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Interview procedure question

Small question for the collective wisdom of the group:

When conducting an interview to hire a prospective developer, if a number of people need to meet with the candidate in the course of the process, is it better for everyone that needs to meet with him (or her) to meet with him at one time, or is it better to have a series of one-on-one interviews?

Thanks in advance.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

I don't like ganging up on the interviewee, and I think there is a lot of value to having the different interviewers see the candidate independently to maximize their independence. In a group scenario, interviewers may pick up consciously or subconsciously on each others cues and reactions instead of being forced to arrive at their own opinion.

Joel Spolsky
Fog Creek Software
Wednesday, May 12, 2004

(Since I just walked out of a group interview...)

I'd say have related people interview together to prevent redundant questions. That is, if you have a mananger, an HR person, and 2-3 developers, have 3 different interviews (HR, manager, devs). 2-3 people in an interview works ok, and you can avoid redundant questions that you'd all ask anyway. It also reduces the amount of down time when the interviewers are trying to think of questions.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Personally as an interviewer, I don't like doing group interviews.  There are certain questions that I might like to ask to gain some insight into a candidate that the others don't understand.  Next thing you know your co-workers are looking at you like you have two heads, and the questions isn't treated seriously.  I find that you wind up getting a watered down set of questions, and no one interviewing really gets anything answered that they really wanted answered.

i.e. I personally like to ask a few simple coding questions to make sure that the person can break down simple problems in a stressful environment.  Regardless of whether anyone agrees with the question, it's uncomfortable to ask such questions in a group setting.  The same goes for having someone perfrom a product design, or analyze tradeoffs.

I find that this becomes especially awkward when you ask a question that your co-worker doesn't know the answer to.  You can avoid redundencies by letting each other know what you talked about, or setting up coverage areas for each person doing the interview.

Bottom line in my opinion, is that group interviews are less useful than lunch interviews.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Both approaches have their strong points.

I once worked for a consulting company whose policy was to do very intimidating gang-up interviews.  (I recall 8 people being present for my own.)  As consultants, a crucial part of our jobs was performing well in client interviews to win new business.  The main theory was that if a candidate fared well under all this pressure and scrutiny, they probably would do well in client interviews, which were invariably less intense.

That said, having interviewed thousands of people over the years  I much prefer to have at least an hour alone with a candidate.  I find that I learn a great deal if I can disarm them and convince them to open up.  It's much harder to put them at ease under the scrutiny of two or more people.  The gang-up is just inherently a bit intimidating on a brain-stem level, no matter how calm the candidate.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Personally, I think group interviews have some value, but I think multipel independent interviews are even better.

With my last company, we did something interesting...

First my boss interviewed the guy one on one, then the lead developer and I did an interview with him.  When we did our round, we sat down with some xml and some java and did a general interview along with some relatively straightforward code questions.

It worked out pretty well and let us know that although he completely charmed our boss, he was borderline incompetent on technical issues.


Thursday, May 13, 2004

We had a technique at a previous company that worked exceedingly well. It took a bit of set up, but was worth it.

Our intranet had a collection of interview questions and answers that anyone could add to at any time. They included dozens of questions for phone interviews ("What's a pointer?"), face-to-face ("Draw a doubly-linked list and pseudo-code to insert and delete nodes from it."), lunch ("Describe your last product and the nastiest bug you had to fix in it."), technical ("Here's some code that has no documentation, tell me what it does and refactor it to be more efficient"), and just for fun ("What movie had the line 'This, for instance, is filed under "H" for "Toy"'"). Periodically someone would weed out duplicate or undesirable (high Aha! factor) questions.

The day before each candidate came in, 1 manager, 4 engineers, and 1 "other" would be selected for the interview, and each interviewer would select questions from the intranet and mail each other to make sure there were no duplicates. Each interviewer would select enough (usually related) questions to cover 45 minutes with a strong candidate.

The day of the interview, each of us would get 45 minutes with the candidate, and "other" would take them to lunch and informally pump them about work experience and their personality. After the interviewee left, the 6 interviewers would get together and immediately do a thumbs-up or -down. If the result was 0-6, the decision was already made and we left. For anything else, there was discussion until the entire team reached consensus or at least everybody withdrew objections. In case of a hung jury, the manager had final say.

We ended up with an incredible team of really talented people and the lunch-guy could usually ferret out the occasional severe personality clash. This all worked until a new VP decided that this was wasting too many people's time and started hiring engineers based on whether they had the word "SQL" on their resume - seriously. He hired 13 engineers in one week - 1 left in tears after his first day, 2 more quit within a week, 4 were transferred to IT because they had never programmed before, 5 were fired or quit within a year, and 1 turned out to be a stellar employee that we would have hired under the old system anyway. The VP is still in charge, but most of the original team has left and the company is now in a long slow decline, primarily due to lack of talent and creativity.

By the way, you would be amazed at the positive correlation between a good candidate and being able to identify the above quote...

My friends call me Anal-Boy
Thursday, May 13, 2004

I probably would be.  Heh... "Your mom sews license plates in your underwear?  How do you sit?"

Sam Livingston-Gray
Thursday, May 13, 2004

I was thinking of the immortal words of Socrates, when he said, "I drank what?"

Marc LaFleur
Thursday, May 13, 2004

I can't identify the quote, and my curiosity is killing me. Where's it from?

George Illes
Thursday, May 13, 2004

Sorry George, you're not hired.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Q: You still run?

A: Only when chased.

Friday, May 14, 2004

You wouldn't want me. Real genius I ain't.

George Illes
Friday, May 14, 2004

I would like to be an IT trainer.  However, I have question in the career path for a IT trainer.  Moreover, what is the strengths the candidate should bear for being a trainer? Could you please give me some advice? Please help!!

Sunday, May 23, 2004

My friends call me A-boy ,
  Nice technique.  My old team used something similar with great success. One Q.

  "4 were transfered to IT because they had never programmered before"

  isn't IT for the programmers? Where were you hiring to?

Sunday, August 8, 2004

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