Top 10 Tricks for Conducting a Successful Interview

Helpful tips from a technical interviewer

If you have ever thought you wanted to put your gathered knowledge to good use, then perhaps you could think of becoming a technical interviewer. The process is simple: have a talk with your HR representative and your Team Lead/Community manager to start the process. After a briefing and a training, you are ready to start your journey as a shadow interviewer.

As a technical interviewer, I learned many things throughout my experience. Here are some helpful tips that I learned along the way.

1. Have an interview structure, a skeleton or a template.  This way, you can focus on the interview and not miss anything important. 

  • Before starting the interview, be clear with what you want to cover, and make sure that the candidate has the necessary time that the interview will take.

2. Introductions are key.

  • First, introduce yourselves, including a very short talk about the project (without giving away confidential info), a small intro into the technologies you work with, and your experience.
  • Second, ask the candidate to introduce themselves. Most of the time, they will give you a more detailed look into what they have done and what they have worked with (Note: this is great, as you can base your next questions on their introduction).

3. Confirm the basics.

  • Everyone should know the fundamentals, regardless of whether they’re an experienced guru or a junior with one year on the job. Fundamentals are the basics.
  • This also can confirm if the candidate learned the technology in a chaotic manner, in that they only learned just the parts needed for the current task.
  • It can show the interviewer if the candidate would be able to quickly adapt to a new project that might differ from the one they are currently working on (even if it’s in the same field/technology)

4. Take a deep dive.

  • Use this deep dive to make sure the depth of the candidate’s knowledge is not puddle deep. You can base the deep dive on the skills written on the CV and on what the candidate said in the introduction.
  • There is little point in doing a deep dive in something that the candidate did not mention. This becomes clear with the talk in the basics part of the discussion, and trying to do a deep dive in an area that the candidate has no experience with will only serve to frustrate the candidate.
  • This also demonstrates if the candidate did, in fact, sink time into expanding his or her knowledge outside of the project’s requirements.
  • Finally, this will help you get a feel on what types of projects the candidate would be best fitted for.

5. Nothing beats a practical exercise.

  • Performing practical exercises puts the candidate in a position where he or she has to use the gathered experience to solve a problem they might not be familiar with.
  • The examples should be tailored to the candidate’s practical experience, but not exactly on what he or she has worked on.

6. Keep the talk casual. This way, the candidate will be more relaxed and won’t lock up on difficult questions. 

  • Try to make it feel like a talk, not an interrogation. Don’t be afraid to joke around if the situation or the candidate permits it.
  • Do not follow a fixed set of questions. Not all candidates have the same knowledge, and also, some candidates might come prepared (the internet now-a-days provides a lot of info, including, the interview process and questions for some companies.
  • If the candidate seems to not know an answer, move on, to a different question, do not push further (of course, after trying to help him a little to see if you can direct him to the answer.
  • Do not flaunt your knowledge and superiority. You are an interviewer because you do have better knowledge. There is no use in pointing it out. Don’t be arrogant.

7. Ask the right questions.

  • Ask questions on what the candidate has experience on. We don’t want to show them what he or she doesn’t know. Instead, we want to know the details of what they know.
  • If you have follow up questions on some points the candidate talked about, wait for them to finish their  train of thought and then ask. Do not interrupt the candidate, unless the interruption is really needed (for example, if the candidate rambles, goes off topic, etc.).
  • Have a mix of open and closed questions and use them well. Closed questions should be used to validate something specific, while open questions allow you to go deeper into the knowledge.

8. Make sure the flow and the control of the discussion is in your hands. If the candidate gets control of the interview, he could steer it where he wants, to make him look better.

  • Don’t engage in debates. If the candidate is adamant regarding their solution, it is not your purpose to prove them wrong or to teach them.
  • On the other hand, it’s perfectly fine to either give the answer to a question you asked, but it’s also ok if you don’t give the answer.
  • The structure of the interview should not be fixed, so it’s alright to deviate, just make sure to always return to it so the interview does not seem disorganized and chaotic.

9. Wrap things up at the end of the interview

  • Ask the candidate if you covered all their skills and knowledge in the interview. If not, continue the interview and cover the missing skills.
  • Ask the candidate if he or she has any questions for you. Answer them to the best of your knowledge or defer them to the HR recruiter.
  • Thank the candidate for their time.

10. Review the interview while the information is still fresh.

  • Soon after the interview, if possible, have a sync with your colleague and fill in the technical profile document while the information is still fresh in your mind. 
  • Be as detailed with the written information as possible.

One final tip – at the end of the process, be sure to congratulate yourself on a job well done!

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