What I learnt from interviewing over 50 people in a year

I went from literally no interviewing experience to an experienced interviewer in the space of only a year.

I found it a fascinating experience and thought it would be good to share.

What I want to accomplish

I’d like to reflect on the experience and share some of what I learnt, as well as what I wish I had known when I started out, like the things I wish I’d known to do, and what not to do.

What was my first interview like

I think I was more scared than the person I was interviewing, I’d been at my job for 2 days and since my company was in hyper-scaling mode, I got asked to interview someone. At previous jobs I’ve done interview training and seconded interviews, but this was my first time going in solo to an interview to decide if someone would work for our company or not.

The most surreal part of the interview was when the candidate asked me if I liked working here and the best I could do was look around and then said the people here seem very nice.

What was my last interview like

My last interview was a culmination of a lot of practice and experience, I felt like I was running a well oiled operation, my questions were starting to feel a little tired , the current set, it wasn’t my first rotation, but that also meant they were running really smoothly.

The highlight for me was that even though the candidate was struggling a bit, I was managing to adapt and scale the question back on my feet, so that we were able to keep moving forwards and putting pieces on top of one another leading to a conclusion.

I think the best compliment I received that, even though he had been pushed, he’d had a great interview experience.

What do I wish I knew at the start

I wish I knew how much I was going to enjoy doing this and how great an experience it is interviewing a great candidate. Those were pleasant surprises and I would have maybe pushed to do this sooner if I’d known.

It was also a great way to get exposure to different divisions in the company (Human Resources, Recruitment, Management) and driving my companies processes around hiring and what we wanted and expected from candidates.

It was rewarding and fun to work in a different area to my normal day to day work as well, giving me something to look forwards to and break the normal days grind, while still providing a lot of value to the company.

Do

  • Prepare
  • Know what you’re trying to achieve
  • Interview on behalf of your company
  • Time management
  • Take Notes in a template
  • Make it a great experience

See here for the expanded list

 

Don’t

  • Lie
  • Put your company down
  • Be flippant
  • Judge Candidates Against Each Other

See here for the expanded list

Closing

I found it great in that I was able to learn what it is like being on the other side of the table to hone my own skills, as well as exploring scenarios with people and being able to take a small walk in their minds and see how they tick.

If you can, I’d suggest giving it a go to see if you like it.

It’s a great way to get exposure to different people and parts of your company and build a new skill.

Interviewing do’s and don’ts

This is a follow on to another blog I wrote, What I learnt from interviewing 50 people in a year, to detail a bit more in depth some of the do’s and don’ts that I found in interviewing and training interviewers.

Do

Prepare

Know your subject and questions. If it’s an interactive question where you are asking them to do something, you should definitely have done it yourself first and also try to find out all the possible solutions you can. This means you can help guide candidates as well as try to avoid them going down dead ends, by nudging them when necessary.

Know what you’re trying to achieve

This is probably the biggest piece of advice I could give. I think it’s extremely important to have goals while interviewing and go for them, if you’re blindly letting the interview go it can be a very meandering experience and depending on who you are interviewing this could go well, or go very wrong. Some people need to be coaxed into opening up and this is easier to do when you have objectives.

Interview on behalf of your company

You’re not actually deciding if you would hire this person or not, you’re deciding if they would suit your company or not and if they would provide benefit, I found this usually lined up with whether I would hire them or not, but there were subtle differences in who I would personally hire and who would suit the company best.

Time management

You’ve only got so much time with your candidate, you need to make sure you learn what you need to during your time with them. The things that make them someone who would work well with your company and the areas where they would bring diversity and what negatives they could bring too.

Take Notes in a template

I found a good template for taking notes after an interview invaluable, it helped me coalesce my thoughts into a final answer, I would start with a brief paragraph summary of my experience, then a list of things I liked and disliked, followed by digging a bit more in depth into parts of the interview that struck me as important, and finally I would go back to the start and give a yes or a no on the candidate, I only did the final single word answer after doing the rest, as sometimes writing your thoughts down can help you finalize your experience and answer. This was great whenever we didn’t have a meeting to decide right away, or if I interviewed a few people in a short period of time.

Make it a great experience

You should try to push the person you’re interviewing to learn about them and how they deal with hard problems and questions, but there is no reason you should be doing anything to make them unduly uncomfortable. I firmly believe that no matter what an interview can be a great experience for both parties with a good preparation and a little effort on the interviewers part.

Don’t

Lie

You should never say anything untrue, we all want to portray the best sides of our company and that’s fine, but never stretch that tale too far, if you convince someone to come work for you, it should be what they want as well and they shouldn’t end up feeling tricked at any point in the future, because of something you said.

Put down your company

This almost goes without saying, but since I’ve seen it happen it does bear mentioning, you’re welcome to share some of your companies failings but this should never be in a bad light.

Be flippant

This is something great to do doing and something worth doing well, no matter how experienced you are, this is an important task and you should take it seriously.

Judge Candidates Against Each Other

Judging your candidates against each other is usually a mistake as it doesn’t give you a consistent measure of comparison and if you interview 5 candidates on month, and 5 the next month, they could all be fantastic the one month and not so great the next. What you need to measure against is something internal to your company, so no matter when you interview or how many people you do in a batch, it’s always a consistent metric you’re using.

Closing

There are 100’s of do’s and don’ts and most people will find their way given some time. This is just a few guidelines that stood out to me during my journey.