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Taking Interviews:Small things which make a big difference

It has been about 4 years since I have been taking interviews and for different roles, positions with candidates of varied backgrounds . There are a few things which I think most of the interviewers miss out, but make a lot of difference. This is no guide to interviewing, but just a few points which people don’t necessarily keep in mind before they get into the interview room.

On a high level, these things can make a difference in

  • the level to which a candidate performs in an interview,
  • the image that he builds in his mind about you, the company and its people and finally
  • the chances of his joining your company if you make an offer.

I would say that these things make sense for big companies as well as start-ups who are struggling to find good talent.

  1. Be very straight about what you are expecting.
  2. Keep your ego away.
  3. Spare enough time for candidate’s questions.
  4. Try to be a good listener, do not interrupt the candidate too many times while he is thinking aloud.
  5. Use appropriate courtesy.

Lets get into a little bit of detail now:

1. Be very straight about what you are expecting.

Just after you have finished your question, or just described a problem that you want him/her to solve, do let him know what exactly you are looking for. This makes sense for both the situations – when you are looking for a particular direction in his thought process as well as you want him to explore as much as he can. Tell him that you want him to explore as far as he can, or tell him that you want him to focus on, say, performance aspect of a particular design.
Keep pushing if he does not get the point in one shot. For example, I usually ask a QA candidate to come up with negative test cases and I tell him to think negative, think like a hacker, think like an enemy of the person who has developed the application. Not only he gets motivated, many a times he gets what exactly what I m looking for and does not wander around.
This way

  • You save a lot of time
  • Your candidate would, in most cases, get straight to the point.
  • You don’t make wrong judgements if he does not answer what you were looking for.
  • Most important: you get the best out of him by forcing him to be on the same page as you.

2. Keep your ego away.

Many interviewers don’t even realize when their ego gets into their conversation with the candidate. This typically happens when you are trying to make a point or trying to get the candidate to think in a particular direction but the he/she is not driving the same direction. Or worse, when you try to give a hint but the candidate is adamant at not taking the hint or challenges you about the hint, approach.
Beware about it! When you don’t let your ego get in:

  • You don’t  lose the ability to make the right judgement.
  • You don’t waste your time, trying to prove your point.
  • You don’t  disturb the candidate in his thought process totally. Also, in an ego conflict situation, the candidate would get defensive and then you can totally forget about getting the best out of your candidate.

3. Spare enough time for candidate’s questions.

Ok, this is where you do the most of the talking. When your candidate asks questions, he is not asking that question from you, but from your company and you want to do a great job at answering that question with patience and right state of mind.Yeah, I know, most of us have ton of work to do and don’t want to spend 15 long minutes explaining our business case to a small new guy who may or may not join your company. But trust me,

  • This is where you can make an outstanding impression. I never miss this opportunity to make an impression about my company, including myself by showing him that I care about him even though he could not answer a few questions in the interview.
  • This is where you are investing in not only in the long term branding of your company but also in yourself and making an impression as a “everyone-wants-to-work-with” professional. You might change companies, change ventures, change locations and might end up interacting with the same guy few months or few years down the line. The world is really small.

4. Try to be a good listener, do not interrupt the candidate too many times while he is thinking aloud.

So this is where you can help him stay at the highest speed of his brain. Do not give him too many speed breakers. Wait for the right time to interrupt, and when you do give him enough pointers so that he takes the right turn and you don’t have to interrupt him almost immediately.

The idea is to let him do most of the talking. But yeah, you want him to talk relevant stuff, so do push him to the right track, but you should not have to do this too many times.  If you have to, it clearly means that either your candidate is thinking a lot out of the box or you are not communicating your expectation very clearly.   And you would know which one happened after a little bit of thinking just after the interview. Do better homework next time and make sure the drive of the interview is smooth and steady with very few speed breakers and surprises.

I guess you can clearly see the implications of not being steady

  • Bad candidate performance
  • Bad candidate experience and
  • The worst – he might think that people in this company are so confused – they don’t even know what they want. This point is kind of related to the first one but something to keep in mind even if you have tried communicating the expectations very clearly.


5. Use appropriate courtesy.

Very simple things like offering tea, coffee or asking if he/she wants to visit the restroom make a lot of difference.You know, these things may sound very superficial do remember that it is you who is representing the whole company and you want to make sure that you leave a good impression. An impression of a company who cares for its employees.

  • Also, these initial 15 seconds you spend will go a long way in making the candidate comfortable and getting the best out of him during the whole interview. (You don’t want to him be feeling hungry or thirsty while you are waiting for him to crack your favorite interview problem)
  • Hell wouldn’t break loose if you don’t do this, but believe it or not – your chances of getting the best out of your man and his chances of accepting the offer( if u make one) increase.

Overall, I would say, these are really small things which one can adopt really easily and will help you and your company in a long run.

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4 thoughts on “Taking Interviews:Small things which make a big difference

  1. I really like point#5. Though it looks like a small thing, it can make big difference. The touch of “someone is really considering me ” always works out well.

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