Hallo and welcome. This article is designed to be something like a checklist for those who don't do interviews as their main job – for technical experts. If you feel you don't know how to prepare and where to start – this article is for you. I've been fortunate enough to conduct over 1,000 interviews and have come up with a system that I keep in mind every time I conduct one. Of course, this process is flexible and should remain so, you do not have to follow it strictly step by step and can adapt it to the needs of the situation. However, the essentials are the same in all the cases.
When preparing for an interview and during one, I usually follow this steps:
1. What skills do we need?
List all the technical things the person needs to know. Prepare the questions that are appropriate for the level you are looking for – there is no sense in asking Middle Developer some "senior" questions. List not only the technical skills, but also the soft skills – consider which person will best fit into the team and will bring more synergy.
If you are planning a coding session, make sure you have everything you need prepared for it:
- the task should include the tech stack mentioned in the CV, no new technologies;
- it should be clear what to do and also - where to implement it. Would it be better for the applicant to bring his/her own notebook with IDE and all necessary settings? Great, this will help to focus on the actual task. If no - make sure that the company notebook you are going to use has all the required settings;
- you can also prepare a repository with an empty project and the required settings for the task.
A small side note: the hiring manager should inform the applicant in advance if a coding session will take place. It is important for you to know that this will not be a surprise for the candidate.
2. Read the CV.
Do this before the interview. This will help you to show that you respect the person and are very interested in this talk. Otherwise, you will try to find something in the resume in a hurry, or you will ask something that is already described there – both are not good. The applicant has invested some time into preparation (at least he/she is supposed to do so), and you should do the same.
It is important to remember that what really matters is the professional experience and skills of the applicant. You should definitely not determine the professional level based on what university a person studied at, what country they were born in, etc. If you have specific language requirements, you can assess them during the interview.
1. Once you meet the person – show him/her around the office a bit. Offer a cup of coffee, start a small talk. This will help you both get to know each other better and reduce the stress. Less stress – better interview experience.
2. It may be that you realize after only 5 minutes – the applicant is not suitable for this position. Okay, that can happen and that is normal. But in any case the person should leave the office with a good feeling. Maybe he/she will apply for another job in the future, recommend other good professionals to you, or even become a client one day. The relationship is the most valuable resource we have and it is great when more people know the company and have had good experiences communicating with it.
3. Come up with a conversation plan, something like this: "We'll start with a small coding session, where you can definitely use Google search if you need to. You shouldn't deliver a perfect solution, we don't expect you to. We'll just code together so I can understand your thoughts and ideas. After that, I'll probably have one or two final questions, and I'll give you the floor to ask anything that's important to you. At the end, I'll tell you a bit about our project and the team so you have a good general picture. If you have any further questions, feel free to interrupt and ask me during the conversation."
You have done the previous steps well and now the person in front of you is calm, motivated and ready to be interviewed. You have prepared the questions and/or the coding session, so you know what to do. Just keep it in mind:
1. If the applicant does not understand the question, he/she still may know the answer but need further explanation or an example on the topic.
2. Sometimes some of the questions you have prepared are no longer relevant because of a previous discussion. You can definitely be flexible and change the questions to better fit the situation. The only thing that matters is that at the end of the interview you have a solid opinion about the applicant's technical level and whether it meets the requirements.
Listen and answer
You have asked everything you needed to ask. Now it's time for the person to ask questions. If he/she wants to know something you don't know, you can say that you will address the question to the HR manager or other relevant department and provide an answer in a few days. Make sure you have an email address for this case so you can forward the answers.
This part of the conversation is crucial because it can help you to understand what is important for the person: do we have the same goals, will it be interesting for the person to work in the company and for the company to have the person in the team? If our goals match, be sure to mention this in the next section – tell and inspire.
Tell and inspire
You have almost reached the end of the interview. Before the last part, it would be good to tell a little about the company and the project. The candidate needs this information to understand the spirit of the company and the requirements so she/he has a full picture before making a decision.
It is a good idea to talk about:
1. The team, the project and the company in general.
2. How would you describe the company and the team spirit? How the company supports you and your growth?
I assume the hiring manager has already talked to the applicant about the benefits the company has. Of course, you don't have to list them all here. However, any questions about the technologies and development process don't really fall within the HR manager's jurisdiction, so you can definitely describe them better. A quick tip at this point: if the person has already talked about conferences and self-improvement or it is mentioned in the resume, you should mention the benefits associated with it. If he/she has asked about mentoring before, you should mention the system your company offers for this, etc.
Finally, you need to explain what will follow after this interview: how long it usually takes to get a response, whether there will be another interview or the company will make a decision after this one. Make sure the applicant has a contact person to reach out to if he/she has questions in the meantime.
Now you accompany the person to the exit, say goodbye and be proud of yourself – today you definitely did a great job! Now you and your team have a decision to make. So let's talk about it in the next section.
Make a decision
What I often do here - I always write the "interview results". I have several sections there: technical level, soft skills, motivation, concerns, notes, conclusion. It should cover all the important aspects in the form of thesis points. So short enough, informative and well structured. It is better to do it right after the interview, or at least on the same day.
Each person who participated in the process from the company side writes this small document. Then come together for 10 to 15 minutes and compare results. If you send the document by email, there is a risk that the participants will not write their own feedback in case it is different from the first one. Therefore, it is better to invest a little more time and do this meeting. You need to check if there are any concerns, if the level of technical and soft skills matches the open position and if the motivation is right for the company. Sometimes, when you have an urgent position to fill, you may think - okay, we don't have common goals, but in the next 6 to 12 months this person will definitely help us solve the problem we have, so let's say yes. You should think twice - this situation is not good neither for you nor for the candidate. Always make sure this cooperation will bring synergy and will be positive for both sides.
Once you have made a decision, inform the hiring manager so that the applicant will receive a response in a timely manner in any case. And... that's it, well done!
To sum it up
Interviewing is a skill that should be trained. But if you reflect a bit each time on what was good and what could be improved, you will find that you do it better each time. I hope this checklist saves you some time and will become your “first aid” for the preparation. Please let me know if you would be interested in getting more information on some of the aspects - of course, one article cannot cover all the questions in depth. Thank you and good luck!