mark cerqueira well-rounded nerd

Managing Management - Consistent Interviewing

Interviewing is hard - the interview is an artificial environment where you are trying to assess someone’s ability in one hour. Interviewing well and doing this consistently is even harder but don’t give up. There are things you can start doing today to make your interviewing more consistent.

Send pre-briefs to candidates - At Twitch we send candidates preparation notes on our interview format, expectations, what we’ll be assessing, and tips for doing well. We edit these notes as we find new things we wish we had told candidates before they came onsite (e.g. don’t drink more caffeine than normal). These pre-briefs are key to leveling the playing field for candidates and reduces the variability candidates bring to an interview. It’s a win for candidates and a win for interviewers.

Is now a good time to chat? - At the beginning of phone calls I always ask the candidate, “Is now a good time to chat?” Over the hundreds of phone interviews I’ve conducted I have seen candidates opt to reschedule the call only a handful of times. Interviewing is hard and life happens; you want to talk to people when they’re at their best, not distracted, worried about something, or coding a new laptop they just got.

Set clear expectations and don’t be afraid to interrupt - This is really helpful when you’re in the “tell me about a time” portion of your interview. Up front, set clear expectations - “I’m looking for specific, concrete examples” - and don’t be afraid to interrupt if you’re not getting good signal. If you’re clear on expectations you can even interrupt without coming off as rude - “If we’re not digging into a good example, I’ll interrupt and we can switch to another topic.” With the limited amount of time you have, it’s important for you and the candidate to be aligned to maximize the quality of the signal you get. If you find that signal isn’t coming through, interrupt, and try something else.

Have a question bank - For both technical and behavioral portions of an interview have a question bank available. It’s helpful to have this written down so you can deliver the same question with the same wording to candidates. For technical questions you can even have the question ready to go in various programming languages. If a candidate says they’ve worked through that question already, you can have alternate questions ready to go in your bank.

Record clock time during technical exercises - During technical exercises I log clock time when the exercise is presented, when hints are given, when milestones in the question are reached, and when the question is completed. While time to completion is not the only data point to take into consideration on a candidate’s performance, having something concrete helps better calibrate your assessment of the candidate’s performance.

Got an interesting tip for making your interviews more consistent? Let me know on Twitter!

Managing Management is a series on systems that are shareable and serve as actionable templates for addressing the deluge of things managers encounter everyday. Enjoyed this post and want to see more? Check out more at Managing Management.