Monday, July 8, 2019

Here's Lookin' at You


A few months ago, in Postcard CV, I wrote about some of the ways I've adapted my note-taking techniques for interviewing.

Although I did this largely for my own benefit, I like to think there is a positive effect for candidates too: I can be more in the moment with them if I'm not thinking about how I take my notes, I am motivated to invest in re-reading before I speak to them on subsequent occasions because I'm confident that the notes are in reasonable order, and I can re-engage with the candidate on topics we've covered, or threads that we didn't pick up in earlier conversations.

My fieldstones for Postcard CV included things that I do verbally during interviews to try to help to put the candidate at ease, to signpost different phases of the interview, and to give an idea of what is and isn't expected of them. When I started writing that post, it became clear that it was the material on notes that wanted to come out and so I left the rest aside.

I was reminded of it today when I saw Amelia Deschamps talking about her nervousness around impending job interviews:
My anxiety is leaving me a crying wreck tonight. I don't know how I am going to handle the phone interviews in the morning. I hate being judged & an interview is an opportunity for exactly that.
Although I haven't been interviewed for real since I-can't-remember-when, I've interviewed scores of people over the last 18 years and I like to think that I have a fair degree of empathy for them. Amelia's tweet touched me, and I replied:
In case it helps, my perspective as a hiring manager is that I want to try to create a space (within all the other constraints such as time, limited bandwidth of the phone, pressure, etc) in which the interviewee can be a good version of themselves.  
It's in my interests to do that because I can (a) potentially reduce the number of candidates I need to talk to and (b) reduce the risk of missing someone really good.  
There is ultimately a judgement call involved, you're right, but it's not an objective judgement of the interviewee out of context. It's subjective and against the position that we have available right now in a particular company/project/personnel context. 
Summary: if you're interviewing with me, I want to try to help you be relaxed and help you to show me how you could be right for the role. 
Could viewing the interviewers that way help with the anxiety?
The exchange reminded me of the abandoned notes, so I dug them out. Here's a few things that I'll often say in interviews with the intention of making it more straightforward and less stressful for the candidate:
  • What we'll do today is this, then that, then the other.
  • I'll make time in the interview for your questions but if you have one at any point feel free to ask; I'm happy to be interrupted.
  • When I ask this question, I'm looking for details on A, B, and C.
  • There's no right answer to the next question, I want to see how you approach the problem. 
  • I recognise that this is an artificial situation and you don't have all of the context you might want.
  • It will help me if you can verbalise your thoughts; give me all the ideas, even the ones you're not sure about.
  • That's a great suggestion, can you think of another?
  • I want to say up front that we liked your exercise a lot, that's why you're here! However, we're now going to explore some aspects of it and challenge what you did.
  • Thank you very much for your time, I really enjoyed the conversation.
  • Here's what will happen next...

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