May 13, 2014 by Kenneth Fisher
Interviewing is hard. You are trying to find that perfect candidate in a very short period of time. You have to find someone who is not only capable of doing the job but will be able to grow and thrive in the job. On top of that you need someone who fits in with the corporate culture and who gets along with their teammates. This involves two separate interviews, a technical one and a more “traditional” personal interview. I’m old enough to have had a large variety of interviews and I’ve seen some fairly extreme versions of both. One thing you will notice is that none of these are the normal “sit in a room and ask someone questions” interview. Those work ok but in my experience they only work “ok”. If you want to succeed big or fail big you tend to have to think outside of the box.
Interview by nepotism
Possibly the worst technical interview I’ve ever been through wasn’t one. A friend of mine told his boss I had the skills and that was it. As it happens this was early in my career and I didn’t actually have the skills they needed. I had never in fact opened that particular piece of software. Now to be fair my friend helped me out and I worked hard. I picked up the language fairly quickly and I like to think they were happy they hired me.
Interview by test
The best technical interview I ever had was more of a test than an interview. Six of us sat down at individual cubes and were given an actual request the company had received from one of their customers a few months back. It required finding data in an unfamiliar database, creating a stored procedure to process the data correctly and generating a report to display it. It wasn’t the hardest test in the world but it wasn’t easy either. What it was however, was a view into exactly what type of work I would be expected to do. I got to see what my job would be, and they got to see what type of work I could actually do in that position. And in case you are interested I was one of two people to actually finish the test and I got the job because I had made a point of heavily commenting my SP.
Interview by desperation
The worst “personal” interview is another one that didn’t actually happen. (Notice a theme here?) They were so happy with my “tech” interview and so desperate to fill the position that I was immediately offered the job. And as you might expect it didn’t work out all that well. I wasn’t a terribly good fit even though I got along well with the people and admired their culture. It was a very (and I mean VERY) high stress culture. I managed a year but I’m not someone who thrives on stress so eventually I had to leave.
Interview by lunch
My all-time favorite personal interview was really non-traditional. After a traditional technical interview the remaining candidates were each taken to lunch by the team (5 people including the manager). The interview took place throughout the meal. The nice thing here is that we got to know each other (even if briefly) in a relaxed atmosphere. The individuals (and particularly the manager) of the team could ask me questions in a comfortable setting and I was able to return the favor in a similar manner. I didn’t end up with that job, but this form of interview was comfortable and low stress. I think done right it can give the best over all feel for a candidate.