No Flakey Questions

Johanna Rothman of Hiring Technical People was recently interviewed in Israel. The result can be downloaded for listening here.

The first part of the conversation is about interviewing techies. The second part is about project management. A few highlights from the early part are below.

No flakey questions or whacko ideas. Johanna worked with one interviewer who regularly asked candidates "If you had three wishes what would they be?". Another forced candidates to engage in scavenger hunts roaming around the office looking for pens and paper clips and other such things.

No Microsoft-style puzzles. They are not relevant to the actual job and, therefore, do not predict future behaviour in the job's real context.

Go for the jugular. Before conducting an interview you should ask yourself 'What are the things that would eliminate this person from the competition?' and ask those questions first. Inotherwords, decide what skills are most important for the job and see if the candidate possesses them. If she doesn't, out she goes.

No Hypothetical Questions ("How would you do this?").

The Candidate talks, the Interviewer listens. You want the interviewer to be talking 20% of the time and have the interviewee talk 80% of the time.

If you ask a Closed Question like "What is the last technical book you read?", you should follow it up with an Open Ended Question like "Why did you choose that book?".

Techie Interviews should focus on questions about past behaviour and auditions which allow you to see the candidate in action.

Sample Questions:
What was challenging to you on your most recent project?
What were you happiest with in your career?
What's the most important lesson you learned on your last project?

How do you outwit candidates who come with prefabricated answers ? Ask a lot of Past Behaviour Questions about a number of their past jobs. No one comes with that many prepared answers. And use the answer to one question as a jumping off point for a number of other questions.

Question: Tell me about your role on the project team. What was the most challenging thing you did?
Answer: I learned about xyz.
Follow Up: Tell me how you learned about it.

You can't trust a non-technical interviewer. You have to be a technical specialist to ask in-depth questions. Hiring Managers should do their own 20-30 minute phone screen interviews to decide if the person is worth bringing in.

What do you look for in a good Project Manager? To get the answer, download the interview. I found it really worthwhile.

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