I've had this topic on my list from day 1, so why haven't I written about it yet? Honestly, isn't it just a ho-hum topic unworthy of discussion ... ? No, No and NO! There is not a more important activity for funded C-level executives.. You've got to get the right people on the bus and set the right culture. That starts and stops with people. The best people that you can find (and afford). People better than you.
I took an interviewing class at Apple decades ago. It's funny what sticks in your mind, but that one sure did. It had an acronym like "STAR" or "SMART", and described a consistent technique to probe candidates mostly around behavioral traits. They also stressed a team approach to the interview process where there was a pre-interview discussion and post-interview discussion. Sadly, many people/companies take a laissez-fare approach to hiring new talent and the results pretty much speak for themselves.
Last year I saw this post on LinkedIn about 3 questions to ask your head of sales candidate. In that spirit I'm going to post the interview questions I ask in an interview. They are always exactly the same, but the places we go in the interview are always different and surprising. While these questions are open ended with no right answer (there can be wrong answers), there should also be role specific questions asked. That's where the team approach comes in. Each interviewer should be probing for different parts. For a technical interview, there should be technical questions and if I'm playing that role, then I'll ask those.
Using the "STAR" reminder, I'm looking for specific Situations, specific Tasks, specific Actions ... and then specific Results. The theme is be specific. You can really learn a lot about a persons history quickly. Were they really the driver behind a project? Were the projects successful or not? Describing real events that happened, how did they react? Is there anything to learn about environments at best/worst companies? I'm very biased that what you did in the past is the best predictor of what you will do in the future. I'm biased on recommendations from current team members. I'm also perfectly fine with passing on someone that would've been great vs. lowering the bar and polluting the pond with those that might work out. The questions I ask.
- Favorite company/environment
- Least favorite company/environment
- Describe the project you are proudest to work on. Role? Contribution? Result?
- Describe biggest work disappointment.
- What is the most creative solution to a problem that you've come up with?
- You've had many roles (architect, lead, contributor, support). Best for you?
- Describe the most challenging problem you've worked on?
- Why leave current employer?
- How did you find out about us? What do you know about us?
- Describe a loosely defined task you've been assigned and your approach. Role? Contribution? Result?
- Describe a situation where you knew nothing about the assigned task and how you cam up to speed. Role? Contribution? Result?
- Describe the most aggressive schedule you've been involved with.
- Describe a situation where you were at odds with colleague/boss about a technical topic. How did you present your argument? Successful?
- Domain expertise. Video/Graphics experience? Front end/back end? Mobile? Embedded? Specifics.
- Language proficiency? OS proficiency?
- When did you last write code? What was it?
- Describe embedded debugging tools you've used.
- If a non-technical interview, then I'll always ask, "Name your 5 favorite products that bring a smile to your face.".
I'll start at the top and based on how it's going after the first few questions then I may skip around. I try to get in about ten questions and leave time for them to ask a few of there own. I can recount stories from so many interviews, but a couple stand out.
The first one is about time management. I'm the interviewer. You are the interviewee. I ask 10 questions, you get a chance to ask a couple at the end. I asked one guy the first question and he went on for the entire 45 minutes. I was a little taken back at first, but then I just rolled with it to see how far it went. It went the whole time ... one answer. Pretty sure he thought he nailed the interview. Part of the goal for me is to get through the 10 questions. In this case it was a NO and I had made that decision 5 minutes in.
The second was a product manager whose favorite product was an iPod. This was many years ago and I'm sure was due in part to several Apple products on my desk. I asked him if he owned one. If you are car freak and you've wanted a Maserati your whole life, then I get that you may not have reached the point where you can get one. But an iPod? I got to give it to the person for honestly saying, "No, I haven't gotten around to getting an iPod yet.". I said NO too.
Do you (and your company) have an interview process that makes sense?