On Hiring Techies – The Team Interview

This is a part of a series on Hiring Techies.

The Team Interview

Who is involved in your interview process? Do a few managers speak to a candidate and then decide whether or not to hire them? There are few things more disruptive than having someone dropped into your team. If the day a new hire comes on board is the first day they meet their team then there is something wrong – not only in your interviewing process but I’d bet that there are probably major trust issues at the organizational level.

I probably spend nearly as much time with my teammates as I do my wife. If I’m spending that much of my life around someone then I need to know that we are (professionally) compatible. It’s not fair to the candidate or the rest of the team if they don’t have a chance to interview each other. I try to give as many people on the team as possible a chance to meet the candidate. After all, the folks on the team are much more qualified to decide who is right for the team than a few distant managers.

This advice goes for hiring individual contributors as well as managers. If your organization is looking externally for to fill a leadership role it’s extremely important for the people who will be reporting to that person to have a chance to interview them. Not only does this help evaluate the candidate from multiple points of view, but it will also establish a rapport early on.

The team must be completely bought in to the decision of who is hired into their team. Assigning a new person to a team can lead to distrust and skepticism. A healthy team knows what they need and will welcome the chance to be involved in the process. And believe me, the candidate will also appreciate being able to meet with as many potential future coworkers as possible.

These interviews can be conducted as a series of 1-on-1 discussions or as a larger group discussion. I’d limit this to at most 3 people at the same time, though. Panel interviews are intense for the candidate. They can also be challenging for the interviewers because inevitably someone will be more outspoken. If you do run a panel interview, practice first. Know who will be asking which questions and make sure that each interviewer has enough time to get through their most important questions. And always account for buffer time needed for the candidate to ask questions.

Once all interviews are complete the decision on who to hire has to be unanimous. If even one person does not agree on the hire then have a team discussion about the concerns. If consensus cannot be reached, pass on the candidate. Again, this shouldn’t be due to some missing technical skill – those can be taught. Find the right person, then worry about getting the right skills in place.

My teams may have missed out on some great people with this approach, but I’m confident that it was the right decision for the team. It is a risk, for sure, but the effect of a bad hire far outweighs it.

2 comments:

  1. Finding a good method for interviewing potential hires is really tough. You need to ask everyone similar questions, but you also don’t want to have cookie cutter questions that tell you nothing about the candidate. Group interviews might be a good solution to that. Great article Nick!

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