As part of my time with startups at AWS Office/Mentor sessions, I’m often asked to give a presentation on some interviewing and recruiting tips for startups. The advice is actually pretty germane to all recruiting. This presentation can be found here (having issues getting the embed to work directly on my blog…), and the video of an older (and worse) version of this preso can be found here.
End of day, recruiting for me is about a few things:
- Know what you’re recruiting for. Of course, you need to know what specific skills you want for the role. But more important, you need to know the culture you want for your team, and the types of people you want. Then you have to set the bar for greatness and be 100% sure you nail your must-haves, and that the candidate raises the bar on at least a few dimensions.
- Know what you’re going to ask the candidates. You should have prepared before the interview, and have your questions planned (and you should have used your questions with candidates previously, so that you know what a great answer looks like)
- Use a behavioral interviewing technique. Once you know what you’re looking for, ask repeatedly for them to give you examples from their past where they demonstrated those characteristics. Dig into their answers. Tell them what their role was on the team. How did they know they achieved the goal, or failed. What did they do change based on what they learned, and what was the person’s specific ownership/deliver element with that?
- Take a lot of notes during the interview. What did you ask? How did they answer? Develop shorthand for flagging the good and bad, so you can distill it later, and/or ask follow-on questions.
- Develop a firm opinion. Are they a strong hire? A Hire? A No Hire? Or, a dreaded Strong No Hire? Be ready to explain to the other interviewers why you said so, and be able to explain the questions you asked, and where they fell short. This is where your notes are critical.
There are a few other tips/tricks in there:
- Some questions I almost always ask at beginning/end of interviews, and why, such as “What did you do to prepare for this interview?”, “What 3 changes do you think we need to make to our product, to blow away our customers”, and “What 3 adjectives would your past co-workers/managers use to describe you?”
- How to structure interview loops, and why I recommend interviewing many candidates at once, if possible – it makes it so much easier to spot passion and preparedness when you interview several candidates on the same day, or in succession.
- How to prepare all of the interviewers (everyone should have assigned characteristics to interview for; everyone should agree that they will independently determine a hire/no-hire vote with detail supporting it; debrief within 24 hours)
- Why spending more than 2 minutes on a resume walk-thru is lazy/pointless, and a way to get quick overview, but force them to tell you the story of why it makes sense that your role is perfect for them (and you)
- What to look for with refererences (evidences of ‘greatness’; dig on anything where they aren’t raving about a candidate; everyone has dev areas)
I mentioned it on the final slide of the presentation, but it benefited greatly from contributions from Neil Roseman and Mark Suster (noticing a trend here?) — and another awesome post from Brett Hurt (founder at both BazaarVoice and CoreMetrics).