Hire a personality, not a skill set. My most important interview questions

Original author: Jan Voss
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Hello, Habr!

We recently published our experimental public interviews . Of course, these are not really real interviews, because we concentrated on technical topics and almost did not affect the personal qualities of a person. In addition, the interviews were conducted “in a vacuum”, without assuming the company, projects and the team the candidate was trying to get into. Today’s translation addresses the topic of recruiting based on personality, character, and trust.

There are a lot of guides to help you get an interview. They contain many semi-meaningful micro-tips on the basics of psychology. Or just a set of possibly meaningful questions to test different skills. I read a lot of such guides, a book about interviewing techniques, and even underwent a special training.

All these sources have one thing in common: none made me a cooler interviewer, and nothing improved the quality of recruiting (this, of course, is not a numerical assessment, but my personal feeling). Well, maybe not everything is so bad. Of course, I learned something new and useful, and began to think about the interview process more deeply. Which, in the end, is very good.

The problem with these guides is that they are made for both sides. The candidate and the interviewer read the same strange articles and artificially talk on topics written on a piece of paper, ask the same questions for which there are ready-made answers. And a hiring decision can be made based on the amount of interview material studied by the interlocutor.

After all, everyone knows dialogues in the style of “Your weak spot?” → “I'm a perfectionist”? Someone once had the ingenious idea to ask more specific questions, such as “Describe your largest file on your previous job?”, With the finished sequel “How did you deal with it?” And “What would you do now?” Naturally, the guides are now preparing for such issues.

It all upset me. I read these guides to conduct the best interviews and improve the selection process. But in the end, I just entered a competition with a candidate that did not push me to the goal: to understand each other and decide whether we should work together.

After 150 interviews last year, I found three questions, the answers to which turned out to be the most important for me, so I included these questions in each interview. The very first question (immediately after “Coffee? Tea? Water?”) Is:

Who are you? What is your cool?

Many candidates respond by quoting their resume. Super ... I know his resume, I read it, and it was on its basis that I invited him for an interview. It was a surprise for me that people give themselves a definition through a resume: “Who are you?” → “That's what I did throughout my career.” Isn't that strange?

Each person is unique. Everyone experienced something of their own, and this experience made him who he is now. This is the essence of the matter. I want to know what kind of person is sitting against me. I want to decide: does it cost me and my team to spend more time with this person than with their families during the day? In general, it doesn’t matter to me what he says about himself if I have an idea what kind of person he is and how he became like that. In turn, I will also tell about myself and what, in my opinion, is my coolness.

The best answer that I heard is “I don't want to be cool!” - which is cool in itself. So I quickly adapted and asked “What is your oddity?” And I got the answer I was waiting for.

All the salt is that you need to look for suitable people. If you gather a group of cool and weird people that you enjoy spending time with, then this is already 50% of the team’s success

What's the coolest thing you've ever done? (What is your passion?)

I want to know his passion. On what topics he runs. A strong passion for me is a hundred times more important than experience in certain areas. That’s why: if a person is smart, and I know that he can be passionate about something, then as a manager I will need to find something passionate for him that will help the company.

This is not always easy and not always possible, BUT I believe that this is the essence of management. All other aspects are small details. So hobbies, passion, obsession - the main thing for me.

Example: I hired a system administrator with almost no work experience, he studied archeology at the university (!), But he was passionate about Linux. He made presentations at Ubucon conferences and contributed to the debian packages for archaeologists.

It was a risky step, but I believed that this guy would figure it out if you give him enough freedom. I gave him the opportunity to make decisions on 95% of topics related to system administration in the company. And he turned into a great administrator and never failed.

My favorite answer to the cool question is, “I invented Google Maps before Google.” In the end, it turned out that this was true!

The third important question I ask myself on behalf of the candidate:

What's wrong with working here?

There are two reasons. First of all, I think that “selling” your company to a candidate and telling how wonderful it works is boring and too easy. After all, he is already, most likely, interested in working here, and therefore he came for an interview. Secondly, being honest and open in an interview is a great way to minimize future problems. The whole chip in realistic expectations.

My answer is: “The worst thing about working in my department is Me!” Most candidates laugh. But I'm serious. I built and managed a department of 30-35 people, and I did not have any experience. With no development or management experience, I managed the developers. All I had was common sense, a little passion and a little brain.

So I tell the candidates that they should expect mistakes from me. But I learn from my mistakes and do not repeat them. I usually talk about specific cases of what went wrong and what I understood for myself.

After that, I talk about areas in which my department has problems. I explain what, in my opinion, is going wrong, and what we are doing to fix it. For example, if you hire a person because of a shortage of people, then he must understand that there is a problem in the team, why it appeared, how the arrival of a new person will help to fix it. When? How?

Managing the expectations of the candidate during the interview led to the fact that one of the people quit voluntarily during the trial period. In any company there are pros and cons. There is something worth improving. And there are obvious negative points. Frankness and transparency on these issues create an atmosphere of trust. The reward will be employee loyalty and a longer and more successful relationship in the company.

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