Call Shari 303-863-0948 or Email Us

Contact us for virtual speaking and training!

How to Interview Well – Try the Job Shadow Interview

Figuring out if a candidate will like and can do a job is fairly straight forward, figuring out if a candidate will like working in your organization is much harder.

A clear and specific job description should tell a candidate whether or not a job’s responsibilities are things she can and wants to do. What’s much harder to determine is whether or not the candidate is a good culture fit with the organization. Will she be comfortable working with the organization’s employees and in the organization’s culture, and will other employees be comfortable working with her? It’s hard to figure that out during a 60 or 90-minute conversation, during which both interviewers and interviewees are on their best behavior.Job Shadow Interview

Some companies use personality assessments to assess culture fit. Others have lots of people meet with candidates. I’m fond of the job shadow interview, which very few companies do.

If you’re really serious about a candidate, why not invite her to spend a day or a half day in your office participating in a job shadow interview. Candidates can attend meetings, have lunch, hang out in the break room and hallways, and meet fellow employees during the job shadow interview. Candidates and employees are more likely to let their guard down and be themselves outside of a formal job interview. You want to know the person you hire as well as possible. You don’t want to hire someone who turns out to be very different once she actually starts.

Hiring and training new employees is the most costly thing most businesses do, so slow down and invest more time. Before you make a candidate an offer, ask the candidate if she would be willing to spend half a day in your office participating in a job shadow interview. That invitation could sound something like, “We really like you and think you’d be a great fit. Before we make you an offer, we wonder if you’d be willing to spend an afternoon (or a day), sitting in on some meetings and job shadowing a potential peer. Would you be interested in doing that?”

Candidates, you’re interviewing and assessing an organization just as the people in the organization are interviewing and assessing you. You won’t be successful or stay in a job very long if you don’t feel at home in the culture. If a hiring manager makes you an offer and you are seriously considering it, ask to job shadow interview for a half or full day. That request could sound something like, “Thank you so much for the job offer. I’m very excited about the possibility of working for you! I want to be sure that I’m a great fit and vice versa. How would you feel if I spent a morning or afternoon attending a few meetings and job shadowing someone on the team? This will give me an even better sense of the organization and make sure this is a great decision for both of us. What do you think?” I can’t imagine any employer outside of those working on government, classified information saying no.

Taking the wrong job and hiring the wrong candidate is costly. Slow down and make better hiring decisions by giving candidates a chance to experience your culture with a job shadow interview, when people aren’t on their best behavior. You’ll make better hiring decisions and save lots of time and money in the process.

Job Shadow Interview


Shari Harley is the founder and President of Candid Culture, a Denver-based training firm that is bringing candor back to the workplace, making it easier to give feedback at work. Shari is the author of the business communication book How to Say Anything to Anyone: A Guide to Building Business Relationships that Really Work. She is a keynote speaker at conferences and does training throughout the U.S. Learn more about Shari Harley and Candid Culture’s training programs at

    Find more about me on:
  • facebook
  • linkedin
  • twitter
  • youtube

Tags: , , ,

4 Responses to “How to Interview Well – Try the Job Shadow Interview”

  1. Carlene Goldthwaite says:

    Hey Shari – a great idea, and I have a couple thoughts about factors that make this a little-used tool. Wondering if it’s too awkward for a prospective, currently-employed candidate to get an additional 1/2 or full day off work to do this – presumably after already taking several hours off to do the initial interview? 2nd thought…in a previous life, I recruited for Home Health and other positions that would have access to protected health information (PHI). We were not able to convince our legal people that a non-employee/non-contractor can be held to HIPAA’s privacy/confidentiality provisions, and could not include a shadowing-type experience in our selection process.

    • Shari Harley says:

      Hi Carlene, Thanks for your comment. This is really interesting. I would definitely suggest candidates only job shadow when they have already received or are about to receive an offer. Then they already know they’re likely to leave their job shortly, so the time off should be less impactful. Regarding HIPAA, I think candidates would need to be shielded from patient’s personal information. Similar to a financial services firm that has confidential client information. Just have to keep that hidden during onsite interviews.

  2. RS says:

    Shari, you are absolutely right about this. I run a nonprofit, and we require people who are applying for volunteer leadership positions to volunteer with us in another capacity first. While this is not true hiring situation, it serves as a “job shadow” to ensure that it’s the right cultural fit for both our organization and for the volunteer. We have both limited resources and a lot of respect for our volunteers, making this process well worth the time and effort on the front end.

    • Shari Harley says:

      Hi Robyn, It’s great to hear from you. Thank for your comment. I just had a client who loved a candidate he met and was going to make her an offer. As a final check, he was going to have her take a personality assessment. I suggested a couple of hours of job shadowing instead. While spending the afternoon in their office, the candidate discovered she couldn’t work in such a small setting and she moved on. He was very grateful to have saved the time and money in hiring someone who would leave shortly after starting. I hope more organizations will start doing job shadowing interviews.

Leave a Reply

Sign Up

Career tips
you won't get
elsewhere. Sign up
to get a free
tip card.