"Interviews are not about the best person for the job; interviews are about, and can only be about, who appears to be the best person for the job. From an interview we can only tell who interviews best."

—Philip Garside - The Secrets to Getting a Job

The Right First Impression

Everyone wants to work for a good firm, so candidates are often willing to work for a little less at a good place. Interviewees know what leaves them with a poor impression of a firm, a general lack of purpose, no zing from the moment they step inside the door. Then there is the type of firm that seems to be ruled by martinets; where everyone is told what to do instead of being asked or invited; where management logic seems arbitrary, which leads potential employees to expect that the relationship between achievement and reward is going to be haphazard. Extreme attitudes and pettiness make a candidate's interest nosedive faster than a kamikaze.

Take care you do not give a misleading impression. Managers and programmers are generally intelligent, logical, self-motivated individuals. They respond warmly to firms with a clear sense of destiny, which can offer them a real career opportunity. They like firms that take them seriously and treat them as responsible adults. Like all of us, they are looking for a place where they can grow.

What Are You Looking For?

Most managers interview staff irregularly and are prone to forget the techniques they garnered the last time they conducted an interview. So make a list of your major requirements and rate each candidate accordingly. Major requirements generally include the following:

♦ Qualifications

♦ Achievements

♦ Experience

♦ Appearance

Put People at Ease

There are at least half a dozen reasons people dislike interviews, including fear of failure, having to perform, trying too hard or not trying enough, and nerves. Putting people at ease overcomes most of these. Even formal, structured interviews can be relaxed. It is in everyone's best interest that the candidate performs well. No one likes to see people fail.

Opening Remarks

Good interviewers explain the company, the department, and the work at the beginning of the interview. The bad ones jump straight in with, "Why do you want the job?"

Put together a few paragraphs about the firm, how it started, what it does, its main objectives, and what the department with the vacancy is working on. Then begin to ask questions.

Note Be likeable. People like to work with people they like. Conversely, make sure you like the candidate for the same reasons.

Get the Candidate Talking

If you asked a candidate how he went about writing a program and he said, "gut reaction," you'd show him the door. You'd expect a structured answer to a structured problem. How many times do you hear people passing judgment on a group of candidates along the lines of "My gut reaction is to go for . . ."? All gut reaction says is that you haven't had enough experience to know how to calibrate one candidate against another. For high profile positions, many companies resort to psychometric testing, which is a quantitative way of evaluating their abilities, and these are correlated against the specific requirement for that job. For everyday use, have a set of questions that pose typical working dilemmas; then get each candidate to talk you through their answer or approach. Evaluate each of them accordingly. That way you've got some data that can be objectively compared.

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