Are you interviewing for success or failure?

Many people doesn’t think that way but interviewing is a skill just like communication or problem solving. In the field of IT it’s specifically highlighted where individuals can be extremely successful even with lacking social skills. I saw many companies making the mistake of putting the best developer or system engineer into the interviewing role which sometimes leads to disastrous results. Why that happens?

Top 5 mistakes technically excellent interviewers do

1) Taking it as an exam

We all went to school and we have vivid memories about our teacher who had a perfect sixth sense to find the only questions we didn’t know the perfect answer for. Although we shouldn’t repeat that I see it’s happening many times. Interviews should be about what the candidate knows not what he doesn’t.

2) Being hypothetical

There are certain situations when it’s benefical but in general hypothetical questions will be answered by hypothetical answers. You need to ask yourself what did I learn from this answer about candidate’s ability to contribute to our team/company. If you don’t find a satisfying answer you shouldn’t ask those questions.

3) Looking for specific answer

Another common mistake which can be a subset or result of the previous is that the interviewers ask a very open question which they expect a very specific answer. An answer which may be specific to their position, to the company etc. Do you want to hire somebody who thinks the same way you do or do you want to bring somebody with new perspectives, new ideas to the team/company? You probably don’t look for your clones to work with, right?

4) Trivia questions

Once I had an interview where I had to answer questions like what DRY or IDE stands for. In the same situation now I would just ask back: “is this really the knowledge I need to have to be successful in your environment?”. Questions which can be found the asnwers for with a couple of seconds of googling won’t help you get to know the candidate better. In the field of IT experience and mindset is much more important than lexical knowledge.

5) Not having ownership about the process

In spite of the common belief it’s the interviewers’ job to find enough information to be able to properly assess the candidate’s skills and potentials. If at the end of the dedicated time frame you don’t have a clear result in your head that’s because you failed to pull enough information. I cannot emphasis this enough: it’s not the candidate’s failure it’s yours.

How to become a better interviewer?

1) Prepare

Read the CV. I may sound silly but many already bleeds out on this. Be conscious on what you want to find out. Prepare some question (but don’t stick to them strictly). Have a checklist of things which you must know about the candidate to be able to give a fair judgment at the end.

2) Focus on experience

Instead of trivia or hypothetical questions focus on the candidate’s past experience. Ask him about things they did, they are proud of. It could be larger projects, some interesting troubleshooting or basically anything that can get the ball rolling and then pick up some details and dig deeper there.

3) Reflect

One of the core skills of successful people is self-reflection. Ask the candidate what he/she have learned from it. Would he/she do anything differently now? This will give you a nice idea about their potential to adapt to and grow in your organisation.

4) Discuss

Left the interrogation to the police. An interview should be much more like a discussion than a constant question answer ping-pong. Treat the candidate as an equal partner and talk to them as you would talk to any colleagues about technical subjects.

5) Be open and humble

Of course it you need assess the technical abilities of the candidate but try to avoid asking questions which have right or wrong answers. Ask open ended questions and make sure you’re following the thinking process of the individuals and not forcing your own on them. Don’t be surprised if you’re learning something yourself from the interview as well.

If you will remember only one thing let it be this:

For every question you ask the candidate ask yourself what information will you gain by his/her possible answer. Tweet This If you cannot answer this you’re asking the wrong question.

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