☕ Interviewing

Roland Grootenboer
Jun 22 '18 · 9 min read · 722 views
Interviewing potential hires is the most important brand building exercise your company will go through and it’s conducted primarily by people whose primary day jobs are very different. This should scare the bejeezus out of you.
Years of interviewing experience and research taught us a few things. Embed these pointers in your interviewing and you'll notice right away. No-good money back.
  • Structured interviews vs. winging it.
    An unstructured interview (winging it) is a very poor way of gathering information for a hiring decision. You should approach this talk with a strategy. What are you hoping to get out of the meeting and how are you going to get it?
    It starts at the moment you and your team decided to hire someone. That's the point you come up with a solid profile, with both hard, concrete as soft and abstract requirements. This profile should lead your questioning.
    Keep in mind that an interview is not the best predictor for future succes and not the best way to see if someone is actually good at their job. That's why we do assignments and pair sessions. With that knowledge you can focus on the more abstract and soft stuff which is impossible to measure with an assignment.
    Here's a basic structure that could help you and cover the basics, but make sure to actually prepare your interviews, don't wing it. You're wasting someone's time if you do.
    Here's an outline, you can shuffle the blocks of course. At Blendle we like a pretty loose style of interviewing, so freewheel within the structure, just make sure you tick the most important boxes. It's a compass, not a GPS.
    Intro (3 min)
    → Create relaxed atmosphere. Chitchat, but don't overdo it.
    Talk about Blendle (10 min)
    → Sell the Blendle story, answer questions.
    Talk about resume (5 min)
    → Keep it short, ask if someone can give you a 1 minutes pitch about their resume (since you already read it). This is a nice start because people expect this, so they can get in their flow before you really dig in.
    Talk about the job (10 min)
    → Explain the role, the position, the responsibilities, the challenges and answer questions. Check if someone really understands and is still interested.
    Check work/drive/fit (25 min)
    → Check work (is someone capable of doing the job? Does he/she have the right skills, knowledge, expertise and experience)
    → Check drive (is someone eager, ambitious and willing? Is someone motivated to work for Blendle?)
    → Check fit (would someone fit in the current team and company? DNA/culture match?)
    More on how to get answers on this in the block below (ask good questions).
    Practical questions (5 min)
    → Make sure there are no practical roadblocks like travel time, availability, money or working hours.
    Outro (5 min)
    → Check if there are any more questions and tell candidate about the further process.
  • Ask good questions (and listen).
    Asking good questions can be hard, so think about this when preparing your interview. This mainly applies to the section where you check work, drive and fit (also the three things you will be rating when making a decision).
    We recommend you come up with your own set and testing them out. What questions 'work' and which one don't? Share this with your hiring team! It's not per se a bad idea to ask the same kind of question to a person several times by several people.
    Use the art of listening and follow up questions. Short questions like: can you elaborate on that? Why? Can you give an example? What effect did that have? How would you approach that situation now? What other options did you have? What happened? How? Can you explain?
    Types of questions.
    There are different types of questions. Experiment with different types of questioning.
    Research shows that case, behavioral and competency questions scored best on validity, so try to focus on those types of questions.
    Case: Share a real Blendle-life problem with a candidate and aks how someone would solve or approach it.
    Behavioral: Ask about former behavior to predict future behavior. For example: What is your biggest mistake over the past year? What happened and how did you deal with it?
    Competency: Ask a question which reveals expertise, knowledge or skills, for example for a support person: Tell me about a situation where a customer got really angry, what did you do?
    Overall questions
    What are you most proud of in life?
    What is the last book you read?
    What do you like to spend your time on aside from work?
    How do you measure succes?
    Can you give an example of a situation where you used data to ground a decision?
    Work question (these of course differ per role)
    Overall work questions:
    What was your biggest achievement at your former job?
    What kind of things do you really dislike to do? Why?
    What is your biggest mistake over the past year? What happened and how did you deal with it?
    You get to organise an event, which two/three people in your field of expertise would you invite to give a talk?
    What are your go-to platforms for staying up to date?
    What do you think your first 30 days would look like in this role?
    Now try tailoring some questions to the profile you're looking for.
    For example for PM's:
    What do you think Blendle's 3 most important metrics are?
    If you could make one change to Blendle's new iOS app, what would you change?
    What do you think of the current proposition?
    Do you communicate differently with designers than you do with engineers? What’s the difference?
    Can you give an example of a time where you had a hard time working with your team and how you fixed that?
    Drive questions (these apply to all roles)
    What makes you get up out of bed every morning? What makes you tick?
    If you would have your own company, what would it do/make/create?
    What kind of topics are you really passionate about? Sport, economics...
    If you had no financial incentive (because you won the lottery) to work, how would you spend your days?
    What do you do to get better? What do you need from us to improve?
    What things are you trying to improve in?
    Tell me about your biggest bold bet, how did it play out?
    Why are you quitting your current job?
    Fit questions (these apply to all roles)
    How do you like to collaborate? What are you looking for in your new colleagues?
    What do you need to perform at your best? To shine? How do we motivate you and what environment do you need?
    How do you deal with an ever-changing environment?
    Where are you going to work if this conversation doesn't work out?
    What do you expect from working at a startup?
    Can you tell me about a time you disagreed with a colleague or lead?
    No go's:
    Try to stay away from standard questions
  • Take notes
    I still see people not taking notes and it's frustrating because your wasting everyone's time. Without notes, all you have to go on is your - pretty biased - memory and gut feeling. You prepared your interview, so write down the answers you get on the questions you thought were crucial to ask. You can use this in during the decisions and actually give examples: 'When I asked X, she answered Y and that testifies that she really understands the concept and did her homework'.
  • Use Ratings
    Ratings quantify the unquantifiable. Force yourself to chose and try to come up with an explanation for that rating. We rate from 1-3 and rate on Work, Drive and fit. Use the profile you made, your notes, the matrix and your overall findings to explain your ratings if need be.
  • Two way street: sell it.
    Sure, you are interviewing this person and it's your goal to be able to judge this person, but it's crucial you do this very subtly. Here are a few tips that might help.
    • Let go of the structure. Your a human, not a pre-programmed robot ;). Let the conversation happen and use the structure as a compass to make sure you cover everything. The most practical tip is to leave room for questions or to simply start explaining something from your side (just how you would do it when you're having a beer with someone). Try to feed information, even when you asked the questions up front and leave room for a question after that.
    • Asking hard questions: good people want to be assessed properly. This reflects on their feelings about Blendle and increases the chances of them seeing it as a real opportunity.
    • Practice your pitch. Use the interview to get to know what makes someone want to work at Blendle. Elaborate on that and practice your pitch about what Blendle is doing and why that is important. Also think about why you want to work at Blendle and just share your thoughts about the up and downsides. What motivates you to work here?

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