Hiring team members is easy…isn’t it? Not in technology. – Part II: The Interview and beyond

By Vitaly Dubravin, PMP

My last post (“Hiring team members is easy…isn’t it? Not in technology. – Part I: Before the Interview”) talked about some steps preceding the interview. This part is about the vital steps during the Interview and right after it.

2. The Interview

Face to Face.

People are working all over the world and it is hard to bring them in during initial selection. I do not like phone interviews for several reasons. First – there is less confidence that the person on the other end of the line is the same person that will come on your project. Second – there is no assurance that this person is in the country and will not have troubles coming in. Third – I like to see person’s reactions on my questions. For example: the person may be silent on the other end while thinking or is busy checking Internet for an answer. I’d like to know that.

There is no need to have a physical presence in the office, though it is highly desirable. Online interview using a webcam is a good alternative. Skype is free, webcams are either build-in or cost almost nothing, Internet access is no longer a problem. I do not see any reasonable excuse to avoid a video conference.

Practical Tests.

Face to Face conversation is a good time to give the candidate a real problem to solve. This problem should not be a Nobel Prize level question, but should be hard enough to pose a challenge. It is crucial for me to see how the candidate is trying to address it, not just getting a final answer. “Simple” qualification questions are necessary as well. I have to make sure the person knows the subject area in depth. This helps to disqualify people with very limited, if any, hands on experience. There is yet another hidden agenda for this exercise. Problem solving helps to eliminate folks graduated from “monkey see, monkey do” intensive training programs where people are coached to respond quickly to a standard situation, but has no systemic knowledge of the subject area. And such “knowledge” will be forgotten within a month or so after the class is over.

Stress Tests.

You really have to have some background in psychology to do it right. Do not go too far stressing your candidate – you may lose a good person. Anyway, there are a few reasons for doing this. I’d like to make sure that the person can work under some pressure (this is a part of any project), do some multitasking, may work with several managers (dual reporting) and can survive conflicts in the team (yes, life is not perfect).

Resume.

Yes, resume again. This step may not be necessary, if the content of the resume was covered during prior discussion and tests. My only goal here is to make sure that the person knows his resume and the story from it corresponds with his presentation. There is no need to dig into every prior experience, but 1-2 project reviews should be good. People are very comfortable talking about what they did (if it’s true) and you will quickly see how good this person was on that project. Pick a project from the resume and let the candidate decide what to describe. Even the worst resume writer can vividly describe a problem he/she solved with all minor details. See how passionate this person is.

Body language.

Try to use some NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) techniques during this conversation. Many people are good presenters, but just a few can control their body language. NLP has many simple technics to read a person (like NLP Eye Accessing Cues) and does not require years of education to start. That may tell you a bit more about the person in front of you.

3. After the Interview

This is the easiest part of the process. You should have a good understanding of the candidate’s skills and abilities and have to go through just a few small steps to make a final decision:

Background Checks. There are many different checks available on the market. Criminal, identity, employment, drug and alcohol tests are becoming “standard” for many companies. It takes about a week to complete. Don’t underestimate the importance of this step.

Start date.

Do not expect a person to start tomorrow, unless he/she is on the bench. Two weeks’ notice is a good practice and should be obeyed. If the person is ready to leave his current employer next day, then what assurance do you have that he will not do the same to you in the future?

References.

Do not expect any surprises from references. These are the people who are willing to say something good about the candidate. Otherwise he/she will not put them on the list. Do not spend time on them. This check will not have any meaningful impact on the final decision.

Star Disease.

Every manager likes to have a team of geniuses around. They do not require detailed explanation of the goal, can find their own way around the obstacles and can work with minimal guidance. These all comes with a “small” price tag – star disease. Plan ahead how many stars you can handle in your team and be prepared to provide them special treatment. Stars have a tendency to collide.

Compensation.

Make sure you offer your candidate a compensation in line with his/her expectations. Aggressive closing (getting someone cheap) means this person will stay on the market and will leave you soon. I intentionally used word expectations, and not a market value. You may have to go with someone else if the gap between these two values is significant.

Window Shopping.

Some candidates are not looking for a real career change. They need an offer to negotiate a better compensation on the current job. Always request the manager’s name and his contact information in exchange for an offer. You may or may not make this call, but it tells you how serious your front runner is.

Disappearance.

Have a backup candidate for an important job. There is always a chance that the “chosen one” will never start on the project. I had cases of mysterious sudden trips to another country due to some family emergency for 6 weeks or more. These people have never showed up again. Though family emergency is an unpleasant endeavor, it does happen so frequently in some cultures that I had to consider this as an offer rejection.

These are the most noticeable steps of the hiring from manager’s point of view. Hiring is a very painful and time consuming process. Make sure your final decision is rational and was not only based on emotions and wishful thinking. And remember that firing is even more stressful for both parties.

(originally posted on CIO.com)