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How to Build Your Interview Process Like the Perfect Thanksgiving Meal

November 21, 2017


I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving this year because my family is spread across the country these days and we don’t get together as much as I’d like. Thanksgiving is a great excuse to bring families across America to the dinner table together for a huge, delicious meal once a year. Because I will be hosting the meal this year, I was researching seasonal recipes and somewhere between reading about pumpkin pie and candied sweet potatoes I got to thinking about the predictability of Thanksgiving and how it is surprisingly similar to the interview process that many of my clients have implemented at their organizations.

Believe it or not, Thanksgiving and behavioral-based interviewing have a lot in common; read on to find out how.

Step 1: Planning


Let’s face it, Food and Wine magazine’s newest recipe on stuffing with rye bread and pastrami sounds pretty tasty, but my family would protest if I didn’t serve classics. So, to get ready for Thanksgiving, reviewing your family’s recipes is probably a good idea, as well as reflecting on dishes that were well-received last year (and those that the dog wouldn’t even touch).


Similarly, planning for the interview is a very important step in the hiring process. Take a reflective approach and review the interview guide to determine which questions did not yield helpful responses or if new competencies need to be added for the applicable position. [Read: 3 Interview Questions That Reveal Everything]

Step 2: Invitations


Most families don’t all get along all the time, but they are able to overlook each other’s flaws and annoyances to get together for the holiday. So, invitations to Thanksgiving dinner are usually extended to all family members. Ideally, invitations are sent by phone or email several weeks in advance to give family members time to plan their travel.


You may not like a candidate on a personal level, but that is not an appropriate criterion to decide whether to invite a candidate for an interview. If the candidate passes the previous step in the hiring process (an application, assessment, or preliminary screening interview), he or she would ideally be invited to interview.

Also, as an interviewer, you are representing your company so putting your best foot forward is important during your communications to candidates. To make it easier, you can use a template email to send out the same verbiage to all candidates - and be sure to review your email for typos and accurate information. 

Finally, give candidates enough notice to take off of work or plan their travel to the location where the interview will take place.

Step 3: Holiday Feast!


All of the preparation of the holiday leads up to the most important part of the day: the huge spread of food! My family usually starts the afternoon off with appetizers and small talk followed by the big meal with turkey and all of the fixings. The dinner host tries to make sure that everyone has a little bit of each of the dishes, and she has aimed to prepare enough food to serve all attendees. It’s inevitable that the chef will brag about the succulence of the turkey or the complexity of the home-baked pie.

After the meal, we usually take a short walk outside and then eat dessert. After many years of doing the same thing, there is a predictability to the holiday; however, this is welcomed by family members as tradition is a large component of Thanksgiving.


Interviews typically do not take place alongside a feast, however the “meat” of the interview follows a similar schedule to that of the Thanksgiving meal. First, the interviewer can start off with some small talk (perhaps about the weather), or ask the candidate to walk through his or her resume to ease into the more rigorous questions.

The structure of the behavioral interview should be predictable and the questions should be prepared in advance and laid out in a structured guide. Just like the dinner host would not wait until the guests arrive to prepare the food, even a seasoned interviewer does not develop the interview questions on the spot. Also, the interview should be timed so that there is ample time to ask all questions and cover all competencies in the guide.

Check out our free eBook, Interviewer Tips and Best Practices.

After all the questions in the guide have been answered is the time to ask if the candidate has any questions about the company or position. Also, the interviewer should feel free to brag a bit about the company’s perks or accolades.

Step 4: Watch Football and Chat


NFL and TV network officials know that families run out of things to talk and argue about by the end of the day on Thanksgiving, so they have provided an outlet: televised football games. If nothing else, families can discuss game scores and try to get on the same page about what team to root for.


It may sound like a bit of a stretch to link football and an interview, however the scoring aspect of the interview is an important part of the process. After the interview has concluded, all interviewers get together to discuss how the interview went and try to gain consensus about the candidate. To do this, a short meeting can be convened to allow all interviewers to review the scores that the candidate has received for each competency and to discuss those that have any large discrepancies among interviewers.

Step 5: Say Goodbye


Most Thanksgiving gatherings end up with ample leftovers. So, my family is eager to provide parting gifts of extra food to take home. Then, guests say goodbye and may discuss when the family will get together next.


Although providing candidates with parting gifts is not a recommended practice, it is a good idea to provide the candidate with any information that might help them make an informed decision about accepting an offer with your organization if it comes to that point. Providing information such as benefits brochures may be a nice touch. Additionally, any information about next steps should be provided to the candidate at this time. Finally, to end on a nice note, consider walking the candidate to the exit or elevator to say goodbye.

Although a hearty, starch-filled dinner is unfortunately not usually part of the standard behavioral interview, there are several similarities between a typical interview process and the Thanksgiving meal. The predictability of the day, the need to put your best foot forward, and the planning are all necessary to result in a flawless Thanksgiving celebration AND interview process. Using behavioral-based interview guides and participating in trainings provide your hiring teams with applicable content and advice on a legally-defensible process, which is something that organizations are very thankful for!

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Vicki Marlan Vicki Marlan is a Consulting Associate based in the Pittsburgh office of PSI. Vicki provides client support across many different industries including manufacturing, technology and healthcare. Her areas of expertise include developing selection tools and interview guides, providing training and support for PSI’s applicant tracking system, as well as assisting clients with requests and questions regarding tools and processes.