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Craig Kerstiens

Interviewing, A Reflection of the Company

The more I’ve been exposed to it the more the way a company conducts interviews is a very strong reflection of how the company’s current state is. If you experience a very half hazard interview it’s likely a result that the person interviewing is half hazard in other aspects of their day to day. If you experience that someone is very set in their mind in what they want, and expecting a very cookie cutter answer, it’s a reflection of how they think. There are some cases in which the interviewers simply do not know various methods/styles as such I’d like to address what I feel should be appropriate interviewing process. I’ve been in situations where more of this process was followed than not, and in those cases bad hires were the exception not the norm. The biggest unknown after that was how long until someone was fully integrated into the culture and not a noob but a veteran in some area that others deferred to.

In the interviewing process the very first key is knowing your role. Hopefully there’s at least more than one person interviewing. If you’re interviewing you have the need, the person on the other side of the table from you may or may not. It may just be an opportunistic interview for them, or they may be avidly looking for an opportunity. Either way you should ALWAYS be in a sell mode of some form, the only question is how heavy this sell mode is. Are you 10% selling, 50% selling, 70% selling, 90% selling? In my experience I’ve never been in an interview of less than 50% selling to whomever I’m interviewing. Being in this mode is only going to convince them to come if they’re not looking that hard OR make them even more desperate to join you, which means you could offer them less (While I do have issues with this, the fact remains that it happens).

So back to your role, the key roles correspond pretty directly to the type of interviews you should conduct. These can be blurred/mixed and can be conducted by different/same people, but I would at the very least not mix the questions at least follow some structured order. The key types are:

Next is the Behavioral/Contextual interview. This will consist of many what would you do in this situation. There are books and books that exist on example questions and how to respond to these. The key that an interviewer is looking for is that you solve a particular issue and follow a logical process here. If they ask a question about dealing with conflict, they don’t want to see that you just ignored it. There’s a fine line of addressing the conflict so the working environment is better, but also ensuring the project makes progress.

Finally is the Technical interview. Approaching this from a very technical area of programming, you should not be testing syntax. You should be testing generic programming thoughts/concepts. If you want to give a syntax test go online and find one of the thousands that exist. If I’m not confident someone can pick up a language knowing general constructs, I would never hire them and they wouldn’t have made it this far in the process. If you want to throw in 1-2 questions about such that’s a manageable amount, but most of the interview should follow more open ended questions, questions that have multiple answers. How to write a for loop in Java is not acceptable, how to write a function that produces fibonnaci and a corresponding test is acceptable. Any time someone asks a question like this, I’m open to working at the company. It shows they put thought into the interview process and care about quality of their hires. Those types of questions test several concepts at once:

As I mentioned before there’s several types of interviews and various levels of selling that occur. During EVERY interview you should give the person you are interviewing the opportunity to ask questions. Whenever this occurs you’re in selling mode, and often after a question you’re in selling mode. Your answers should NOT be 1 word answers, they should be thorough and open the opportunity for follow up questions on your answer. With any of these questions you should be able to interview someone at a level lower than you, or even higher than you. There are some job specific ones, sometimes of managing people or budgets when interviewing upwards that you may not address, but a lower level employee interviewing a manager is a valuable part of the process.

With regards to your role it should be discussed ahead of time, you should conduct 2 behavioral interviews if the first you have an unsure result from. You should not ask the same questions if they passed with flying colors the first time. If you do this, and there are cases its relevant know your reasoning behind such. The bottom line is know the types of interview you’re conducting, discuss it internally, and know what you’re looking for as a result. If you haven’t put this much thought and effort into the process it will be apparent and the resulting quality of person you get will be a direct reflection of that.