• Accidental CISO

Hiring is hard

There is a lot of chatter on the interwebz these days about hiring. Neither the employers nor the candidates are happy. They shout back and forth at each other...


"Talent Shortage!"

"Ridiculous experience requirements!"


"High salaries!"

"Overly broad responsibilities!"


"Culture fit!"

"Inappropriate interview questions!"


"Ghosting!"

"Ghosting!"


Yes. Hiring is hard. It is also incredibly time consuming. As managers, we want to move quickly, but hiring the wrong person is expensive at best and destructive at worst. While large companies may provide training for their hiring managers, those of us in small companies and startups don't often have that luxury. I want to share a bit of what I have learned about hiring in hopes that someone, somewhere, might find it helpful.


Spoiler: Don't expect to interview candidates well, or fairly, if you simply pick up their resume and wing it every time. The strategy that I recommend requires prior planning and effort, but the quality and consistency that it will provide is worth it in the end.


First, you must know what you are hiring for and be able to succinctly articulate that to any other interviewers that will be evaluating candidates for your roles. If you can't clearly explain what you need to others, you are not ready to interview candidates. Furthermore, the job description that you are using is probably terrible because you didn't take the time to think through the role fully. The job description should not simply consist of a list of immediate pain points, but rather, should capture the long term vision for the role and how it will contribute to the teams success.


Next, determine what you need to know about a candidate's experience, skills, and aptitudes by the end of an interview session. At a high level, the things that I want to know are:


  1. What are they looking for in their next role, team, and company

  2. What are they passionate about? What gets them excited?!

  3. Do they have sufficient foundational experience and knowledge?

  4. Can they synthesize information?

  5. How do they find answers and solve problems?

  6. Can they answer the "why" questions?

  7. Do they ask good questions during the interview?

Give some real thought to the questions that you will ask to draw out the information that you need through conversation. The conversational nature is important to keep your candidates at ease. Keep in mind that nobody is at their best when they are stressed, and interviews are stressful enough without being grilled. Each interview will have a unique flow, because no two candidates are the same, but it is critical to maintain a consistent base set of questions in order to evaluate all of the candidates fairly.


Instead of quizzing your candidate with technical questions, ask more interesting questions that require them to draw on the necessary depth of knowledge and experience for the role, while also thinking critically, problem solving, and synthesizing information. If you need to dig deeper into an area where you aren't confident in their answer, ask them to elaborate or probe with "why" questions to expose the foundational knowledge. If it is clear that they don't know, move on with the interview without embarrassing them or stressing them out.


Lastly, record and evaluate feedback about every candidate consistently. One technique that works well is to create a scorecard for each role that consists of four of five things that would indicate success in the first month to year for the individual that is hired. Use this scorecard as a grading rubric every time. Each interviewer should score the candidate based on how they believe the candidate will achieve each, and why. Follow-up with each interviewer individually to prevent group think.


With a little prior planning, you can conduct high quality interviews that the candidates actually enjoy, while also collecting consistent feedback to evaluate those candidates thoroughly and fairly.


What do you think? Was this helpful? Am I off track? Click "follow" button at the top right corner of the page to follow me on twitter and start a conversation!

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