Rambli Just my thoughts…

How not to Prep for an Interview – Part II

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bad_interview_questionsSo part deux (two) in this epic series of how not to prep for an Interview.  In our first part to this mini-series the focus was on the Interviewee and what that individual needs to do to prepare for an interview.  But like any road, it runs both ways, and yes, you the interviewer need to be just as prepared.

There are some old adages that you know within the first 30 seconds, 5 minutes, the colour of their shoes, etc, etc that you are going to hire someone that walks through your door.  People are very proud to state their track record of being able to identify the flowers from the weeds very quickly and save time.  Is any of it true?  I can’t say for sure, I know if the candidate has followed the advice in Part I – they have a much stronger shot at getting through the interview, if however they don’t, well now you are in a hole that you need to start digging yourself out of pretty fast.  Not easy, but possible.

Be Prepared

Yes, you the Interview must be prepared.  You need to put your best foot forward because you, and perhaps the others in the room are the ONLY window this candidate has into your organization.  They are evaluating everything you say as gospel, as the organization and when they talk to their friends about the interview later on, you are who they will reference because you are all they will know.

Introductions and Salutations

  1. Introduce yourself – yes I am guilty on this – I’ll say all the niceties of welcome, can I get you anything and than start right into #2 completely forgetting to introduce myself and what my role at the company is.  Kind of hard to introduce yourself half-way through, so something I try to work on.
  2. At this point, I walk the candidate through the process of what we’re going to do today – I’ll explain who we are, here about some of your experience, do some technical questions and then some work on the whiteboard.  Not only does this help keep it straight in your mind, it puts the candidate at ease knowing what is coming next.
  3. Write out a quick paragraph on your organization – the highlights, etc. – don’t brag, we don’t need a 20 minute introduction into the glory of InterNode Inc.
  4. Explain specifically what your group does and how you guys work.  Especially in Software Development – candidates always, always want to know how the teams are setup, what kind of projects they will be working on, what technology stack do you work on.
  5. Tell them what you are looking for – we need a developer who has a passion for technology, loves to try new things, is great working on a team or on their own.

Notice in number 4 – I didn’t have to say they know languages X, Y or Z – that’s up to you if you want to add in there, I personally don’t – you can teach anyone to code but teaching passion and dedication is much, much harder.

Start the Conversation

At this point the stage is set, you’ve given them the spiel on who you are, now it’s time for them to sell themselves to you.  Who they are, what they have done, how they meet your job requirements, etc, etc.  Usually at this stage is where I take a lot of notes and try to interject with small clarifying questions on what role they performed on which application and ask them to draw out the architecture (not revealing any trade secrets).  I find when you allow a candidate to draw out their accomplishments on the board, it makes them more comfortable and confident as they talk about their accomplishments.  My follow-up to this is where I really seek to gauge their thinking and approach to problem solving when I ask them what they would change in the architecture to make it better.  The guys/gals that are really on their game, are the ones that suggest changes on how things could be better – they know it’s not perfect, they know there are new technologies and options out there.  When someone says they wouldn’t change a thing, that’s an X, you can always make something better.

Know thy Interviewee’s Level

So all of this is from the slant of interviewing someone technical – a developer, quality assurance tester, business analyst, etc.  Depending on who they are, you need to understand their position and level that you are hiring for.  At one company I was involved in a crazy hiring spree and I entered the room thinking I was interviewing for an Intermediate Software Developer position – I nailed the candidate hard – he failed on everything.  Later I found out he was interviewing for the junior position, which I didn’t know, my bad – I ran through it in the wrong way and had a completely different set of questions prepared that I would have answered.  The level of the position is incredibly important, I expect much more out of Senior resource then Juniors, there is an investment cost when they start and I’m constantly weighing that in my mind when running through the Internet.

The Whiteboard

Oh so scary, get up on a board and write stuff.  I have seen people sweat buckets over this despite reassuring them we don’t expect 100% syntax adherence, 10 years ago… maybe, but not now.  There are so many IDEs out there with Intellisense it is very hard for someone to know all the syntax corrections because some happen even when you are not looking.  My personal preference is to let them code the problem in their most strongest language.  I’m a C# guy myself so I can run those whiteboards pretty well, but if it gets into Java or some of the new JavaScript models – I’ll bring someone in to review the code – they have a much more keen eye and can spot subtle items which I might miss.  So when on the whiteboard, make sure you have an expert on hand either before or after to review what was done by the candidate.  The Whiteboard serves a dual purpose to see if they, as a potential employee, would be willing to stand up in front of a colleague and draw out ideas.  This speaks to confidence and collaboration.

Questions, Questions, Questions

Whether it’s a 15 or 60 minute interview – always give your potential candidate the opportunity to ask questions at the end.  Some might be more elaborations on what was already discussed, some totally out of left field, but still the opportunity must be there.  From a grading perspective, this is the last opportunity a candidate has to impress me because it shows they were listening and are interested in the position.  Also, it gives the candidate one last opportunity to sell themselves if they made some mistakes early on in the process.

So, that’s it, that’s how I run my interviews for the world to see – I’ve had some good interviews, some bad ones and some very ugly ones – but I think at the end of the day I’ve always tried to give the candidate an opportunity to sell themselves while being a good representative for whichever organization I am currently working with.

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Greg Thomas

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By Greg Thomas
Rambli Just my thoughts…

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