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Crafting The Interview Process

Published 3/11/2016

Crafting a Better Interview Process

We surprisingly have no relevant non-sponsor links today, but take some time instead to think about and refine your interviewing process. You'll be surprised how much you will learn!

Today's episode is sponsored by Linode! Head over to Linode.com/developertea or use the code DeveloperTea20 at checkout for a $20 credit towards your cloud hosting account! Thanks again to Linode for your support of Developer Tea.

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Hey, we want to welcome to Developer Tea. My name is Jonathan Cutrell. And in today's episode, we're going to be talking about crafting a better interview process. Today's episode is sponsored by Linode. If you are looking for an SSD server, if you're looking to launch an SSD server rather, check out Linode. They have the Linode Cloud. We will talk more about what that means later on in today's episode. But I want to jump straight into today's topic because I have seven points for you today. I usually try to keep it a little bit smaller than that. But I think this is such an important topic that we as people who hire other people, we don't take enough time to think about the skills that are necessary to conduct an interview. Most of the material out there, most of the podcast episodes around the topic of interviews, is from the perspective of the interview. An interview is a very interesting piece of our working culture. While everyone does them slightly differently, typically an interview consists of a person coming in sitting down, presenting their case as to why they would make a good candidate for a particular position, and then being for a lack of a better term, cross-examined by interviewers who will eventually make a decision about whether that person's case was presented in the best way. Now of course, the interview isn't the only thing we take into account when hiring someone. We also look at their resume, their past work, et cetera. But for the first time during an interview, we have a chance to see how that person actually interacts with us in person, especially for non-remote jobs and full-time jobs that aren't intended to be short term. The interview is crucial to both sides, both the interviewer and the interviewer. Now it seems as though the interview is very high stakes in light of its purpose. Essentially, we're talking about taking a few hours, maybe a day at maximum, to evaluate a person and whether they are fit to work with that team, with our company, for the next 10,000 or 20,000 hours of their working career. And for either side, this is a huge gamble. So in this episode, I want to talk about ways of making sure you get the most out of that interview process. How to craft a better interview process and make better decisions in light of the interview. I have seven points. And so let's jump straight into the first one. The first one is to simulate the working environment for that person. Put the interviewer in the working environment. Simulate a working environment for that person. You need to make sure that this simulation consists of real tasks and real interactions with the people that they would be working with in the future. And make sure they know that the intention is to give the interviewer. And the people already on the team, the people they're going to work with, a sense of what a working day may look like with that person on the team. It is intended to be a true simulation. It should feel like, wow, this person is actually here and working with us. And the reason for that is because really what you're trying to do in an interview is figure that part out, figure out if that person is good for that particular position. And if a given working day is going to be successful in the long run. And once you string a bunch of those working days together, well, really that's what the job is about, right? So you need to simulate that working environment, put the interviewer in the working environment. But you don't want to just simulate the working environment. So my second tip is that you want to simulate the non-working environment too. And the reason for this is because people don't just take a job simply for its economic viability in their lives or because they're a good fit. But they also evaluate how it affects their life outside of work. So what does this look like? Well, you might take the interview e out to an informal lunch or maybe dinner with members of your team, especially if that's something that your team does on a regular basis anyway. You may also want to give them an idea of what off time looks like. So for example, how you respond to unexpected emails or messages if they come to your phone during off hours that shows them the culture of the company and how their life would look, not only 9 to 5, but also 5 to 9. It's also probably a good idea to allow the person that you are interviewing to explore the city that you're in if the job is actually on site, if they aren't applying for a remote job. And again, this just gives them an idea of what their life looks like when they are not at work. And of course, their life outside of work is going to be heavily influenced by what they do for their job and by the culture of the team they work on. So tips one and two, the first one was simulate the working environment for that person. And the second one was simulate the non working environment as if that person already lives here or already works for your team, et cetera. The third tip I have for you today is to talk equally or more about the culture and company values as you do about the job position and its particulars. And this is very simple. You want to talk about your company and your culture for a lot of reasons. Long-term retention is going to rely heavily on the alignment of values and the day-to-day experience of working with the company. The happiest employees are typically those who are happy to change responsibilities when called upon to do so and are driven to work for the company despite the task. So if the person is only working for the company because they have an opportunity to work in a particular language, well, that means that in the long run, that person may not be very happy if their job description changes, if the company experiences demand in a different language, for example. And so what you want to do is make sure that when you're interviewing someone, that they aren't simply coming to work for you or they aren't simply applying to work for a particular company completely devoid of a discussion about values and about alignment and direction for the company itself. And when you can align on values and direction for the company, then understanding your flexibility it forwards those values, it forwards those goals. That makes that person a much happier, much more successful employee for any company. So just to reiterate what we're saying here, we want to find people who align with the culture of the company. We want to find people who align with the strategic vision and with the values of the company. And that happens starting at the interview. It's important to go ahead and talk about those values, talk about that long-term vision for the company, talk about the identity of the company and the brand and all of those pieces right up front. And what that does is it allows that person to determine how they stack up against your company's values. Again, alignment on values is a core part of retention. It's a core part of someone being fulfilled and happy in the work that they do. I'm going to go ahead and give you a fourth tip and then we're going to talk about today's sponsor. But the fourth tip first is you need to discuss the interview flow in advance with the team that you already have that will be participating in that interview. So discuss the flow with the people who will be contacting the interview. Now another part of this is that you need to allow multiple people to lead different portions of the interview. There shouldn't just be one person that leads the entire interview. Certainly one person can be kind of the primary person, especially if you are structured so that that person is ultimately the decision maker in your company. But if you allow multiple people to lead different portions of the interview, this provides differing perspectives and will ultimately help with the decision-making process of whether or not to hire the interviewee. Now it may also help the person feel more at ease as being intensely interviewed by a single individual for a whole day can be incredibly intimidating. Having multiple people conduct different portions of the interview also reduces the likelihood that you will have bias enter into the decision-making process. So again, many reasons why. But you need to allow multiple people to lead different portions of your interviews. But go ahead and discuss the flow of the interview in advance with your team so that they can prepare. They shouldn't just now be finding out which portion of the interview they're going to lead the day of. Because then what you'll have is people trying to come up with thoughtful and important questions on the spot. And notoriously, we're pretty bad at this. We're pretty bad at coming up with questions on the spot. We're pretty bad at thinking about something thoroughly on the spot, thinking about it without any kind of external preparation. And so to avoid that problem, simply talk about the flow of the interview in advance, which ultimately leads to better questions and better answers, more informative, more important answers. So a real quick recap of our first four tips. Number one, simulate the working environment. Number two, simulate the non-working environment as well. Number three, talk equally or more about the culture and the company values as you do the job position and the particulars of the job position. And finally, number four, discuss the interview flow in advance with your team and allow multiple people to lead different portions of the interview. Now let's talk about today's sponsor, Linode. With Linode, you can instantly deploy and manage an SSD server in the Linode Cloud. You can get a server running in just seconds with your choice of Linux distribution, resources, and node location. Linode has eight data centers, which basically means that you can have redundancy at all of these data centers, if you'd like. The plans start at only $10 a month, and you can get a server running in under a minute. Linode has hourly billing with a monthly cap on all plans and add-on services, including things like backups, node balancers, and long view. You can have a VM for full control. You can run a Docker container. You can have encrypted disks, VPNs, et cetera. And you could even run something like a private Git server on Linode. And they have native SSD storage on a 40 gigabit internal network with Intel E5 processors. So in other words, it's super fast. So if you're worried about speed, Linode has you covered. And if you Google it, you will find out the same. Linode also comes with a seven-day money back guarantee. You basically have nothing to lose. But if that hasn't already convinced you just for being a developer to you listener, you can also get a $20 credit applied to your account. You can simply go to linode.com slash Developer Tea, or you can use the code Developer Tea 20 at checkout to get that $20 credit applied to your account. Of course, the link in that special code will be found in the show notes at spec.fm. Thank you again to Linode for being today's sponsor. So we're talking about crafting a better interview process. I have a lot to say about this topic. And I've formulated seven tips, but really, this is more of a discussion episode. I want you to start thinking about the interview process from the perspective of how important it is. You're spending just a few hours with somebody. As we said earlier, this is going to determine so much for your company and so much for that person's life. And we put so much energy into thinking about the interview. So doesn't it make sense that we start thinking about better ways of doing interviews as the interviewer rather than just as the interviewer? I think it's incredibly important that we as the people who are conducting these interviews that we really put some time and effort into making our processes better, becoming better at determining if there is a good fit between our company and the people who are applying to work at that company. With that said, let's jump into our next three tips. So this is number five on the list of seven. Tip number five, focus on stressors, motivators, and modes of thinking. Focus on stressors, motivators, and modes of thinking. These are kind of the fundamental parts of the person you are hiring, how they will respond in a working environment, ask them what stresses them out, and what happens when they are stressed. How do they respond? You can ask them what excites them, what motivates them, what are some of the things that they have been learning in their off time? What skills are they developing? What are their hobbies? These are things that talk about their motivations. And to determine their mode of thinking, ask them to give you an example of a problem that they solved recently, and their process for solving that problem. This can be any kind of problem. It can be a programming problem, or it can be something totally unrelated to their job. Just trying to find out how they think. Do they think procedurally, for example, or do they take a step back and ask other people how they solve the problem that would be collaborative style of thinking? There's so many different ways to solve problems, and it's important that you understand how that particular person prefers to solve problems. So again, focus on the stressors, the motivators, and the modes of thinking. Number six, never forget to open the floor for the interviewer to ask questions about every step in the process. And this becomes even more effective if you ask the interviewer to, just like you have prepared, your questions ask your interviewer to prepare their questions in advance rather than putting them on the spot. If you put them on the spot, they're very unlikely to ask questions that they haven't prepared the language for, because that can seem a little bit messy. It can seem a little bit reckless. Instead, give them the opportunity to prepare those questions in advance. Take note of the kinds of questions the interviewer asks as well. The questions they ask provide information about their personality and what they actually value, and they may also provide information about what they think they are supposed to value. So pay attention to the types of questions that your interviewees are asking you. Now, let me say that this isn't very easy to do. It's not easy to conduct a fantastic interview. And I've been talking about, you know, trying to figure out their mode of thinking and trying to pay attention to the questions that they ask, all of these are clues to what this person is like. Because really what you're trying to do is get as much information as you possibly can about a person in a very limited amount of time. And so everything that you can possibly learn about that person, the interview is an incredibly important venue for that learning process for you as the interviewer. So you need to pay attention to everything they say. Pay attention to the questions they ask you. So we've gone through six tips. Let's go and review them. And then I'll give you the final tip. A number one was simulate the working environment for that person, put them in the working environment with your team. Number two was simulate the non-working environment as well. Give that person some time to be with the team outside of the working environment, give them time to explore the city in particular if it's not a remote position. Number three, talk equally or more about the culture and company values as you do about the job position and the particulars of that job position. Just talk about the culture. Talk about what you do as a company and where you're headed in the future. This kind of alignment is incredibly important. Number four was discuss the interview flow in advance with your team and allow multiple people to lead different portions of the interview. In other words, involve your team and involve them early. Number five, focus on the stressors, motivators, and modes of thinking. That's the things that you're trying to learn about this particular candidate. What stresses them out? What gets them going? What motivates them? And how do they solve problems? A number six, never forget to open the floor for the interviewee to ask questions about each step in the process and pay attention to the questions they ask. You wanna give them time to prepare for this as well. And then finally, number seven, adrenaline will likely be running high for the interview. Not just for the interviewee, but also for you as the interviewer. So in an interview, both sides have prepared and planned for this moment. Interviews may even trigger a fight or flight response because the outcome is often quite impacting on either side of the table. It's not just that the interview is between two people who don't really know each other. It's that ultimately we know the importance of the interview. We know that this five, six hours or this working day could lead to this person being on our team and affecting every single day of our lives. And the same is true for the interviewee. And they understand that this interview may make or break their opportunity to have this job. So my recommendation for you here is, don't move too quickly. Don't ask important questions at the very beginning of the interview. Understand that this adrenaline is going to change the situation. When you have adrenaline running through your veins, it doesn't accurately simulate what your working environment is going to be like on a day-to-day basis. This should be taken into consideration when you're planning for the flow of the interview. So don't move too quickly. Don't ask important questions at the beginning of the interview. Once the adrenaline has run out and nervousness has passed, you're a little bit more at ease with each other. Then the more important questions will have better, more accurate answers. So you can do simple things like offer the interviewee with some water dehydration can put even more stress on them. And doing something together, even as simple and as basic as drinking a glass of water, may provide a relief from the natural tension. And you're doing something together. You realize that the interview is not, you're sitting on that side of the table and I'm sitting on my side of the table. It's more like a conversation. It's more like a, does this work, does this fit. And once you can get to that conversational level, then you can both sides can learn so much more about the other side. I hope you've enjoyed this discussion on the interview process. Thank you again to today's sponsor, Linode. If you want $20 for free, you can go and use the code Developer Tea 20 at checkout at linode.com. Of course, you can also go straight to linode.com slash Developer Tea and that code will be automatically applied. The link and that code will both be in the show notes along with every other episode of Developer Teaat spec.fm. Thank you so much for listening today. If you're enjoying Developer Tea, make sure you leave a rating and a review in iTunes. This is the best way to help other developers just like you find Developer Tea. Thank you so much for listening. And until next time, enjoy your tea. love you.