My company has been conducting a lot of interviews lately for candidates with various experience levels, ranging from interns to senior candidates. We put our candidates through five 45 minute interview sessions where we try to ask a range of questions. One person always asks the same questions that test logic and communication. The rest typically split time between a whiteboard coding question and a discussion of previous projects, technologies the interviewee has worked with, and what he/she is looking for a job.

Generally, we know the range of questions that other people on the loop will ask. Sometimes we switch things up and end up having redundancies. Today, 3 interviewers asked tree-related questions. Other times, we've all honed in on the same project on a resume and have had the interviewee talk about it with everyone.

I think a smooth interview process would help us learn more about the candidate while giving the impression to the candidate that we have our act together as a team. How do you coordinate with others in the interview loop to give a balanced interview?

  • 1
    Start by cutting down the interview time. – JeffO Nov 10 '12 at 4:00

Discuss the candidates strengths and weakness, and the expectations based on role they are interviewing for.

Rather than focus on themed questions, the interviewers assume roles with different purposes.

If you are doing 5 interviews (hopefully you are doing phone screens so that these face to faces are more productive), try something like this:

A) Have one of the more perceptive / intuitive interviewers go first and do the warm up. General history, interesting work the candidate has done, and have them relate a story or two, and also give the candidate a sense of what the interview cycle will be like. The purpose of this interview is threefold; 1) to settle the candidate's nerves, 2) get all the soft ball HR-ish stuff out of the way, and 3) probe the candidate's answers to try to glean some insight into the candidates head and inform the rest of the interviews. This interview can be between 10 to 30 minutes, and kept light and semi-formal.

B) Have one of the friendlier interviewers give a lighter interview probing the candidates obvious weak area(s). You know / believe the candidate is weak in those areas and you are still interviewing them, so it must not be a deal breaker, and there's no reason to drop the hammer on the candidate. This session doesn't need to be long; 15 minutes is enough; and if you have fewer people you can roll A & B together.

C) Have an objective / fair interviewer give a straight interview focused on the candidates strengths, and give the candidate a chance to show off. Hopefully they don't bone it. Assuming you are interviewing this person because their strengths are what you are looking for, this is the real interview. Otherwise, try to steer it such that they have a chance to show if their strengths can be adapted to what you actually need or not. 30 minutes is enough for this unless the candidate is really accomplished or you want to really put them thru their paces. If the candidate seems good, soften the blow to come a bit with some social engineering; let them know the next guy coming up "can be a bit...uh...[technical|academic|tough]...but don't get discouraged...".

D) Bring in the Heavy; a developer who is at least a half order of magnitude more skilled than the candidate and while not unfriendly per se, robotic and cold works well. Ratchet the formality back up. Keep the focus on pure technology in the abstract / devoid of real world context or what a candidate did that one time at that place they used to work. Make the candidate dance a bit. Hit them with deliberately hard questions. Maybe throw some curveballs. The goal here is not to wash the candidate out, but to see how they deal with pressure. And also, they might surprise you; a candidate who struggles thru some of the softer interviews may really shine when the focus is on pure technology and logic. It can also be useful to have a friendly face in the room, one of the other interviewers, allowing for a good cop bad cop routine. This should be an hour, perhaps more.

E) Wrap it all up with a typical interview close. Do you have any questions for us, don't call us we'll call you, etc. Usually fast; 15 minutes or less is typically enough.

Flavor to taste.

In between the sessions the interviewers who are not in the room can trade quick updates, hone the strategy, and so forth.

| improve this answer | |
  • This is a pretty interesting plan. Would you let a friend of yours be interviewed this way? Interview goals use to be so simple (smart, gets things done, not a jerk). Where did this plan come from? The Stasi? Whatever happened to the golden rule? – DeveloperDon Nov 10 '12 at 5:13
  • Interesting ideas, @Ed. I'm not sure that would work for our company, since we generally struggle to schedule interviews around meetings and often switch things up the day of the interview. We do try to balance difficulty by not lining up too many known challenging interviewers for one candidate. – goldierox Nov 13 '12 at 0:40

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.