How to become a better interviewer

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Interviews are hard to get right, this is not for the candidates but for the interviewers as well. There is a lot of guidance available for the candidates but not much advice for the interviewers. In an interview, you might think the test is only for the candidate, but it's not. When you're judging the candidate, the candidate is judging you and your company.

I've been interviewing for a few years and I was lucky enough to be with some smart people in the interview panel. I did a lot of mistakes and learned from them about what one should do and should not do as an interviewer. I am putting together what I learned and looking forward to engaging in healthy conversations about this. Feel free to write your thoughts to me.

Respect

The first thing is that we should respect the candidate. Respect should not be in the words. We have to accept we're not superior to the candidate in any way because we're offering them a job. I've seen a lot of people with this superiority and it is remains of Feudalism. We should eradicate it from our minds and culture.

In today's job market, there are a lot of openings and a shortage of talents. Top talents won't care much about losing or walking out of an interview because there is plenty of fish. You don't want to miss a great talent because of the way you treat them.

Time

It's been said a lot of times that you should not be late for an interview. I have seen companies expecting people to wait long, because their team is unavailable. No one bats an eye when companies do this to candidates. We should respect the candidate's time as much as we care about ours.

The technical team can be working late at night or coming late to work because of client timings. We had this exact issue at my work and we discussed and arrived at a plan which respects everyone's time.

Things you can do,

  • Make telephonic interviews whenever possible and applicable.
  • If you plan to give system tests to the candidate, inform them before the interview date so they can plan better.
  • Have a backup interview panel if the planned interviewer is not available.

Discrimination & Bias

Discriminating or biasing based on Gender, Appearance, Caste, Nativity, Age, etc., is not fair and professional. You're entitled to your opinion but never bring your prejudices to an interview. It's always important to start with a clean slate and try not to bias towards anything.

Remember as an interviewer, you're not representing yourself. You're representing the company you work for. The candidate perceives your words and actions as the opinion of your company.

You should stick to what's defined in your official HR policies. Your opinions shouldn't matter inside the interview room. If your company has a custom that is biasing against something (like Gender, Age), either fight or flight.

Empathy

Attending interviews is a tiresome task. Most people won't search for another job when everything is good with their current one. They'll be under a considerable amount of pressure in every interview. As interviewers, we should put ourselves in their shoes and try to be empathetic. Start with a casual conversation that comforts them before starting up with technical questions.

If you feel that the candidate is nervous in the middle of the interview,

  • Offer them a small break
  • Ask them if they need some water or anything to get them back in their comfort zone.

Remember, It won't take much for you to be on the other side of the table and go through the same thing.

Start with good faith

In some interviews, I felt that the interviewer fixed their mind to reject me or trying to find the reasons for rejecting me. It is not because they asked me difficult questions but it felt that way. Fixing your mind on the result is very different from trying to get the best of a candidate.

You might have had a rough day at work or you have some personal issues, but that should not affect the interview. Always start with a positive mindset such as can we fit this person in our team? How he will impact the team and the company's goal.

Taking a short break before an interview will let go of some of the steam and you'll be able to do better.

Showing off

As an interviewer, never try to show off what you know. I know It is very tempting to prove that you're better than the candidate. In an interview, it doesn't matter what you know. What matters is what the candidate knows and whether they're a good fit for your team or company.

It doesn't matter who you are in your company when interviewing never talk or showcase yourself through questions. It earns neither the respect nor the impression you've been starving for.

Be open for different opinions and thoughts

You're asking a question and have an answer in your mind. The candidate answers it with a different approach. You should not expect them to say the answer you have in mind and grind them until they arrive at your solution. Every problem can have more than one solution. Our job is to check if the given solution solves the problem.

Everyone is coming from different backgrounds and we can't expect two people to agree on an exact solution for any given problem.

Skills Expectation

For every job opening, there must be some sort of basic skill requirements. We should ensure that candidate fulfills that skill and can work and scale on that role. Please don't expect people to be overly qualified or to be aware of things that you are aware of. You can be an extremely talented geek but not everyone is built the same way, so their mileage may vary.

I've had this problem when I was starting to interview, I used to reject people because they don't know as much as I thought I knew at that time, My lead advised me to let go of this attitude and to have realistic expectations.

Don't expect a fresher or a one year experienced Junior developer to solve a complex architectural problem. Don't expect a front-end person to write complex SQL queries. Don't ask a Junior web developer "How many files are created when I create a table in MySQL?" because it doesn't really matter how many files are created.

So have a realistic expectation of skills required for the current position and ask relevant questions. If you don't know what is realistic talk to someone in your team or company. What is important is that if the candidate is ductile, has the ability to scale, and reach out of their grasp.

Space for discussion

An interview is a two-way street, please don't assume that only you have the right to question. Always ask them if they have any questions before finishing up the interview. It really helps to understand the candidate better based on their questions.

Similarly, When the candidate is answering your question don't interrupt them with another question, let them conclude. if they are too elaborate on something, politely let them know about it to save time. Both of your time is important.

Evaluation

If a candidate answered 7 questions correctly but missed the last 2 or 3, would you now select them or reject them? The human mind tends to go with the last 3 and decide that the candidate is not worthy of it.

Evaluating a candidate should be an informed decision based on their overall performance, not just from an excerpt of the interview.

Conclusion

These are the thoughts I collected in my experience so far, I understand if you disagree with some or all of them. My experience of interviews might be very different from yours. But there is one universal truth, your skills can take you only so much, your attitude and humility can get you to places that you never imagined.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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