How to Lead a Great Job Interview

How to do an interview(from personal experience)

Intro

are you looking for resources because you need to put together a new team, or you just want to know how to lead a great interview, this is the reading for you.

At the beginning of 2018, I embarked on a new adventure. I left my family and my friends behind and moved to a new city, where I was responsible for hiring and forming a new development team. My job is not over yet, but I think I now have a lot of experiences worth sharing with you, and who knows, maybe you will find them useful.

All my experiences are formed in an IT company. However, what I wrote does not apply to an IT company only. The next points are applicable in any domain.

Are you about to start your team? Are you freaking out and don’t know what to do and how to start? Do you have to lead some interviews and don’t know how to do it?
If the answer is “yes” then this post is for you. I was exactly in your shoes two years ago and somehow I survived. Please make sure that you read this post carefully. Comment down below if you found any information to be useful or if you have some extra questions.


STEP 1: Interview preparation

Interview preparation
  1. Dress-up
    This goes without saying, you have to be presentable. Make sure your outfit is formal, but not too formal. Everyone appreciates a well-dressed person. In addition, be sure you leave your phone out of the room.
  1. Prepare the room
    You don’t want to be caught off guard and cause delays. If you plan to use a TV or projector to present something, make sure everything is up and running, and try to prepare upfront the environment. In addition, make sure the interviewee will have a glass of water. You are about to discuss for a couple of minutes, everyone will get thirsty. If you have multiple interviews on the same day in the same room make sure you plan for at least 30-45 minutes between. You will want to vent the room and have a few minutes for the most important notes.
  1. Ideal team
    Even before going in your first interview, you have to make sure that you have an ideal team in your mind. You will not be able to form your ideal team, because unfortunately we don’t live in an ideal world and probably you have some deadlines to respect. But, you must keep your ideal team in your mind and visualize the impact of the interviewee on that team.
  1. Diversification
    As your stock portfolio, your team should also be diversified, you need to make sure that you have a rainbow of personalities. You will tend to try to find people who are similar to you because you think that this will make an ideal environment, but the reality is that it will not. Imagine the Lord of the Rings movie with 10 Gandalf’s.
    So, this point is strongly connected to the first one, when you think about your ideal team make sure it is diversified.
  1. Job description
    You have to know and be ready to explain the job description. Probably this will be a long document that the interviewee will not read during the discussion. However, you have to be prepared to comment on the most important points from the job description. Most importantly, try to underline those points which are important for you as a leader.
  1. Resume analysis
    Be sure you look over the resume multiple times. If you find links to already executed projects, make sure you read those, you can find a lot of useful information there. Never do any classification based on resume alone.
  1. The company
    Probably this will be one of the first things that you should do as part of your interview. You need to make sure that the interviewee has the relevant information about the company, you want to make sure that he/she knows what the company is producing, for whom and who are the end customers. This should not be a long introduction but you need to be prepared for a 5 – 10 minutes presentation.
  1. The know-how
    You have to be prepared to test the interviewee’s knowledge. This can be done in multiple ways. Either you prepare a series of questions and you ask for the answers at the moment you meet. Or you prepare one or more exercises, you send them upfront and discuss the solution in the interview.
  1. Be mentally prepared
    This will become easy after a few interviews. In a nutshell, you have to have a specific mindset:
    • be friendly and respectful;
    • be curious but not intriguing;
    • challenge but not offend;
    • be open and honest.
  1. The list
    If you plan to have multiple interviews make sure you prepare a list where you differentiate your candidates not only by name. But, you use a picture(if the resume has one), or a specific feature. This is important because the names will get confusing after a few weeks of interview marathons.

STEP 2: The Interview

The Interview
  1. Real you
    You need to make sure that the interviewee is seeing the real you, don’t try to be someone else. Because you are going to work with that person for a long time, you should both be comfortable with each other. You will probably spend more time with your employees than with your significant other, make sure you both are compatible.
  1. Be careful with your posture
    Remember you are there to represent your team and your company. You will tend to start the discussion in an up straight and elegant posture. As time goes by your body will start slipping off the chair or you will start repositioning your legs in a more informal position. There is nothing wrong with relaxing yourself(you will also relax the other people in the room). It’s probably impossible to keep a perfect position for hours, but you have to be careful to not end up looking like a “C” shape. Above all, you have to make sure that your body position does not inspire distrust or arrogance. In addition, be sure your hands are on the table at all times.
  1. Leadership style
    Make sure you speak a few minutes about the way you are going to lead the team. Your style of management must be put on the table from the beginning. This shouldn’t be more than a few minutes. You will prepare a more elaborate presentation when your team is completed (more about this in a future article). You just want to point out the most important values in which you believe as a leader.
  1. The team
    In case you already have an existing team you should try to describe the environment and the in-place processes. If possible you should arrange for a team meeting and present the new potential colleague. A full-day office experience is always a good starting point.
  1. Make sure you talk less
    If you are the kind of person who likes to talk(like me). Be sure you let the interviewee speak. You are there to listen.
  1. Use clear questions
    It is very important to make yourself understood. Try to formulate every question as precisely as possible, leaving no trail of ambiguity. Don’t combine multiple questions at a time, a formulate like this: “What do you think of XYZ? Can you compare it to YZX? Did you use it before?” is not the most suitable. Try to be clear and formulate everything in one go, or wait for the answer until going to the next question.

    It’s also a good idea to combine multiple questions type:
    • Closed-ended questions: Have you worked in a team environment before?
    • Open-ended questions: What do you know about our company?
    • Hypothetical questions: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
  1. The know-how
    If you chose to give homework to check your technical skills. It is very important to let the interviewee explain the solution he/she has chosen. In addition, it’s also a very good opportunity to observe if the interviewee is comfortable using the technical language(if applied). And maybe the best thing is observing the steps he/she does when trying to resolve a problem.
    When you give homework, you need to make sure that the solution is authentic. By listening to the solution explanation you can also check for that.
  1. The behavior
    For a team to be successful and productive they have to respect each other and they have to respect you, the leader. That’s why the way someone behaves during an interview is crucial in the decision that you will have to do. It is even more important than knowledge. This will probably be very tricky because as you already know it’s not that easy to read somebody. If you misinterpret something, you will probably lose a potential colleague.
    But there are a few questions that you can ask so that you can correlate the behavior with the answers:
    1. Have you worked in a team before? If the answer is “yes” you can go on with a second question: “How was the team environment? Did you get along with your colleagues?“. You can use those answers to check the level of empathy. A very important component that should be part of your team environment.
    2. Do you consider yourself an optimist or a pessimist? You need to make sure that most of your people are optimists. In other words, it’s nothing wrong to have a pessimist in your team (probably you should have, #diversification), but the number of optimists should be greater than the number of pessimists.
    3. How was your relationship with your manager? This is also a good question that will help you understand what kind of person the interviewee is. Probably the same kind of relationship you are going to have with him/she.

      Some behaviors should worry you: raising his/her voice, anxious behavior (not all anxious behavior is bad, of course, some people will get anxious just because they are in an interview, but if this behavior is also correlated with other improper behaviors, then that should worry you), lack of a smile (to be correlated with other behaviors, could mean low empathy levels).

      There are many questions that you can use and probably I will write a separate article just to cover those.
  1. Two-way process
    The interview is not only for you to question and observe the interviewee. He/she should also be allowed to ask questions. So, make sure you reserve at least 10 – 15 minutes for the interviewee to ask you about the company or your style of management.
  1. Take notes
    I find it disrespectful for someone to take notes during the time we speak. So, I advise you to not take notes during the interview. But, as soon as the interview ends you want to start writing down the most important attributes the interviewee has for the job. But also, the things that are not suitable for your dream team.

STEP 3: Decision

Decision

This will be the hardest part, you need to make sure that you put together the best team possible. However, In my decision-making process I try to follow a set of rules:

  1. Don’t settle for less: You don’t want to do any compromises. With the team you are building now, you will have to go through difficult times. But, if you do need to settle for less, make sure it is technical. You don’t want to do any compromises concerning the behavior. A low performer can be easily enhanced to the next level if he/she has the right environment. Most importantly, a non productive behavior will drag the team down and it takes a lot of effort to fix it.
  1. Make sure you have people who will:
    1. Lead the team in your absence;
    2. Be willing to do repetitive and maybe boring work;
    3. Cheer up the team;
    4. Mentor new colleagues;
    5. Try to innovate every project.

    This list will help you to make the right decision in case you are looking to fill some gaps in your team.
  1. Try to create a table where you put the most important “talents” you are looking for in your new team members. Make sure this table is not only filled up with technical skills, but you have a balance of behaviors and technical knowledge. After that, try to score every interviewee with a note from 1 to 10. At the end draw a line and do the math.

Extra: Interview structure


Don’t start an interview without a plan. You have to have a structure to follow. The structure which I use is very simple:

Long story short:

  1. Present yourself;
  2. Present the company;
  3. Ask about former projects and former environment;
  4. Explain the job description and your style of leading;
  5. Go technical: simple ad hoc exercise or to the point technical questions or check homework;
  6. Reserve at least 10 – 15 minutes for the interviewee to ask questions;
  7. Provide information about the next steps.

Long story:

  1. Always present yourself and everyone in the room;
  2. Before going to the company presentation, make sure you don’t bore your audience with information they already know. You can check this with a simple question, “What do you know about our company”?;
  3. Do a custom company presentation, in which you point out the most important information(keeping in mind the answer to the previous question). This is a good opportunity to try to relax the atmosphere. Being the start of the discussion probably you both are a little nervous. Try to tell a joke(if you like telling jokes), or you can give a few signs of informality. Such that he/she knows that the interview will be a great experience;
  4. Since you have already analyzed his/her resume, you already know what previous experiences he/she has. Use that to find more about the environment in which he/she was exposed.
  5. After this discussion you can slowly introduce information about your style of leading, and maybe make comparisons with the former environment(not in a negative way, like: “in our company, we do things better“). But, you can use the previous environment to create anchors, such that the interviewee will understand what you are talking about.
  6. This point and the previous one can also go together, it’s your call. But, you need to make sure you reserve a few minutes and explain briefly what you and the college will expect from him/her. This is the part where you should explain the processes and the job description.
  7. It’s probably been 30-40 minutes since the interview started. Therefore, you can move to the next stage, checking the technical skills. As discussed before, you either start asking technical questions, maybe give a short exercise or discuss a solution to homework that was given at least 2 weeks ago.
  8. Reserve at least 10 – 15 minutes for the interviewee to ask questions.
  9. Be sure to provide a time frame in which the interviewee expects to be notified of the outcome. It shouldn’t be very long, but make sure you have enough time to make a decision. You also have to know if the interviewee is engaged in other discussions with other companies. This will make your life a little bit harder but it’s crucial information to have and will probably demand a quicker decision.

    Note: If the part of the discussion where you check the technical skills is really tough. You can try to move that in the first part of the discussion and leave the rest at the end.

Outro

Everything that I wrote comes as a consequence of personal introspection and correlations with favorite readings. In other words, when I created my team, I did not do everything that I wrote, but I wish I would. However, I hope that my experiences will prove useful for you, don’t forget to like and share if you like my content, an article like this takes time and energy to be created. I wish you the best of luck in creating your dream team. Cya!!

Author: Horațiu Condrea

My name is Horațiu Condrea, and I work as a Software Developer Manager at Siemens PLM Software. I hope that my experiments will prove to be useful for many of you guys/girls out there. Don’t forget to leave a comment whenever you run over a bug or something that is not working as it should be. For any kind of information contact me.

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