August 31, 2009 1 Comment
By Chris L Hardin
Sr. Software Architect
I’ve had quite a few job interviews in the past month, some were really good and some were really bad, but I as I talked to some of these folks, one thing became abundantly clear, the interviewer rarely considered that the candidate was also interviewing them.
For the most part, interviewers are courteous with a few exceptions, but they all hit you from the standpoint of, “You should bend over backward because it is a privilege to work for us.” I spend just as much effort in trying to ascertain whether or not I want the job as trying to actually get it.
Here is a good example, I interviewed with a company in Nashville for a Senior Development position and they initial interview was pretty hostile, the interviewer almost seemed frustrated that I continued to ask questions. He came off and haughty and rude, thus really turning me off to the job. Would you be interested in a job in that kind of environment?
Another interview with a company in Nashville started with an initial call where I had got off work early to take it and the guy was 15 minutes late calling me and had to get to another interview 15 minutes later. He requested that I talk to him again the next day at the same time and he was 15 minutes late again and then put me on hold while he talked to someone in his office for 15 minutes. Also, he pretty much had the personality of a wet sponge, which made the interview like pulling teeth. Why would I want to take a job at a company when my time is apparently not as important as his?
Another interview I had with Amazon was really interesting. I spent an hour on the phone with the guy. He appeared to just be going through the motions of the technical interview. I could hear it in his voice. He had probably talked to 20 or more people that day and I was just another number he had to dial. I was excited about interviewing with Amazon, too bad he wasn’t as interested in talking to me. I did Perl years ago and he asked me a question about how to match a fragment in a string. I answered from what I could remember and he disagreed. I said I thought that I was correct, but he seemed to still disagree. After this horrible interview, I emailed the guy the correct answer after I looked it up and it was exactly as I described to him. He also asked me to write him a method that removes duplicates from a String in Java. I wrote two versions and sent it to him with no response. I didn’t get the job. I guess he didn’t like that he was wrong about the Perl question.
On another interview, a lady with a company called Market Access in New York called me, talked to me for a couple hours almost about a job. I agreed to a technical interview and we scheduled it for the next day and they never called. Apparently, I wasn’t important enough to them to call me back.
I’ve had several good interviews with folks. One in particular that stands out is Elavon in Knoxville, TN. These guys had their stuff together. They always called on time, treated me like they actually wanted me to come to work there and I even traded emails with the hiring manager. I was impressed by the manager and the team. I was genuinely interested in the job, but they decided to go with another guy who was cheaper and unemployed. I can’t fault them for that. I actually told the recruiter who was presenting me to them that I would back down if I had to so that the unemployed guy could have a job. I mean, I was still working at the time and I would have felt guilty if I had gotten the job over the other fella.
I had another interview with Overstock.com that went really, really well. I was completely interested in relocating to Salt Lake City, Utah and working for such a prestigious company. Unfortunately, the recruiter (Parallel) botched this one. The lady had communication issues and couldn’t understand that I had minimum requirements that had to be met. She thought that I should just drop my current job, just to fly out there to interview. I learned after this experience that unless you speak really good English and your company is not based in the city that the job is located in, I am going to prob hang up.
Unfortunately, the Elavon interview was a rare occurrence. I have had some others that were pretty close to that level, but more have been like the bad ones I talked about earlier.
Everyone knows the techniques for interviewing for a job. Dress appropriately, don’t act like an idiot, know your stuff, be on time, but few people rarely talk about the proper way to interview a job candidate. Let’s list a few.
1. Be on time. The candidate is just as bus as you are…unless they are unemployed.
2. Be courteous…what can it hurt
3. Have some personality…If your people skills are lacking, you probably don’t need to be an interviewer.
4. Interviewing for a job is a tense enough situation, put the candidate at ease, offer them a cold drink, a comfortable chair
5. Don’t grill them like a fish. You’re not interrogating a terrorist. Politely profile your candidate.
6. If they are already certified in the technology, don’t test them. For example, if the candidate says they are Java certified, just ask them to email you the certification. Don’t throw your piddly little 10 question Java test at them. They have already been tested.
7. Tell them about the things you might find frivolous. For example, tell them that you have a team lunch monthly, or that you can dress in jeans everyday of the week or that your building has a fitness room. Different things matter to different people.
8. Make sure you offer a job that will satisfy the candidate. Don’t interview an architect for a senior developer position, for example. You want them to stay, so what you want to do is get someone who isn’t completely over qualified for the title and salary you are offering.
9. This isn’t the Army. don’t promise things you can’t deliver on. If you promise the candidate they they will get to work on cool cutting edge stuff, you had better mean it if you want to keep them.
10. Be sure you know the correct answer to the questions you are going to ask and the variations on answers that are also correct. Arrogance is the worst trait to have when interviewing. On either side of the table, this is bad.
I want you to remember that just because the economy is faltering, it doesn’t mean that you have the right to act like it is a privilege just to be getting an interview. You might get the candidate, but when the economy picks back up, he/she might just leave you hi and dry and he’ll also tell all of his friends.
It reminds me of when I worked in a restaurant years ago. My boss always said, “A satisfied customer might tell noone, but a dissatisfied customer will tell everyone.”
Put your best foot forward when interviewing. You may not get the candidate or you may not want the candidate, but either way, you want that candidate to walk away from the interview process thinking that they had the best experience they ever had. After several iterations of this, you’ll have folks beating down the door to get their resume to you.