What I’ve learnt as an interviewer for technical roles

I’m going into an interview next week, what do I need to know?

The one thing that still surprises me is how little the interviewing process has changed.

  • Sure, now we use sophisticated tools and ask complicated questions.
  • Yes, it is important to have the technical skillset and experience required for the job.

However, I would like to share with you some fundamental aspects of an interview that most of us have forgotten. The essential elements for when it comes to saying yes or no to the next job. As an interviewer and candidate.

Synergy

Have you ever came out of an interview and just felt right? It’s that gut feeling. You can’t quite explain it, but you know that you’ve got a pretty good shot at getting the job or the right candidate.

This is something I would refer to as synergy. During an interview, interviewers and candidates can sometimes develop a bonding relationship. This relationship forms quickly and lasts throughout the interview.

Increasingly, technical roles require candidates to work as part of a collaborative team in a dynamic environment. Synergy helps interviewers answer a crucial question; can we collaborate with this person?

Signs that you have created synergy

  • You talk about hobbies, interests and the latest movie hits (off-topic conversations).
  • You forget that it’s an interview.
  • You both make jokes and laugh out loud.

How to create synergy as a candidate?

  • Bring your personality (not just your skill) into an interview.
  • Engage by asking questions throughout an interview (not just at the end).
  • Think as a team (we, us or our team vs. me or I).
  • Be candid and unafraid of not knowing something (interviewers know when you are making things up!).

How to create synergy as an interviewer?

  • Start with getting-to-know-you type questions.
  • Encourage and prompt for questions before moving on.
  • Focus on strengths, not weakness.
  • Smile and maintain eye contact (especially if you have RBF!).

Proactive learning

When you work in the technology space, you realise that most things become outdated before you’ve had a chance to master it. This doesn’t stop us from specialising in a technical domain, yet we must also continue to learn and keep ourselves updated.

When it comes to proactive learning, it is about learning something that is outside the scope of your daily responsibilities. A high level of pro-active learning helps interviewers answer the question; will this person bring something new to the table?

Examples of reactive learning

  • I only learn something new because I need to get a job done.
  • I don’t have a process or technique for learning new things.
  • I rely on colleagues and friends to keep me updated on what’s new.

Examples of pro-active learning

  • I follow people, read blogs or attend meetups to keep up-to-date.
  • I like to try new things and work on side-projects.
  • I like to expand my toolbelt so that not every problem looks like a nail.

Pro-active learners are curious, engaged and are often passionate about their work. This leads me to my final fundamental.

Passion

Another common question that comes up during an interview; why are you looking to move on from your current role?

Why do you think interviewers love to ask this question?

It is one way to find out if the role we are offering can fulfil the candidate’s passion and drive to perform. The last thing we want is to hire someone only to find out later that the job we’re offering is the job that they wanted to get out of in the first place!

This is a problem for a candidate as much as for organisations. To figure out quickly during an interview if this is the job that you can be passionate about.

As a candidate, how to find out if you are passionate about the role?

  • Ask about the work that you will be doing today (not in 6 months time).
  • Ask about the organisation’s missions and objectives and check if it aligns with your own.
  • Ask about their customers and why they buy their products or services.
  • Ask yourself why you want this job (before the interview, of course).

As an interviewer, how to find a passionate candidate?

  • Ask the candidate to describe their ideal job.
  • Ask the candidate to describe their worst experience in a job.
  • Ask what the candidate would like to improve in their current role.
  • Prompt for questions and assess this against what you have to offer.

Without passion, at best you will just go to work because it pays the bills. However, you may end up feeling like the organisation has misguided you about the role and end up leaving on bad terms.

Practice makes perfect

The reality is, there is no substitute for experience. Whether you are an interviewer or a candidate, finding the perfect job or team member relies on your experience. Don’t let one bad interview throw you off. I’ve been a part of many successful hires, and some not so successful.

You can always learn and master a new technical skill. However, synergy, pro-active learning and passion can only come from within.

Share your best or worst experiences as a technical interviewer or candidate in the comments.

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