Interview kanban: Prioritized discussing topics.

A few days ago my twitter friend Jason Gorman tweeted :

It made me think about the interviewing process. One of the stories I heard growing up, is that my father did not like to do job interviews. As a result he only worked at a few places.
So when I started to work, I told myself: I want to like job interviews and I want the interview to show who I am. As a results I accepted all interviews I could, yes even after I had already received a job offer. 
The first interview I did after I already had my first job, I realized: hey it’s not just about them liking me, it’s a two way street, I can also look for the best companies to work for. That interview gave me a big ego boost.
I did take the job at the first company and I’m happy I did. yet at the same time I kept doing interviews, not because I did not like this job, I did the interviews because I wanted to learn how to become good at interviewing. I can advise everyone to do interviews when you don’t need a job. For me it gave me freedom to practise. Once I was happy with my interview skills I stopped doing this. Yet there is also  the tweet from Charity Majors

I think this is great advice.

In the +20 years that passed since my first interview, I have read a lot about interviewing and even created a community book about interviewing.

There is also another technique I have used that I did not add yet to the book:

Prioritized discussing topics. 

Before the interview starts, I add a lot of topics on post it’s and I add them to the wall of the interview room. The topics are topics related to the job we offer, and picked from the candidates CV. Then I add a few of my favorite-topics-of-the-day on it.

When the candidate comes in, I asked her to pick a 2-4 topics she wants to discuss. And ask her if she wants to add 1 to 3 extra.. (With a maximum total of 5). Then I ask the candidate to put them in order of priority to discuss.  

What I have noticed when I do interviews like this, is that it changes the dynamic totally. It really puts the candidate in the driver seat. And by doing that, I have the feeling I know much more about the candidate. 

One candidate had 5 years experience in Node.Js, yet did not even select to talk about that.
We were looking for someone a senior Node.JS person who could coach the team. So I ask the candidate why she did not select NodeJS? 

Why? Oh, my CV proves I know it and really I want to move on, I leave my current job because I’m tired of being the only Node.JS developer on the team.

This candidate continued talking about why she want to coach a  team: she had no desire to be the senior that would keep the code for herself. We hired her and indeed she was the right fit. 

It’s also interesting to how a candidate chooses topics.
And discuss that process at meta level.

  • It is hard to make these choices?
  • What does this say about you?

I like these meta discussions, because they are about a concrete case. And no theoretical situation. Having a less typical interview technique, also allow us to talk about the interview as a process. Usually this puts candidates at ease.