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Reversing Adversarial Dynamics in Interviews

Published 6/26/2019

In today's episode we're talking about the things we often misunderstand during performance reviews, 1:1s and in job interviews. We'll talk about how to identify and transform adversarial questions to your advantage.

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Whether you are interviewing for a job or you have a job, you're in the middle of your career as a programmer, or maybe you are a manager or a senior developer, a senior engineer, in every level of our careers, we are looking to others to provide us with some kind of feedback, whether explicitly or implicitly, whether we actually have some kind of review cycle, or if we're just picking up on cues. If you're looking for a job, this review cycle is your interviews. If you're a manager, this review cycle might be your one-on-one meetings with the people that you manage, or maybe you actually have real performance reviews with your manager, or maybe you provide performance reviews, maybe you have a 360 degree performance review. In whatever of these scenarios, at some point, you are intentionally focused for the sake of your career on what other people are telling you. And there's one thing that we often get wrong in these scenarios, and that's the thing we're talking about in today's episode. My name is Jonathan Cutrellng, a listening to Developer Tea, and my goal in this show is to help driven developers find clarity, perspective, and purpose in their careers. And the thing that we get wrong in these scenarios, it starts out by us answering questions, us answering the criticisms or the inquiries that are thrown at us. We get asked a question about our experience in an interview, and then we go off on a tangent, explaining our experience. A failure is brought up in our performance review, and we find a way to explain what happened with that failure. We make sense of everything. Now this seems like it's the right decision to make. It seems like if we can maintain our exterior appearance that somehow the person on the other side, eventually they will wear out. It creates a relationship where the person that we care about their opinion, they're kind of an adversary. And this can be problematic for a lot of reasons. The most important reason is that they aren't actually our adversary. We create a false negative relationship for the duration of that review. Another problem is that even though we feel like we are maintaining our exterior appearance, we actually may end up looking weaker. And it's not just about who is strong and who is weak, and it's not about who can win this kind of conversation. We need a fundamental shift in the way we think about these critical moments, these moments where we are asked difficult questions or in the review before we are asked difficult questions. How can we change our perspective and try to reverse or eliminate the adversarial relationship that we've set up and replace it with something better? We're going to talk about that right after we talk about today's sponsor, Century. Starting of negative relationships, there is nothing more frustrating as a user than experiencing bugs over and over and having to report those bugs for them to get fixed. And there's nothing more humiliating and unfortunately costly than hearing about a bug way after you've already lost users. Sometimes these things are really simple to fix. We just don't see them. So we think that we're going to catch all of these things and our wonderful QA processes or our incredible test coverage. But the truth is, even the best QA process and even the best test coverage can't predict every error that we've shipped into production. And so that's a risk that you face and we have to figure out a way as good, responsible software Developer To mitigate that risk. How can we do that? Well, we have to think differently. We have to approach it from a different perspective. And that's what Century allows you to do with application monitoring from Century. You can see when these errors are occurring and not only that, but you're going to get connection with your code base. So this means you're going to know what commit this particular error is coming from. You're going to get the full stack trace. You're going to get context from the error. So many things that can help you have a super power debugging machine at your disposal whenever those bugs unfortunately do pop up in production. You can fix the errors before your users find them. Go and check it out. Head over to centreet.io to get started today. Thanks again to Century for sponsoring today's episode. When you go into a performance review or when you go into a one-on-one or when you go even into an interview, you've probably felt the adversarial dynamic that I'm referring to in this episode. You feel a sense of adrenaline that prepares you for, well, instinctively it's preparing you for something bad to happen. Your fight or flight kicks in. This is what we do when we're threatened. This is how we respond when something bad may happen. It's totally fair that we have these responses. When we go into an interview, it's possible that we get turned down right there on the spot or it's possible that we don't have good answers to the hard questions that are being asked. The same is true in a performance review. It's possible that even if we had best intentions, we have failures in our history at a company. It's possible that for one reason or another, we don't do well in a performance review. If these things didn't happen, then these meetings would be pointless. If you didn't need a performance review, if everyone just passed, then we could eliminate the meeting altogether. Save everyone some time and a little bit of grief. But the problem that our brain has is trying to create a rational, when I say rational, I mean, imagine rationing out a certain amount, a rational response to this small of a threat. But what's even more important is to refocus and remind ourselves that we're all in the room for essentially the same reason. In an interview, the employer and the employee are both trying to figure out, is this job going to work out for this person or not? In a performance review, both the employer and the employee are trying to figure out, how do we look at the last period of time, the last year, and decide how well it went and what we should do about it, so that we can get better and that we can focus on the strengths and celebrate those. In all of these situations, there is common ground between you and the person that you're looking to for that feedback. And so it's important for you before you go into these kinds of meetings to remind yourself what is that common ground. Now what this will allow you to do is instead of trying to put up this shell, this exterior that looks proper and you keeping your image, you can identify with the person on the other side. If you're in an interview and you know that for example you have less experience than this particular job is calling for, one strategy and it's something that you can try but you can't come back and blame me for it, but one strategy that you could try is to actually address you address your lack of experience. Get on the person's side with them, recognize and empathize with the fact that hey, you know what, maybe this is a concern for them and I want to meet them where they are. And so what you do by getting on this person's side is now you are their companion, you are helping them solve the problem rather than trying to say that the problem doesn't exist. You see the subtle shift there, right? In the one scenario where you're trying to protect yourself, you're trying to shy away from the things that maybe considered weaknesses or bad points. In the other scenario because you want to help this person, you're trying to probe in and figure out what are those things? What are the biggest threats to this position working out? Because the truth is you want for them to be confident in you and if they have some concern that you're not willing to address or it seems like you're trying to evade, that's not going to be helpful for their confidence in you. It's likely to hurt you and they're still going to walk away with those questions but unfortunately you didn't get a chance to answer those questions with them. Now everything needs to be taken with a grain of salt. You don't need to come into an interview and just focus on all of your weaknesses. That's not the message in today's episode. You don't need to do that in a performance review. You don't need to do that in a one-on-one. Instead, it may be helpful to develop a keen awareness of areas where you have a lack of self-confidence. Because where your employer has mentioned to you multiple times that they may be problematic. If all else fails, you can directly ask the person who is giving you feedback towards the end of whatever your meeting is. Ask them to surface any remaining concerns, any unspoken questions, anything that they really wanted to figure out but they haven't had a chance to figure it out yet. What this does is it shows that you're willing to be an open book. It shows that you don't have anything that you're trying to hide but instead you are on their side. You want them to feel totally satisfied and you want them to have all the answers that they're seeking. Of course, this all comes with a caveat that you have to do this honestly. This is not a manipulation tactic. This is a way to go against that instinctive adversarial response to these kinds of meetings and instead build a collaborative response. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode. Thank you again to Century for sponsoring today's episode. You can find bugs before a bunch of your users leave as a result of them. Head over to Century.io to get started today. Today's episode wouldn't be possible without the SPEC network. SPEC is a network of podcasts and other content that is specifically created for designers and developers who are looking to level up in their careers. This isn't just entertainment podcasts. Of course, we hope they're entertaining but it's also intended to challenge you, to take steps, to improve, to have a retrospective on your own behaviors, on your own habits and find ways of getting better. The network is here to continue challenging you but also to remind you that you're not alone in this and that we're excited that you're here. Thank you so much for listening to Developer Tea and I encourage you to go and subscribe to other podcasts on the SPEC network. Head over to SPEC.io to listen today. Today's episode wouldn't be possible without our producers Sarah Jackson. Thank you so much to Sarah for always getting these episodes out with such high quality and thank you to you for listening to today's episode. Until next time, enjoy your tea.