Using the Interview to Find the Right Executive Talent in Technology

The ultimate goal of the interview is to aid you in choosing the right candidate. This can be a tough job. When you are figuring out how to hire tech talent, you may come to realize that the traditional interview format is flawed when it comes to tech talent recruiting, but there are quite a few ways to improve and streamline the process.

Where Interviews Go Wrong

According to LinkedIn’s Global Recruiting Trends 2018 report – a survey of over 9,000 recruiters and hiring managers – traditional interviews are particularly bad at assessing soft skills and weaknesses, they are prone to interviewer biases, the process takes too long, and interviewers often don’t know the right questions to ask.

What are the Wrong Questions to ask During Interviews?

Expected Interview Questions that Lead to Canned Responses

You want to try to avoid the standard interview questions like, “Tell me about yourself, What is your greatest strength/weakness?” They may not necessarily be the wrong questions, but they might not get you answers that will help assess whether or not you are choosing the right candidate.

The questions are predictable, we’ve all heard them before, and therefore you will end up getting answers that are rehearsed. Answers that are given with the intention of impressing you may be more of what the candidate thinks you want to hear than a reflection of the candidate’s personality.

Everyone knows how to make their biggest weakness sound like a benefit to the interviewer, “Oh, my biggest weakness? I don’t know, I think, I care too much… you know? Like, I won’t stop until everything is perfect”. And it may not even be true.

Hypothetical Interview Questions

Another poor question type is hypothetical questions such as: How would you handle a poor performing employee? How would you handle it if the priorities for a project you were working on were suddenly changed?

Why are these are weak questions? Your hypothetical self is different from your real life self.   For example, handling a poor performing employee. You will likely get a response like – well, I believe it’s important to provide timely and honest feedback and working with the employee to come up with solutions together. In real life, however, this may or may not be how the manager has handled the situation.

Another great example to explain this is the bystander effect. Most people believe that if they witnessed an emergency situation happening in front of them, they would definitely take some sort of action. However, if you look-up social psychologist have studied this and this is not how humans actually behave! We don’t always walk the talk.

Leading Behavioral Based Interview Questions:

Leading behavioral based interview questions are also a very poor way to measure a candidate. The idea behind behavioral based interview questions is that past behavior is a good predictor of future.

For example, tell me about a time when you successfully dealt with a customer complaint? Tell me about a time when you had to juggle competing priorities and how you managed this?

These are both examples of leading behavioral based interview questions. What about all the times they handled customer complaints poorly? Or, when they weren’t able to manage competing priorities? Your questions are asking them to provide a success story.

Behavioral based interview questions are not all bad. But, when they are leading they don’t really provide you with an accurate picture.

Effective Tech Talent Interview Questions

Through our years of experience we have found alternative ways to get to the heart of the candidate you are interviewing.

Ask for Work Product

With Tech positions you need to know their technical skills. The absolute best way to assess candidate skills is the direct way. Ask for work product.

Ask candidates to show you examples of their work – programmers to show you code or give them code to fix, copy writers to show you copy, designers to show you designs.

Then go deep by asking as many questions as you can about the work to be sure you get an understanding on how they approach their work. How large was the team they worked with? Who did they report to? What deadlines were set? Did they meet them? What were some of the challenges along the way? What aspects of the work did they enjoy most? What do they enjoy the least? Why?

For positions that don’t lend themselves well to a portfolio with examples, design real world questions. For a sales role, ask the salesperson to sell you their current services or products.

They may not be up to speed on what you do specifically or how you would benefit from what they are selling but, you can get a sense of their style/knowledge from most recent place of employment.

Set Up A Job Audition

If you like what you’re seeing in the first interview, ask them to complete a real world mini- project. Maybe it’s a project they can do over a couple of week-ends, i.e. develop a mini-app or write a blog post. Or have them come in and work in your office for a day

Nothing like seeing the candidate in action with the rest of your team to determine if they will be able to handle the responsibilities of the job and jive with the rest of the staff. By putting the candidate right into the mix you might find that someone who came off a bit awkward in the interview, is actually a great socializer and works well with the team.

It also gives the candidate an idea of what they are signing up for, which will help retain candidates who won’t show up for their first day to find they’re completely in over their head, or they realize they are just not that into the job.

It’s appropriate to pay the candidate for their time in the office or the project assignment. But it’s a much smaller investment than a bad hire.

What are the Right Questions to Ask for Soft Skills?

You’re not trying to set candidates up for a pop quiz, but you do want to ask questions that will reveal insights into their personality. The odds are if they have come this far in the process that their hard skills are on point. Now you want to delve into their instincts, soft skills, ability to think on their feet and handle unexpected situations.

Here are a few of our favorite questions to help determine attitude and general fit:

  1. Could you tell us about your most significant accomplishment in your career to date?

    This is a great question because you are asking the candidate to share a positive experience honestly and you can deep dive with many follow-up questions to help you better understand the technical skills they used and how they did it.
    Also, it’s interesting to see what the candidate considers a significant accomplishment? Did they talk about showing up to work every day on time or, a creative idea that they implemented that saved the company money?

  2. Could you please tell me about a time you set a goal but failed to achieve it?

    This helps you understand a person’s belief system and what factors a person attributes to his or her success or failure. What you’re looking for someone who takes accountability for actions and results.

In psychology it’s called locus of control and there are 2 types: External and internal Locus of control.  “Internals will say things like, I could have done a better job planning this effort, it was up to me and I let the team down. It was an important lesson that I’ve never forgotten, I should have realized that my decision was not the best etc.

The externals say things like, “It’s too hard to succeed these days.” or “The competition in this industry was killing me, it wasn’t really my fault the CEO was too aggressive with her targets.”

The Internals believe it was essentially up to them to succeed. The External believe that luck, fate or things outside of their control determined their success not the quality of their efforts.

Who do you want on your team?

  1. Could you tell me about a time you disagreed with your manager?

    This is another way to look at attitude  – a person’s disposition toward work. If they complain or say boss was a total jerk – red flag. If they say, my manager had a different learning style but, I saw it as a learning opportunity – this is good. Learning how they approach that answer is valuable insight.

Consider These Additional Tips to Improve Your Interview Process

Use Tech Tools

To mitigate factors like interviewer bias, candidate nerves, and save time (which saves money) you can use high-tech tools that draw on neuroscience to assess a candidate’s soft skills like teamwork, determination, and flexibility.

Using 20 minute surveys and mini-games, these technologies can get you very individualized information about many candidates in a short amount of time.

Meet in a Relaxed Environment

The formal environment of interviews past are being ditched in favor of more casual, low-key interview experiences. Meeting in a coffee shop, or having lunch or dinner with a candidate is a popular trend as companies realize the value of getting to know the interviewee in the real world. The initial  meeting can be just a quick 20-minute coffee. Just make sure it’s somewhere where you can listen to the responses – not too loud.

The more casual environment puts everyone at ease allowing the candidate to express themselves more naturally, and show off more of their personality. It also gives a great impression of your company culture.

Improving your interview process will undoubtedly improve your new hires and ultimately help you build the winning team to move your initiatives forward. Ensure you have the right IT candidates coming in for the interview. Our IT recruiting process at Poly Tech Talent will ensure you do. Connect with us to talk about your team’s needs and how we can help you build your winning team.

Ready to make an offer?  Read about 3 Steps You Should Take Before Making an Offer

For more helpful articles on tackling the tech talent gap visit our Ultimate Guide to Hiring Executive Tech Talent.