Hiring for HELL YES!

Hiring is a critical component of many of our job functions. A great interview process allows for the candidate to be pumped about the role and the company, while also allowing you to see whether they would be a great fit. It may not come to anyone’s surprise that interviews is in many situations a process that doesn’t get a whole lot of love. But like many of our other skills, you need to practice, refine and continue to refine to become good at it. It’s of my belief that all interviewers meeting with the candidate should be ready to say HELL YES to consider moving them forward or even making the offer. Some of the best interviews I’ve done in the past are those where the interviewers had a clear framework to determine whether the candidate got a “HELL YES”! I’m sharing mine.

Let’s face it, we are emotional beings and interviewing can often be more of a subjective exercise than an objective one. Many of us like to pull questions from our head and can have somewhat of an idea in our minds on what that ideal candidate may be. If the candidate does multiple rounds, this often leads to many of the same questions coming up, but also with a mixed set of expectations. Often due different expectations amongst interviewers or a need to revamp the interview process.

While putting together a new job description, I like to put together a few docs that will help identify the perfect candidate, help the recruitment team find the ideal candidate, and make sure that the team who they will be joining will agree with the hiring team’s HELL YES assessment. Remember, the interview is not just for you, your team and your company, it’s also about giving the candidate a great experience!

For a successful interview, I like to have the following:

  • Know what you expect the candidate to accomplish in the role
  • Identify transferable skills to help the talent team find some great candidates
  • Great understanding of culture and EQ required for this role / candidate to succeed

Knowing what the candidate should accomplish in the first 3 – 6 months should be a huge influence on the questions you will ask the candidate. This provides you with a framework for judging their skills in an objectionable way. Is the candidate going to be building a micro-service from an already existing monolith, to be improving performance to handle scale, or improving the process to deploy? If so, ask them about their experience and how they may approach the problem in the future? Work through the areas where they’ve had challenges and how to overcome them. By understanding what the candidate is expected to accomplish, it should give you a great base of questions that you can share amongst the team of interviewers. Create a list of tasks or goals that the candidate must accomplish in those 3-6 months and a list that would be nice to accomplish.

Transferable skills is unfortunately hit and miss with a lot of companies. In some scenarios, if you need someone that is an expert in Java, absolutely hire a Java expert. However, many opportunities out there that ask for Java experience, the candidate may be able to succeed with experience in C++, Kotlin, Typescript, Ruby, etc. There are vast examples of possible transferable skills and being able to understand those can not only open up the hiring pool and possible finding that perfect candidate in a place you may not look, but also gives you a chance to find someone that may later on become versatile enough to take on different types of projects.

EQ and culture related questions or additional twists on the skills questions are to me just as important as the skills question. Skills or technical skills come with training and experience, EQ often cannot… at least not very easily. Can they admit and learn from mistakes, are they a team player, do they have the willingness to learn, and how do they handle pressure? Perhaps they had to learn a React in their last job, but previously only had HTML experience. How did they learn, what struggles did they encounter, and how did they succeed? Many of these soft skill related questions help to see how the candidate not only fits in with the team, but also how they will grow and evolve with the company over the upcoming years.

One of the intents of the framework above is to build a bank of questions that interviewers will use during the interviews, along with guidelines to help make a more objective decision. A somewhat standard approach that I’ve liked in the past:

  • Interview 1: Resume review, how they work with a team, coaching others, and leadership abilities.
  • Interview 2: Algorithms and data structures, transferable skills, willingness to learn, and what they do in situations where they’ve made a mistake.
  • Interview 3: Systems and services design, conflict resolution, and how they handle pressure.

The framework above is intended to provide a bank of questions with expected outcomes. The intent isn’t to make an interview black and white, but to help both the candidate and the interviews to have a better idea on the expectations. The outcomes of the interviews should be based more on facts than the interviewers themselves. Otherwise, you may either lose out on great candidates or perhaps even hire the wrong ones.

If the candidate is hitting all your MUST HAVES, that candidate is a HELL YES. If they are even achieving some of the nice to haves, then you’ve definitely found a great candidate. But don’t let yourself get star struck either. The MUST HAVES are critical, don’t go searching too much for those nice to haves, since chances are you are chasing a unicorn.

The final component is reviewing as interviewers the candidate. Each interviewer should be ready to come to the table with either a HELL YES, No, or Maybe. It’s of my belief that each interviewer should be rating the candidate as a HELL YES to hire them. This candidate is likely to interact with each of the interviewers and you want each of them to feel as though this is the perfect candidate for the job. Anything other than HELL YES, it’s worth understanding why to either evaluate the hiring process or see how we can get better at picking the right candidate in the earlier stages.

As COVID rampaged through the industry and so many of us are without jobs, I’m hopeful that more companies will be looking for more objective ways to measure candidates. With the talent pool saturated, companies will now have choice, rather than the candidate. Picking the right candidate from a highly competitive pool is now going to test the strengths of the interviewers in a much different way.