I thought I’d write a handy article from the other side as you’re often thrust into the interviewing situation when you're promoted, with little or no formal training on 'How to Interview' as a hiring manager.
So what are the best questions to ask? What is the optimum way to get the most out of that initial first 45 minutes with your potential new team member? How many interviews should you conduct? Potential candidates are likely being courted by 5 or more competing tech companies....So make it count!
It’s always nice to offer a coffee, tea or even water. It can get darn thirsty answering all those questions and it helps to break the ice before you kick things off. This is also a chance to show off that champion espresso machine the boss was so proud of when they bought it for the team last Christmas…..
Making the candidate wait
A pet peeve of mine is being made to wait typically a candidate will arrive 10 minutes early so you can kick-off on time. The serial position effect tells us that the first and last impressions you make are the ones that make the most impact, so make them wait for 20/30 minutes and you’re giving the impression that you’re not interested and disorganised. Let’s face it, we all hate being made to wait. So print out their CV or have it ready to go on your iPad the day before, and give your colleagues a wee reminder to avoid the last minute rush.
To get the best out of your candidate, start with some context or clarification about how the meeting came about, and set the scene. Something as simple as "Thanks for coming in and I understand you know so & so". Give a brief overview of the process i.e. we'll give you a quick intro about the company, how the role fits in, then there'll be some technical questions and a chance for you to ask us some questions towards the end. Explain who the people are around the table "I look after X and this is the ‘Line Manager of Digital’ etc…. Speaking of "around the table" do try to sit around the table, as opposed to everyone on one side which feels a bit like an inquisition...this is a two way meeting - welcome to the new school!
Types of questions
The most important questions you can ask are open, role specific questions. When you're asking a question, make sure the answer you're expecting to receive is something you can learn something from rather than an "interesting but ultimately irrelevant" answer. You're trying to find the person who can do this job for you - and the best way to do that is to put them in a position where they can answer to the best of their abilities.
If the role is highly pressured, sure, ask them high pressure questions, and if it's creative, ask them a creative question. Remember this is a 2 way street, candidates will want to be able to show you what they can do, rather than walking out with regrets that they forgot to mention something.
My favourite questions to ensure we elicit the forgotten information are - "Is there anything else you wish we had asked you?" and "Is there anything else we need to know?"
We put this out to Facebook & LinkedIn and here are some favourite questions we received back:
"How many petrol stations are there in the UK?" - Ollie (Recruiter - Google UK)
"Is there anything I didn't ask you that you wish I had?" Steve (UI/UX Manager/Consultant)
"What do you think the role will be like?" - Jason (Retail Manager)
"What extras do you bring to the workplace?" - Donna (Deputy Principal)
"What makes you want to work for us?" - Andy (Head Ski Instructor)
Best question I once got asked was, "How do you make a cream egg?" - Andrew (Head of IT Services)
"If it looked like you were going to miss an important (client) deadline on something, how would you handle this? And when would you do it?" - Steve (Web Architect/Managing Director)
"Describe yourself on a good day at work"... then ask "and what about a bad day?" - Duanne (Manager - Architecture)
"What would you achieve in your first three months in the job?" Jane - (Fundraising Manager)
"Where do you see yourself in 5 years?" - Jess (HR Manager)
"What is the biggest challenge in your life so far that you have had to overcome?" - Colleen (Recruiter/HR Manager)
"How do you think you did in this interview?" - Amy (Psychologist)
"What are your passions?" - Mikala (Consulting Manager)
And don’t forget to ask at the end - "Is there anything else I should be aware of with regards your application?" I've been surprised on more than one occasion at what that can elicit...
Include your team
It’s always great if you can include one of your technical member of staff, not only to ‘suss out the candidate’ but to be able to sell to them the technology stack & exciting projects the team is working on.
To TEST or NOT to test in the first interview?
if it's a highly technical role it's great to test the candidate first - why waste an hour on a first meeting, then test them in a second to find they're not up to speed. You just need to make the candidate aware of the process - if it's online or in-house, what the expectations are and the instructions, and include a brief introduction to make them at ease & comfortable.
While you have them in the office, show them around and introduce them to some of the team. It gives the candidate a better feel for your culture, it also gives you a chance to again show off your great team, what you do and some of the neat people in it, the nice new hardware you’re using, some of the quirkier stuff in your office - the office dog or goldfish, the cafe, or the fact you have a shower or a ping pong table. We forget that some of these small things really catch the attention of a candidate and allows them to start to visualise themselves working in your company & often will set a strong memory when they’re comparing job offers later.
Half or Full day Work with the team session
I did a lot of internal hiring for one of the consultancies I worked for in the UK and when we snagged a good potential candidate we’d get them back for a 2nd full day in our office to show them warts & all, what the job really entailed.
We were also really proud of our great culture, everyone knew the drill and would go up to them and introduce themselves, ask them where they worked, if they wanted to know anything about the company and what it was like.
It was very powerful to build on the great culture we already had. You don't need to do a full day but maybe consider a half-day, take them for lunch, have them work through some problems that are similar to the job they’ll be performing. Yes it's sometimes hard to make the time available but taking some time up front to get the right new team member on board will cause a lot fewer headaches later on. This is also a career move for the candidate and will test their commitment - if they aren't interested in making the time to come in and spend some quality time with your team they're probably not the right fit for you.
You have to sell your company
I think one thing that has changed is the culture of job interviews. Back in the 80’s/90's it was the employer with all the power, you had to impress them to ‘win the job’. Now it goes both ways with skills shortages for great talent, especially within IT. It really is up to you to ‘sell the job’ because there’s 5 other companies doing just that, competing for that talent in the market. Counter offers and competing offers are typical for good people these days. Don't forget to run through your full list of benefits!
So go on, include lots of your team, have a bit of fun with it, spend a little more time at the front-end and you'll have your next star joining you soon…..
Paul is founder of sunstonetalent.com an IT Recruitment company based in Christchurch, New Zealand. To see what our clients say about us please go to: