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What are Interviews for?

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I’ve been talking to a lot of people lately about the interview process, particularly when it comes to Software Development companies. There is a lot to say about how to do it properly or successfully but today I would like to focus on a single question: why do we do it? What’s the goal behind interviewing someone that’s willing to join our company?

Hopefully, by being conscious about the reasons behind the process we can more effectively tune it to get the best possible results out of it.

TL;DR

The short version of this article would be: Some colleagues tend to use interviews as a way to spot liars. I tend to use interviews to get to know each other (the interviewee and the company) better, decide if we really fit together and come up with a plan to properly integrate ourselves.

I’m still learning how to be a good Tech Lead, so I would like to know your opinions about this subject :)

A Bit of Context

At InakaESI we have our guidelines for display on GitHub and among other things, we describe the process we use for interviews there.

Following a great piece of advice by Oren Ellenbogen, we send an email to each candidate before their first interview including a link to our guidelines. That way candidates have the chance to know beforehand what we’ll ask them on the interviews with a high level of detail.

The interviews may then develop different paths depending on the candidate and almost certainly include a coding exercise that’s not described there but, in general, if you want to work at InakaESI you know what we’ll be asking you. Even for the coding parts, you can check our open-source repos at GitHub and you’ll even find previous solutions, too.

But how does that even work?

Some of my colleagues questioned our decision to be so open regarding the process and the questions used for interviews, mostly because of a somewhat widespread view of interviews as a way to spot cheating candidates (at least around here, in Buenos Aires). In other words, in many people’s minds, the interviews are a way to detect whether or not the candidate lied on their application.

Under that light, the interview is used to determine if the interviewee who claimed to be a senior Android developer is not actually just someone who built an Android app on his spare time.

I personally dislike that approach. I’m a naïve person, in many aspects, by choice. I generally prefer to trust candidates upfront and be disappointed later over being skeptical right away and miss the opportunity to work with a great colleague.

The Reasons for Interviews

But if that’s so, you might wonder, why do we still conduct interviews? If we’re going to trust people anyway, why don’t we just hire them and see. In Argentina at least, everybody is in a trial period for the first three months of engagement by law, anyway.

Well, in my view, there are other reasons for conducting interviews and, in general, getting to know people before hiring them. Such as…

Match-Making

One of the main outputs we try to get from the interviews is a perspective of how comfortably the candidate will fit within our company culture. That’s why we always try to choose an interviewer that’s currently in a position similar to the one the interviewee is applying for. After the interview we ask the interviewer how would you like to work with them in your team? Do you think they will like to work with you?

When I’m the interviewer I also take the time to let the interviewee know how we work at the company, how I work as a CTO and how their relationship with me will be within the company should they get hired. That way they can make a more informed decision on wether they do like to work with us/me or not.

I also spend a significant portion of the interview talking about how they like to work, what projects do they prefer, how they think they work best, etc. Again, that’s for me to figure out if I would like to work with them and also for them to push their ideals on what they want upfront so they can contrast those with what I present as the realities of our company.

Planning

The other really important thing we try to get out of the interviews is an idea of how long the adaptation periods of the candidates will be if they get hired.

On the brightest days of our company, we tend to conduct two kinds of searches: We either try to hire people to augment one of our teams for a particular project or we try to hire people just to augment our team as whole.

When we know exactly what we need a developer for, out of the interview we get a sense of how hard it will be for the interviewee to join the project. How much time will they need to adjust to the new role and catch up with the team and all until they start being actually productive.

When we’re just looking to hire someone, on the interview we talk with the interviewees about the languages/technologies they’re familiar with and which ones they want to learn more about. Then we may end up deciding to spend some time training them on those new languages. This is particularly true when it comes to Erlang. You can learn more about that on one of my all-time favorite Erlang Factory talks by Iñaki Garay:

https://medium.com/media/e3d336f2af4dfc3fafd55ac809f0beea/href

What about You?

I’m still learning, I wrote this blog post because I’m not 100% convinced about the way I think. I would love to read what others had thought about this subject.

So… what about you? Do you interview people? Were you interviewed lately? Let me know in the comments what you think should be the goal of the interview process and how that should (or should not) affect it. :)


What are Interviews for? was originally published in Tech Lead Talks on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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vitormazzi
5 days ago
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Brasil
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The Heroic Efforts of Unix Code Archeologists and Restorers

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The moment when an antique operating system that has not run in decades boots and presents a command prompt is thrilling for Warren Toomey. He compares it to restoring an old Model-T. “An old car looks pretty, but at the end of the day its purpose is to drive you somewhere. I love being able to turn the engine over and actually get it to do its job.”

For more than two decades, Toomey and the Unix Heritage Society that he founded have unearthed and restored the early editions of Unix. Just last year, they recovered the assembly code of a Unix from 1970 and booted it on a PDP-7 simulator.

Not only are these ancient systems running again, we can now browse a continuous Unix commit history on GitHub. The Unix History Repo spans 1970 through modern FreeBSD, thanks to the effort of Diomidis Spinellis.

Read my story about the Unix Heritage Society and the Unix History Repo on Linux Weekly News.

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vitormazzi
28 days ago
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Brasil
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RT @PowerDNS_Bert: After 3072 hours of manipulating BGP, @JobSnijders has succeeded in drawing a Nyancat on the RIPE statmon interface. htt…

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After 3072 hours of manipulating BGP, @JobSnijders has succeeded in drawing a Nyancat on the RIPE statmon interface. tinyurl.com/nyancatbgp pic.twitter.com/nkqvwpkDjK



Posted by PowerDNS_Bert on Friday, June 23rd, 2017 4:39pm
Retweeted by SwiftOnSecurity on Friday, June 23rd, 2017 7:47pm


371 likes, 399 retweets
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jepler
30 days ago
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the most geek thing
Earth, Sol system, Western spiral arm
vitormazzi
28 days ago
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Brasil
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Michael Lewis and the parable of the lucky man taking the extra cookie

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In 2012, Michael Lewis gave a commencement speech at Princeton University, his alma mater. In the speech, Lewis, the author of Liar’s Poker, Moneyball, and The Big Short, talks about the role of luck in rationalizing success. He tells the graduates, the winners of so many of life’s lotteries, that they “owe a debt to the unlucky”. This part near the end is worth reading even if you skip the rest of it.

I now live in Berkeley, California. A few years ago, just a few blocks from my home, a pair of researchers in the Cal psychology department staged an experiment. They began by grabbing students, as lab rats. Then they broke the students into teams, segregated by sex. Three men, or three women, per team. Then they put these teams of three into a room, and arbitrarily assigned one of the three to act as leader. Then they gave them some complicated moral problem to solve: say what should be done about academic cheating, or how to regulate drinking on campus.

Exactly 30 minutes into the problem-solving the researchers interrupted each group. They entered the room bearing a plate of cookies. Four cookies. The team consisted of three people, but there were these four cookies. Every team member obviously got one cookie, but that left a fourth cookie, just sitting there. It should have been awkward. But it wasn’t. With incredible consistency the person arbitrarily appointed leader of the group grabbed the fourth cookie, and ate it. Not only ate it, but ate it with gusto: lips smacking, mouth open, drool at the corners of their mouths. In the end all that was left of the extra cookie were crumbs on the leader’s shirt.

This leader had performed no special task. He had no special virtue. He’d been chosen at random, 30 minutes earlier. His status was nothing but luck. But it still left him with the sense that the cookie should be his.

This experiment helps to explain Wall Street bonuses and CEO pay, and I’m sure lots of other human behavior. But it also is relevant to new graduates of Princeton University. In a general sort of way you have been appointed the leader of the group. Your appointment may not be entirely arbitrary. But you must sense its arbitrary aspect: you are the lucky few. Lucky in your parents, lucky in your country, lucky that a place like Princeton exists that can take in lucky people, introduce them to other lucky people, and increase their chances of becoming even luckier. Lucky that you live in the richest society the world has ever seen, in a time when no one actually expects you to sacrifice your interests to anything.

All of you have been faced with the extra cookie. All of you will be faced with many more of them. In time you will find it easy to assume that you deserve the extra cookie. For all I know, you may. But you’ll be happier, and the world will be better off, if you at least pretend that you don’t.

You can watch Lewis’ speech as delivered on YouTube:

I wonder if hearing that moved the needle for any of those grads? I suspect not…being born on third base thinking you hit a triple is as American as apple pie at this point. (via @goldman)

Tags: commencement speeches   Michael Lewis   Princeton   video
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vitormazzi
36 days ago
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Brasil
popular
43 days ago
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3 public comments
kleer001
43 days ago
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Excellent! Don't forget to help your lucky friends come to the same realization.
dmierkin
43 days ago
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well put
jheiss
45 days ago
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Well, as someone who was "born on third base" and is making decent progress on scoring a run (to keep up the analogy), I can tell you that there's at least one of us out here who is damn well aware that luck has played a significant part and does at least try to pretend that he doesn't deserve the cookie.

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - The Miserable Streak

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Click here to go see the bonus panel!

Hovertext:
I actually wrote that last panel several months ago. Hopefully it's still 'funny'.

New comic!
Today's News:

If you're a US backer and haven't yet signed up for bonus rewards, please go here!

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vitormazzi
39 days ago
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Brasil
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June 9th, 2017: Popsicles

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This is pretty bizarre, although not unusual in the civilized world....

Quote:

Beautiful, until you realize what you’re looking at … “Polluted Water Popsicles”. I have to be honest, I don’t really know the full story behind this project. They only have a Facebook page, with just a little bit of information… but would that stop me from writing about these gross beauties that are making a VERY important point? Absolutely not. Now, that bit of information isn’t in English, so this is what Google Translate told me their “about” section said:
Nice = delicious?
From Taiwan’s 100 polluted water sources, made it into ice, and then re-engraved into a 1: 1 poly model to do the show, through the sense of the impact of beautiful packaging to convey the importance of pure water, and finally to show the real Appearance. So beautiful pudding, you dare to eat?
Works for me! Pretty Popsicles, important message … but don’t even think about licking one. Seriously.


Quote:

UPDATE: Just found out a little more {thanks to Hosanna for commenting on Facebook!} This is what she told me: “These were created by 3 design students in Taiwan for their graduation exhibition. They took water samples from 100 water sources (including rivers, sewers, streams, etc.) that people normally wouldn’t notice, but were already polluted. They used the water samples to make popsicles and in turn made 1:1 poly models of the popsicles, which are what you’re seeing. They did this to emphasize and show how important clean water is to the environment.”


It's not that pollution hasn't followed humans wherever they went, it has.
But now more emerging nations are becoming more educated and sophisticated, and detecting the mess they're in.

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samuel
44 days ago
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It's disgusting how clear a visual this is.
The Haight in San Francisco
vitormazzi
40 days ago
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Brasil
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