Interviews

Updated: Jul 12, 2020 at 10:43pm
Created: Jul 11, 2020 at 11:07pm

Interviewing candidates

  • Statistically, there are only 2 things that have meaningful correlation you can do during the interviews to predict the job performance.
    1. Structured interviews
    2. On the job testing / project
  • Typically, it's very hard to do a job test / project together, unless your company's culture / employer brand enables it. It has a chance of losing many candidates, but you'll also be able to attract the right ones. Initially it'll be a lot more difficult, unless you have a strong desirable employer brand.
  • Must have structured interviews. Create sample questions / pool to assess the things you'd like to see in the candidate repeatedly. Random questions don't help with the success rate.
  • Strong references from the high performers and people you trust can yield better results, but not always. People you know may not be the best candidates. But a strong referral from people who understands team building well and have worked with the candidate for > 1 year, might increase the odds. But again, do the values interview to observe core values alignment.S
  • Interview for job-fits as well as values-alignment. Some companies choose to do them separately, some companies do them jointly. See what works for your company.
  • Make sure if someone is really not aligned to your core values, regardless of job/skill-fit, you should not hire them. It's intractable to change someone's values vs learning a new tool.
  • Write a hiring packet, so matter how simple.
  • Make sure to take good notes, so that it can be recalled in detail after 6 months, if something doesn't work out.
  • Learn from the wins and mistakes to better calibrate. Reflect on the hiring packet when something goes wildly off (good or bad) and see where you could've calibrated earlier.

Reference checks

It's critical to do reference checks for key roles that have a lot of influence in the company. For executive roles are an absolute must and senior roles and managerial roles can be really critical in your growth stage. Don't cut corners and do your work.

  • Make sure to do back channeling as well as asking for formal references. Ideally someone that person reported to, worked with as peers, and if the person worked as a managerial capacity, people that reported to the person.
  • Also spread out the references across multiple companies. But probably not too far into the past, and cap it at < 7 years. But if the person worked at a single company for a long time, it's okay to ask from a single company.
  • It's very important to keep the confidentiality high, and for executive recruiting, while everyone 'knows' that backchanneling happens all the time, make sure to be very aware & respectful of the candidate's current position, if the person is still working within a company.

Sample reference questions

Here's a sample list of reference check questions. The list is more suitable for most employees than executive members.

  1. How long have you known or worked with PERSON and what were your job relationship with her?
  2. What was her position and can you describe the roles & responsibilities?
  3. Why did she leave the company? Why didn't she choose to advance her career at your company?
  4. Did she miss getting things done or delivering on schedule? Were there any issue you are aware of that impacted her job performance or evaluation?
  5. What was she like when working with the management and colleagues? (getting along, communication, team-play, etc.)
  6. How did she handle conflict, pressure, stress at work?
  7. (if you evaluated his job performance), can you explain about her strengths and room for improvements?
  8. Let's imagine you were her mentor for a moment. What advice would you give to this person to work on?
  9. What was her biggest achievement while working for your company?
  10. If you were to list all the smartest people that you’ve met, where does she stand from scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the best colleague you've worked with)?
  11. How much are you willing to work with her if the opportunity arose in the future?
  12. Is there anything that I haven't asked that you would like to share with me?
  13. (For early stage companies) How strong do you recommend her as a member of a startup? (very strong, strong, a-okay, won't comment)

Reference check investors

  • Ask the investor for 3-5 founders they've worked with for more than a year (roughly 4 board meetings). Must include a company that went through a tough time (bad performance/missing quarters, a flat/down round, management changes, etc.) as most investors can be really nice if your company is doing well. :)
  • Also, do your back channeling with founders that you trust. Remember, good investors will be doing your backchanneling as well.
  • No matter how urgent/desparate you might be, run your process, as good investors understand this well and will respect you even more for having a high process hygiene.
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