Interview with Purpose
You’ve been on the hunt for the right candidate to fill your technical staffing gap. If you’re smart, you’ve leveraged the connections and know-how of a local IT staffing agency. By doing so, you’ve saved a ton of time and frustration sorting through resumes and whittling down candidates. Great job! Now, it’s time to bring in the top candidates for the interview phase.
IT staffing agencies are fantastic at bringing you the best technical candidates so you can stay focused on your core business, but what about the interviews? Those agencies can definitely give you some tips, but your interviews are your interviews and you want to do this part right.
While interviews are perhaps the best way to really get to know your candidates so you can make informed hiring decisions, Monster.com says most interviewers are “unarmed with the appropriate interview questions” and “unable to follow-up on candidate responses.” If that doesn’t boost your confidence, maybe the fact that Human Capital Institute found 60 percent of job seekers report a negative candidate experience with the employers they engage and 72 percent of them share this experience online. Sobering, huh?
Your interviews need to be informative and comprehensive, for sure, but they also need to leave the candidates with a good vibe about your company. You don’t want them leaving your office armed with details of their negative experience. Make your candidates feel comfortable and valued by setting the stage and asking the right questions.
Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Interviews
Interviews take planning. You have to know the questions you want to ask and how you’ll follow up to their responses. Before you work on those, however, you want to think about the entire interview experience from your candidate’s perspective.
Start from the beginning and think about what you would want in an interview experience if the tables were turned. Your candidates are likely nervous and want to put their best foot forward. Give them plenty of love before the interview to boost their confidence, such as providing clear directions to your office, an agenda several days before the interview, and a warm greeting by everyone with whom they come into contact once they step onto your campus.
If they are to meet with anyone besides you, make sure you have those people lined up and ready to do their part at a specific time. You want the candidate to see your company runs like a well-oiled machine and values their time. Anyone who will be interviewing the candidates, taking them on a tour, or introducing themselves needs to be just as prepared as you are. Confirm you are all on the same page and know what to ask or say. If the candidate will be there for a while, plan a casual lunch where everyone can be themselves outside of the stressful interview process.
Next comes planning the questions. The interview is not the time to speak off the cuff. Sure, you want the interview to be relaxed and somewhat conversational, but you’re there to get the information you need to make a qualified decision about whether this candidate would be a good fit in your organization.
Prepare the questions you must ask in advance, followed by the questions you’d like to ask if time permits, then follow-up questions you anticipate having based on their responses. Read through these questions before every interview and have them in front of you during the interview in case you need a reminder.
The Key Questions to Ask Technical Staffing Candidates
Your organization is unique, therefore, your questions will vary from your competitor. Here are some suggestions on technical interview questions that will get your candidate talking and give you the data you need to make a confident decision.
According to Indeed, the best way to assess a candidate for both skill fit and culture fit is to focus your questions on the technical staffing role they’re interviewing for and general questions that allow them to show their personality. New York Times goes a bit further to say the best interviews are creative, challenging and allow your employees to help, such as by giving them a tour, having lunch with them, or simply coming in to introduce themselves and welcome them to your company
Here are a few questions that will give you excellent insight into your candidate and whether or not they’d be a good fit:
Enough about Me, What about You?
Technical staffing candidates should come to the interview as or more prepared as you. Don’t waste their time going over what your company does or its mission. They should already know this. Ask them this one simple question: “Why do you want to work here?”
They should be able to point to not only the technical skills they bring to the table, but how they can help drive the mission and strategy of the company forward. You’ll be able to determine rather quickly if they did their homework and truly want to work for your company, not just get another job.
Are You A Failure or A Learner?
We all fail. What matters is what is learned from that failure. Instead of asking about their greatest weakness (which inevitably results in something useless like “I work too hard”), ask them: “Describe an instance where you failed to achieve an intended goal at a previous job and the lessons you learned from it.”
By asking this open-ended question, you are inviting them to tell a story. Their story. They have the opportunity here to detail what the goal was, how they executed on that goal, what went wrong and why, and how they improved because of it. If they don’t provide all of this information, ask them specifically. You should get a good idea as to their work ethic, openness for learning, whether they work better on a team or solo, and how they approach problem solving.
What Have You Done for Me Lately?
Their resume will tell you the basics, but the interview is where you can learn the details. When it comes to technical staffing, you need to know the types of projects they’ve worked on, precisely what they’re responsibilities were and the technologies they used. They can easily say they’ve worked on a certain technology application, but unless you ask, you won’t know to what extent. Ask: “Tell me about a recent project you’ve worked on, the technology used and the value of your contributions.”
You may need to follow up with questions to get them to go deeper, questions like “What exactly did you do?” or “What was your specific role in this project?” Your mission is to understand their technical skills, project management skills and execution skills, as well as whether their current technical experience is of value to you.
What’s Your Superpower?
Asking a technical candidate about their strengths can take the conversation into a predictable zone. Interviews are all about discovery. Avoid questions that may result in canned answers that don’t offer much insight into your candidate. Simply by changing how the question is asked can move the answer from rote to interesting. Instead of asking what their biggest strength is, ask: “If everybody is in the top 5 percent of the world at some skill, what is yours?”
Here, you are getting to where they believe they will bring the most value to your company as much as you are learning about their technical capabilities. Be prepared if they answer the question with a non-technical skill, such as “I’m a team player.” While that’s great to know, if you’re hiring for a technical staffing position, you may want to follow up with “How about technically?”
What Do You Get Out of It?
Only 12 percent of candidates say salary is their primary factor in their job choice. Most want a whole lot more and much of it is less tangible. To better understand your candidate’s motives and what will minimize the risk of attrition, ask them: “What do you value most as an employee?”
This insightful question gives the candidate the opportunity to talk about what matters most to them in their job and even their life. They may say they need the opportunity to develop their skills, flexible time to spend with their family or a company culture that values every employee. You can follow up by asking if they are leaving or have left their previous employer because these needs were not being met. Now, they reveal the true importance of their response. You can determine if your company can deliver and if their desires align with the values of your company.
What gets you excited?
Your technical staffing interview questions need to get to the heart of the job requirements. The resume may list all of the technology they’ve worked on, but it won’t tell you if they’re passionate about it. Ask: “What would be the dream and nightmare technology stack you could work with and why?”
The point of this question is to not only understand the depth of their technical knowledge across various technology products but to also identify which technologies get them excited. You can determine whether your company can feed their passion or if they will get frustrated with your technology stack. You want to empower your employees to do their best work. If they aren’t comfortable with your hardware, software, operating system or project methodology, you may want to move to the next candidate.
These are just a handful of questions that will give you much more data than what you can read from a resume. There are plenty of others that still need to be asked, but these give you a good starting point to get to the things that may help differentiate candidates.
By starting the interview process days before the actual meeting, setting the stage to promote a comfortable interaction, and asking the revealing questions, you can provide a positive interview experience for both you and the candidate. Don’t be afraid to ask follow-up questions if you find the responses are veering off track. You only have a short amount of time to get the information you need and the interview should be thorough yet focused. In the end, you’ll land on the candidate best for your technical staffing position.