I have had a few pleasant job interviews. Here’s what’s different about those interviews, that made them really stand out from the others I’ve done. I’ll describe a specific example, and then give some specific suggestions.
- The hiring manager contacted me directly
- He had done his homework. He had looked at my GitHub repos.
- He told gave me pretty specific information about the structure of the interview, and gave me ~2 weeks to prepare.
- The interview was 1-on-1, in person. It lasted 2-3 hours.
- The first exercise was to have me go through an app and describe what all the pieces were doing.
- The second exercise was to interact with the app and add a feature or two.
- The third exercise was to look at a script and identify the bugs (or other problems with it).
It was an outstanding experience because he had clearly put time and effort into preparing the process, and was patient with understanding that while he knew the app inside and out, I did not.
Two minor things could be improved in the future:
1) If there’s some aspect of the job for which extensive, specific experience is absolutely required, emphasize it, and then emphasize it some more. Don’t expect me to read between the lines. I don’t want to waste your time or mine.
2) Asking to schedule a phone call always suggests going forward. If you’re not going forward, just send an email.
For most of the interviews I’ve been on, there have been two major things that waste everybody’s time.
1. Uncertainty about what the job actually is, or what skills are required to do it well.
Disagreement: the hiring manager wants something different than what the rest of the team thinks they need.
Inexperience: Maybe you’ve never hired someone for this type of position (in my case, something along the Engineer-Data-Scientist-Analyst spectrum). Confused about several similar job titles, and how they differ? E.g. Analyst vs. Data Scientist Vs. Data Engineer? Confused about the level of expertise required, and about how to conduct the actual interview in order to screen candidates for the best ‘fit’? What is your idea of ‘fit’?
2. In casting a wide net, failing to communicate your expectations clearly about what qualities/skills are your highest priority.
You tried to do your homework, but you haven’t really invested the time or effort to do it properly. You and your team have brainstormed a laundry list of ‘desired’ skills for the new hire. Ideally, you’d like to hire multiple people, but you don’t have the budget for that right now.
Realistically, there is probably no one who excels equally at all of the things on your unicorn list. (And if there is, that person is probably too expensive for you, anyway.)
The interview can probably only assess a small subset of your laundry list, usually in an extremely artificial environment.
So here are some suggestions. Maybe your struggles with recruiting fall into these traps.
Or maybe you’re bringing in great candidates and they’re turning you down. Maybe your interview process is scaring them away.
Make sure everyone is on the same page.
At a minimum, the following people need to get their stories straight:
- the hiring manager
- whomever is doing the technical assessment(s)
- the recruiter
- the rest of the team
I have had numerous interviews where the recruiter called me for a phone screen, and then I went for an onsite visit, only to discover that the position bore little resemblance to what was in the written job description, nor what the recruiter told me on the phone.
Don’t do that. Just don’t. If something changes between the time of the job posting and the actual interview date, let the candidate know. Don’t wait until we show up in person (this happened to me, more than once).
Similarly, I’ve had a few interviews where the hiring manager seemed to have a clear idea of what they wanted, and we communicated well, but the rest of the team didn’t seem to have gotten the memo.
In some cases, the hiring manager hadn’t communicated anything to the team about my application or what they thought of me as a candidate. So it was as if I had just walked in randomly off the street.
Don’t do that.
You’re wasting everyone’s time if you’re not just as prepared to do the interview as the candidate is.
We’ve spent our time trying to guess what you’re going to ask us, researching the company, etc. If you’re serious about hiring, you will spend at least a little bit of time researching the candidate.
If your team members can’t take time out to participate in interviewing candidates, don’t just pull some unsuspecting, unprepared team member into a meeting. It looks bad and suggests to the candidate that your group is disorganized. I’d much rather go home early than have an interview with someone who has no idea who I am or what I’m doing there.
In some cases I was, in fact, being interviewed for a different position than the one I had applied for (this happened to me, more than once).
Don’t interview a single person for multiple positions without telling the candidate (that has also happened to me, more than once).
Don’t blame the recruiter if the process drags, or if communication is unclear. It doesn’t matter whose fault it is, it reflects poorly on the organization as a whole. If you’re already blaming your colleagues for problems with the interview process, what does that say about how employees can expect to be treated once they come on board?
Do your best to communicate. If there are rules that disallow communication (for example, if your company bars you from responding to emailed questions from candidates while their application is still in process), let the candidate know that.