it showed me that CareerPlug is going to invest in me as a PERSON, not just an employee. During the lifeline interview you’re asked to set goals for yourself, not just professional or skill-related goals, but for your personal life too. They ask about financial, interpersonal, and lifestyle dreams. They actually call them Dream Goals. I’ve never been asked that in a job interview before and seeing this more ‘human side’ of a company definitely affected my decision to join the team!” 

It’s part of our growth culture 

One of our core values at CarerPlug is “Keep Growing” and we truly do care about the success and development of our employees. Conducting lifeline interviews plays a big part in this. 

The lifeline interview has proven to be a positive exercise that helps people think their goals through, and we commit to helping our team reach those goals after the hiring process. 

Becca went on to say: “They don’t just write down your answers and keep them in a file never to be opened again. No! They revisit your goals with you every quarter — to see if you’re on track, to see if you’re happy, or if you need help or resources. Your manager makes sure you have the tools you need to be successful, not just at work, but in your personal life. CareerPlug really does value you as a whole person and being able to set goals in my personal life and have a company that supports those goals makes all the difference!”

How to conduct lifeline interviews 

As you can see, a lifeline interview in your hiring process is a great way to help candidates understand your company better and give them insight into your core values. So how can you start including these interviews? Let’s walk through how we do it at CareerPlug. 

Steps of the lifeline interview 

We recommend conducting the lifeline interview toward the end of your hiring process with the hiring manager and possibly a member of your leadership or HR team. You and the candidate can think of this interview in two parts: “where you’ve been” and “where you’re headed.” 

Here is a high level overview of the steps in our lifeline interview and questions you might ask during each phase. 

“Where you’ve been”

1. Prologue 

  • What do you want us to know about your story leading up to your professional career?
  • Anything you want to tell us about where you’re from and what influenced who you are today? 

2. Formal education 

  • Where did you go to school? What was that experience like? 
  • What were the major lessons learned from that time? 
  • Tell us about the transition from school into the workforce. 

3. First chapters in professional life (first jobs in chronological order)

  • Tell us about your experience working there. What did you like/not like about it?
  • Tell us about your manager. What would they say are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • What were the major lessons learned from that job?  

“Where you’re headed”

4. Vision for the future and how they plan to achieve it

  • Tell me about what your best life looks like for your career in three years? What does that mean to you? 
  • How do you think you will achieve this vision? Do you have any specific goals? 
  • How does this make you feel? What word or words come to mind? 

5. How they think your company fits into that vision 

This might be the most important part of the lifeline interview. We sum it up with this big question: Based on what you know about this career opportunity, can you see yourself accomplishing all of this while working here?

When in person, we used a whiteboard to help a candidate visualize their path from past to future. Now that we hire remotely, we share our screen so that candidates can see their trajectory as we talk through it. 

You might use a scorecard to evaluate during the interview. You can create customized scorecards in our applicant tracking system that helps you stay organized and evaluate candidates fairly. 

More tips for including a lifeline interview in your hiring process 

Our Senior Director of Human Resources, Natalie Morgan has conducted many lifeline interviews at CareerPlug. Her biggest tip for these types of interviews? “The framing of it is important. You need to share how you are going to conduct your interview and why, to foster a sense of trust and vulnerability.”

She also adds, “Don’t grade someone on their willingness to open up and be vulnerable. I tell candidates to share whatever they are comfortable with when we ask about goals outside of work: hobbies, family, health, whatever is most important to them.” 

Finally, if you’re going to include lifeline interviews in your hiring process, be prepared to follow up with candidates that turn into employees and stay committed to helping them reach their professional goals. This commitment will help you hire and retain the best people for your team. 

As another recent hire, Ileanell Perez shares: “​​Going through the lifeline portion of the interview gave me insight into the company’s values. I immediately felt CareerPlug cared about me and my career. Having your values written on a wall or your website doesn’t define you — living them does.”

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