Interviewing Antipatterns

03. April 2017 1
Interviewing Antipatterns

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that how a company conducts its interviews has a big impact on its growth and success. Quality people make a quality company! When vetting our future employees, we want people who share a common passion and live our values and culture.

Many interviews follow standard templates of questions and lack real engagement with the candidate. Going through the list of questions, interviewers will evaluate a score for the candidate. Based on the score cutoff, the candidate is either in or out.  We recommend taking a more holistic approach. What might that be, you ask? To start, it’s easier said than done, but it’s way more effective.

Here are a few suggestions my InRhythm Mentor gave me to help me distinguish a good candidate from a great one and get the most out of my interview:

  1. Every question should serve a purpose.
  2. If the candidate doesn’t answer a particular question, does it make the candidate a bad engineer? If not, avoid the question.
  3. Give problems to solve, not ‘gotchya’ puzzles.
  4. Ask questions that have no right or wrong answers. These make some of the most interesting conversations, while honing in on their knowledge and skill sets.

Beyond these tips and based on my experience, a good interview experience has a huge bearing on whether a candidate accepts the offer or not. With this in mind, here are a few guidelines on what not to ask:

How not to interview!

Some not-so-great questions would be:

Question 1: Implement red black tree.

Question 2: Explain Java memory model.

Question 3: Explain a few design patterns.

These are great theory questions, but they may not always be suitable in an interview. For example, if the candidate doesn’t answer the first question or has trouble with the answer, does it make him or her a bad engineer? The second question is very theoretical in nature with limited practical use. Since many candidates prepare for this question, does it really serve a purpose?

Rather, this is how you should be interviewing!

Question 3 is better asked when masqueraded as a real life problem. Instead of “Explain a few design patterns,” one should ask the candidate to “Design a shopping website like Amazon.com.” This is a great interview question because:

  • It reveals the engineer’s thought process in breaking down complex problems into simpler ones and attacking them.
  • The depth the candidate goes into designing it can assure us of how good (or how senior) an engineer she/he is.
  • It’s a real world problem, not a puzzle.
  • Since this can be solved multiple ways, there’s no right or wrong answers. This makes for a very interesting conversation.
  • The way the discussion goes helps you identify if the candidate is: good at communication, would be a good cultural fit, is adept at recognizing alternate viewpoints, and is easy to get along with.
  • Most importantly, this gives the candidate a positive impression that the company does not believe in a typical textbook style interview process. Rather, they conduct a more thought provoking and problem solving  style interview.

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