Hiring

Goal of Hiring

The ultimate purpose of interviewing is to make a judgment about how the candidate would perform in your company’s environment. This is at odds with how performance reviews are done after a candidate joins. While you need to avoid the “potential” trap in performance reviews, when hiring, you must judge potential contribution. Within the hour or so at your disposal, you must move between the world of the past employer and your own, and project the candidate’s future performance in a new environment based on their own description of past performance. 

This managerial task is clearly tricky and high-risk, but unfortunately unavoidable. So in the end careful interviewing doesn’t guarantee you anything, it merely increases your odds of getting lucky - It increases the probability of the candidate being successful in your company 

Ultimately, though you would like to avoid false negatives and not miss out on great candidate, focussing on avoiding and managing false positives should be the goal of the hiring process

At a high level, 
  • Hiring is the highest leverage activity that you can do as a manager
  • Hiring is manager's responsibility
  • You should come out of every interview with a clear sense of whether the person could improve the probability of your company’s success.
  • Great interviewing is work. It takes time to prepare, conduct the interview and then de-brief in an effective way. If you don’t want to do the work, don’t interview.
  • You should always take copious notes during interviews so you can make a cogent argument for or against a candidate.
  • In most cases, the “best and the brightest” already have jobs, so you’re really just on the lookout for the best available. Plus there’s no way to prove that your hiring process resulted in the right people because you can’t A/B test hiring decisions.
  • Always strive to hire superstars but realise that not all hires need to “walk on water.” This person should be better along some dimensions than a majority of the current staff and have the potential to have a long-term impact.
  • You want to hire people who are smart, that get stuff done and have the functional set of skills you need for the role.

What to look for (and the Mindset)?
  • You have to know what Excellent looks like
  • Hire for strength, not apparent lack of weakness
  • Look for excellence in what they do - excellent coding is a must, look for depth and tools
  • Look for impact
  • Look for learning, drive, energy and enthusiasm apart from talent
  • Do not hire with hope - Be aware of the margin for error
  • Ask how the candidate is better than us and what can we learn from them.
  • Are we excited about candidate and would be disappointed to lose them?

Beware of Bias 
These are some of the do's and dont's, pay attention so that you avoid the pitfalls
                
Dont
    • Anchoring / Halo / Horns: tendency to rely heavily on one data point while making a decision (CGPA, College) 
    • Bandwagon effect: Everyone follows the group's hiring decisions
    • Ostrich effect: Ignoring red flags during the interview process
    • Outcome bias: To avoid it, focus on the process and criteria instead of the end result
    • Stereotype: racism, sexism 
    • Inferior / Superior perceptions of the interviewer: To avoid it, Ensure A hires A (they have nothing to fear and are confident of their abilities)
    • Overconfidence: Interviewer's subjective confidence that their judgment is greater than their objective accuracy.
    • Confirmation bias: Making perceptions in the first few minutes
    • Intuition: Relying on vague feelings instead of concrete facts
Do
    • Make hiring decisions based on evidence rather than on subjective assumptions.
    • Be consistent and transparent in your hiring process.
    • Have multiple panelists (diverse preferably)
    • Shadow interviews and give feedback during debrief process
    • Once you form an initial impression of someone - which usually happens within the first 60 seconds - beware of the confirmation bias and try invalidating it.
Be aware of your Evaluation criteria
  • Distinguish between good and great answers: know extension points and follow up questions 
    • Your whole team should sit down and discuss what’s a good coding question, what’s a good answer and why you should use this one.”

Creative and in-depth answers indicate the thought process of the   candidate. For example,


Q: Is a leader born or made?

A: I am persuaded that a leader is not made in one life. He has to be born for it. For the difficulty is not in organisation and making plans; the test, the real test of the leader,  lies in holding widely        different people together along the line of their common sympathies. And this can only be done unconsciously, never by trying - Swami Vivekananda
  • Learn to validate a resume: How to read a resume, identify the areas worth deep diving, and determining how to probe into them.
  • Great interview questions focus on specific examples of the candidate’s unique contributions, actions, decisions and impact, 
  • Ask
    • unique contributions, actions, decisions and impact
    • Probe: who, what, where, when, why and how on every accomplishment or project
    • Differentiate: we vs. I, good vs. great, exposure vs. expertise, participant vs. owner/leader, depth vs breadth
    • Differentiate between glib talker vs person with substance
  • STAR questions: Look for past projects and accomplishments that seem to have enough weight and depth so that you can apply STAR questions — STAR stands for situation, task, actions and results.
    • What was the background of what you were working on?
    • What tasks were you given?
    • What actions did you take?
    • What results did you measure?
  • Learn to ask structured questions: Idea is to understand at what level the candidate is operating.
    • In your experience, what is the key to developing a good team?
    • What do you look for when hiring a candidate?
    • What would you have done differently at your last company if you had been CEO?
    • Tell me about a time your behaviour had a positive impact on your team.
  • Give allowance that a candidate might have a bad day
  • Do not ask questions which are usually not a test of fitment to a job
  • Do not ask for things that can be Googled
  • Look for the questions the candidates ask? Do they just need a job or are they curious about your company
    • "What is the most technically challenging software problem your company is facing right now?"
    • "What would you expect me to accomplish in my first 90 days?"
    • "How will my performance be evaluated?"
    • "How do your best employees grow within the organisation?"
    • "What is your company's short-term / long-term business strategy? What is your competitive advantage?"
    • "What do you (the manager) love most about your job?"
    • "What are your company's biggest weaknesses? How do you intend to improve on them?"
Some Tips
  • “Tell me about your background” is not a useful question for a Tech interview. It's an invitation to digress and ramble
  • If the interview lands up in a unintended place, it's an indication of under preparation and lack of moderation to avoid digression
  • Pick specifics out of a resume to determine what the candidate actually did. Remember, you want people who gets stuff done. Period.
  • Probe when you see a resume with a long list of skills. Separate the truth from filler.
  • Don’t “try out” new questions on candidates. Know what a good answer sounds like.
  • Make sure you have them write code! This is too often skipped.
  • Dig into algorithms, data structures, code organisation, simplicity.
  • Use some questions that are vague and open-ended. See if they ask you questions to find out more.
  • Ask a design question. See how people think about a bigger picture problem.
  • Create core competences for your company. Make sure candidates measure up well.
  • Make it tough but fun. Good developers want to know they’re talking to smart folks.
Finally,
  • Care for candidate experience.
  • Calm the nerves for the candidate before you start the interview. Ensure they aren’t nervous or intimidated
  • Prepare precise questioning and structure, so that the answer can be evaluated predictably
  • Allocate specific time / day so that you and your team doesn’t get randomised with interviews
  • Hiring speed is important: Remember, the candidate is interviewing elsewhere
  • Have referral checks. In fact they should have a lot of weightage (particularly the blind referrals)
  • Have post offer engagement and keep in touch. Offer: Join ratio is usually is 3:1, you wan’t to reduce it.
  • Have a kick-ass on-boarding plan to integrate the candidate into your environment
  • Evaluate your Hiring process 3 - 6 months with HR after the candidate joins and make change to reduce false positives
  • Evaluate your team's interviewing proficiency. This is important for assembling a great team.

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