Having the right candidate hired is essential to realizing the vision of an organization. Most of the focus in hiring today goes around the candidate’s knowledge of tools. Rarely enough weightage is given to the drive, attitude, culture, and integrity of the candidate. But these are things that can and must be evaluated to ensure the right person joins the team. All you must do is ask the right questions and open your eyes and ears to understand the responses from the candidate. Hire smart people! Smart is the ability to experiment and learn from experiences, cultural adaptability, persistence, and integrity.
To hire smart, conventional thinking should be broken. Some of the common antipatterns that usually occur when hiring candidates, followed by recommendations to navigate away from these antipatterns –
Antipattern #1 – Hiring based on tools instead of skills
While scanning resumes, most employers concentrate on the ‘Skills and Abilities section. Usually, this section is filled with a list of fancy industry-specific tech buzzwords – Docker, Kubernetes, AWS, and so on. Based on this list, most of the judgment is made, and a resume is selected. Most of the interviews are around knowledge/experience on tools.
While knowledge of tools should not be ignored, do we need to entirely focus on that? Let’s ponder for a moment on the difference between a skill and a tool.
This has been nicely explained here by Ion King with the example of fishing, where we see how the fishing rod is the tool, but the art of fishing is the skill that the fisherman needs to cultivate. Take away the rod, an adept fisherman can still find a way to fish.
Understand implementation details, check if the tools used correlate with the projects handled. In the interview, try to understand the problem statement, how were diverse situations handled- Why was this tool picked over others? What alternatives could have been considered? With this approach, a person’s communication and clarity of thoughts are also tested.
Antipattern #2 – Not prepared to take the interview
Preparation for the interview? But I am the interviewer. Why should I be prepared? Honestly, this antipattern can result in some costly blunders for you, your team, and subsequently for your organization. Some of the common mistakes that we end up making as a hiring manager are:
Mistake 1 – Sharing the job description with the recruiter and relaxing. While it is the recruiter’s job to find the resource, ensuring the recruiter has properly understood the requirement is often missing.
Mistake 2 – Taking interviews without a JD or not knowing the client or product requirements.
Mistake 3 – Not checking for previous panel members’ feedback, if available. These could lead to some meaningful insights and help you prepare.
Mistake 4 – Not reading the candidate’s resume and going with the traditional “tell me about yourself” approach to understanding the candidate’s skillset in the actual interview.
Shift Left – Do not relax once you pass on the JD. Talk to the recruitment team, confirm if they understood the requirements, tell them about your expectations on what to look for in a resume, how to do the screening for round 1. If you have any specific expectations, ask the recruiter to clearly set them out with the candidate, for example, ensure the candidate is prepared for a video call or prepared for coding rounds, etc.
Do not take the interview if the JD is not shared with you. Without a JD, you are shooting in the dark. Without a scale to measure, the chances of you recruiting a wrong fitment to your team are extremely high. Ask for previous panel feedback. Use it to cover areas that they have missed or double-click on areas of interest.
Read the resume. This habit will prepare you to ask insightful questions. Show the candidate that you have invested time in their resume. That goes a long way.
Antipattern #3 – Uncomfortable Interviews
Most candidates are usually under tremendous pressure, nervousness, and anxiety while facing interviews. Even candidates with genuine skills tend to break under this “pressure” as they are on the other side of the table. Quite honestly, all of us have been in this situation at some point in life.
These common mistakes tend to make the interviews uncomfortable:
Mistake 1 – Introducing yourself and, in turn, making the candidate nervous. The moment you say, “I am a developer with 10 years of experience in Java and ask a question in Java, the first thought that may come to the candidate is, “I should be careful with my answer as the interview is an expert in Java and I might blurt out a wrong answer.” This puts the candidate under unnecessary pressure. This could happen to the best of us.
Mistake 2 – Arguing over an answer and expecting the same thought process as yours. Everyone’s work exposure is different; hence the thought process will also be different.
Mistake 3 – Asking a question and expecting an answer. Showing a “no help will be given” attitude. Being extremely strict with the candidate.
Mistake 4 – Post interview, not helping the candidate with his questions or concerns, ending the call abruptly with a thank you.
If possible, introduce your skills/designation/work at the end of the call. Taking the example of Java above, if the candidate is not aware that you are an expert, he will most likely not be under pressure and will be relaxed and transparent with his thoughts. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, avoid unnecessary ego battles in the call over a question.
Do not be a strict officer. Help and guide the candidate with hints wherever possible. There is nothing wrong with using Google for syntax or help in some cases. We do it too in our day-to-day job. Look for the candidate’s ability to solve a problem rather than his memory power. Spend a few mins post the interview to answer candidates’ questions if they have any. Talk about your organization and the numerous benefits of working in this organization. This will also help them decide if they have multiple offers to consider.
Antipattern #4 – Not paying attention to the body language
The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” –Peter F. Drucker.
Interviewers tend to multi-task during an interview as they “assume” that their role is just to ask questions and evaluate answers. They miss the most important communication channel of the candidate, which is body language. Body language speaks volumes about the person in front of you. By overlooking it, one tends to miss out on the true face of the candidate. You do not have to be an expert in reading body language but start looking for some basic signs.
Always get on a video call. Never do an interview over audio-only calls. The reason is obvious; video or facetime is the only way for you to observe a candidate’s body language.
When in the video, make sure the candidate is sitting in a well-lit area with the light on his face for clear visibility. This will ensure that you can watch eye and lip expressions during the interview. Why do all this? Current trends in interview malpractice involve lip-syncing to a fake person who sits behind the laptop and answers the interviewer’s question. Such folks also tend to keep the microphone close to their mouth to ensure it covers their lips to avoid detection. So, if you see a person doing it, ask them to move the mic away from their mouth or remove the headset. Look for other signs of malpractice in body language, like constant eye movements to other areas of the room. Integrity trumps all. If you see signs of taking shortcuts, do not engage. Integrity cannot be groomed or upskilled. Skills and tools can be.
Antipattern #5 – Judging a fish by its ability to climb a tree
Let us assume the requirement for the team is “someone who can write test automation scripts (called as Scripters)”. An ideal candidate would be a person with strong testing skills and working knowledge of writing scripts in the Selenium Library. Additional skills are added advantages. However, in most interviews, the “scripter” is subjected to extreme programming, advanced core java, and data structure concepts which would be an ideal question set for a software developer in Test (SDET) who needs to build frameworks, plugins, accelerators to enable teams to test quicker in a test cycle. Why judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree?- Understand what you want, understand the candidate (preparing for the interview comes in handy here) change questions and interview style accordingly.
Antipattern #6 – Look Above and Beyond
A common antipattern for interviewers is to focus on the projects that have been delivered in the candidate’s work experience. This is important. However, life skills that complement the work culture are usually overlooked. Life skills = things that are done outside of work. By this, we tend to miss the most important aspects of the candidate, which will add value eventually.
- Give bonus points to candidates who have written blogs or attended conferences as guest speakers. These initiatives indicate the candidate’s goodwill to learn new things or share the knowledge with others. Such candidates make amazing team members and leaders. Guest speakers tend to have effective communication skills and can express ideas clearly.
- Look for the candidate’s drive to contribute back to the community. Contributions to open-source communities or volunteering for NGOs speak about the candidate’s goodwill and integrity.
- Try to understand their hobbies and things that they do beyond work. A candidate who is a part-time musician is usually skilled in picking things up quickly. Marathon runners tend to have persistence and are not likely to give up on tough assignments.
I hope you know where this is going. Things that are done beyond work can speak volumes about the person.
Antipattern #7 – Insufficient feedback
As in any form of engagement, feedback is critical to process improvements. Most technical panelists give insufficient feedback to the recruiters. Usually, feedback is given only to selected candidates, and not the rejected candidates. This leads to the recruiters having no feedback on why the candidates are being rejected, and hence they cannot take any corrective action to ensure fewer rejections.
- Follow a template for giving feedback. Work with the recruitment team and finalize a template. By agreeing to a common template, recruiters can constantly fine-tune the candidates based on earlier feedback.
- Give feedback for rejections too.
- Give detailed feedback on underrated skills like drive to learn new things, communication, good attitude, and other soft skills that add value. If there are two candidates with the same skillset and one has the drive to learn new things beyond work and is also a sportsperson (usual sportspersons have good endurance, experience to handle ups and downs), I would opt for the one who has the additional qualities.
With remote hiring over video calls being the new normal, each interview is an opportunity for the external world to understand your work culture, and the interviewer, in turn, becomes the brand ambassador for the organization. With that at stake, understanding these antipatterns and updating hiring patterns would help in keeping the candidates at ease during the interview and enable them to value the organization among others.
About Altimetrik: Altimetrik is a digital business enablement company. We deliver bite-size outcomes as organizations scale digitalization to accelerate revenue growth without disruption to existing business operations. With an end-to-end perspective, our practitioners and agile engineering teams create solutions that drive transformation and achieve business goals. With offices across the globe and over 4000 energized practitioners, Altimetrik partners with clients ranging from startups to Fortune 100 companies alike to enhance their agility, empowerment, and success. For more information, visit www.altimetrik.com
(The author Balaji Santhana Krishnan- Engineering Manager at Altimetrik and the views expressed in this article are his own)