How I Interview Job Candidates

I think a lot about the best way to interview job candidates.  I’m always trying to determine how effective they’ll be at my company but also how much they’ll actually want to be at my company.   I want to be sure that we’re going to like them long after they’re hired and, just as importantly, that they’re going to like us long after they’re hired. Here’s the framework I’m currently using when I interview a job prospect:

  1. Resume Walkthrough.  First, I walk through their resume to get to know them.  I try to understand why they chose their schools, companies and industries and I always ask why they left each job.  Walking through their resume gives me a really good sense of who they are.  It can be somewhat of an intense conversation so it helps me get to know them right away.  On the surface, I don’t care about gaps in resumes or sabbaticals but I like to understand the choices that the candidate made and why they made them.   At the end I always ask them my favorite interview question.  I ask them to tell me what they want to do without naming a company or an industry.  Specifically I want to know how they want to add value to an organization.
  2. Analysis of Strengths.  Next I dig in on their strengths.  I assume that they’re really good at what they do but I like to understand exactly why they believe they are so good.  Often I’ll ask something like, “if you’re the top performer on your team and I asked the average performer on your team what makes you so good, what would they say?”  This gives some insight into how analytical they are about their success.  I don’t really care that much about hearing about their success, I want to hear about why they’re successful so I can assess whether or not that’ll be transferrable to my company.  Candidates that can’t intelligently tell you why they’re successful are risky.
  3. Hesitations.  At this point I’m in a good position to assess my hesitations.  In a nice way I tell them exactly what I think of them so far and what I’m hesitant about.  And I give them a chance to respond.
  4. Tension Breaker.  Then I lighten things up and ask what they do for fun.
  5. Questions.  Lastly I ask if they have questions for me.   I can usually get a good sense of how much they’ll like working at my company by the questions they ask.

This approach has been working well for me lately so feel free to borrow it.  I’ll try to document how this changes over time.