Getting Technical: Advice for Tech Teams Involved in the Interview Process

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Photo by Charles 🇵🇭 on Unsplash

By Eric Wise

This is the first in a series of posts on building outstanding tech teams. 

“We only hire the best.” 

Admit it. That’s a common message inside your company. 

The truth of the matter is that good hires are often just a result of good luck. Many organizations have hiring steps in place, but they do not have a real hiring process. The interviewer often gets very little training. Technical managers and directors tend to rely too much on gut feeling, which plays into bias, especially towards liking people similar to them.

So how is a hiring process different than steps? A good hiring process is measurable and accomplishes three outcomes:

  1. Maximizes Predictability: Your hiring process attracts high-performing candidates. 
  2. Minimizes Loss: Your hiring process ensures that strong candidates who enter the funnel make it to the offer stage. 
  3. Maximizes Acceptance: When you extend an offer, it should have a high likelihood of acceptance by the candidate.

Let’s start with maximizing predictability. Predictability begins with you. While your day-to-day responsibilities focus on development, you have to be willing to prepare, conduct, and debrief in an effective, consistent way. Every interview should conclude with a clear sense of whether the candidate improves your organization. To achieve this outcome, you must take the time to craft a process, train participants on the process, and enforce it. 

At the end of an interview, you should be able to provide a definitive thumbs up or down, along with supporting examples, of why they are voting this way. Taking notes is critical for remembering these examples. Notes also reduce “recency bias” in longer hiring processes. If an interviewer cannot give a definitive answer with citations, then they have wasted their time, the company’s time, and the candidate’s time.

An effective, predictable process begins with the resume. Yes, resumes are still important, and every evaluation starts with one. Resumes are tools for questions. Interviewers should be trained to dig into the candidate’s background and tease out their contributions. There is a three-step process that helps dig into those details:

  1. Probe. Give me an example… 
  2. Dig. Who, what, where, why, when, how… 
  3. Differentiate. Did the candidate simply have exposure to a technology or does s/he have real expertise?

Human resources departments are great for initially screening candidates and funneling them to technical teams. But to build successful teams, it is ultimately up to us to find the best of the best. If you are asking someone to simply “walk me through your resume,” then you are sending an immediate signal that you did not have the time or interest to prepare for the meeting, and your hiring outcomes will likely suffer.

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