by Leon Rosenshein


Part of the return to normalcy, whatever that means in 2020, is a return to hiring. Open positions are starting to show up, recruiting is ramping up, and interview requests are starting to show up in our calendars. Making good hires is one of the most important things we can do for the long-term health and success of our teams and the overall organization. Not making bad hires is even more important.

I've been at Uber over 5 years now and I've been a Bar Raiser for about half that. Back at Microsoft I was an "As Appropriate" interviewer, which is roughly the same thing. Between college campus, phone screens, and on-site interviews I've done over 2000 interviews in my career. All of which is to say I've got some experience doing it.

While I had done interviews before Microsoft, it was at Microsoft that I spent enough time interviewing and hiring that I learned and formalized the framework I still use today. One of the things I learned is that interview prep is just as important for the interviewer as it is for the person being interviewed. And it starts with the hiring manager (HM).

The HM needs to work with the recruiter to define the role and the requirements to make sure the right candidates are brought in, and often needs to help with the sourcing and filtering. After all, no one knows the requirements better than the HM. And once candidates have been identified the HM is responsible for interview loops. Not the actual scheduling, but making sure that they run smoothly, all of the areas are covered, and that the candidate has a positive experience, regardless of the outcome. The HM not only provides the scheduler with a pool of interviewers, but once the loop is set, makes sure that each person knows what area they're supposed to cover, both technically and culturally.

That's when the interviewers get involved. When you know what you're going to cover you can start your preparation. Good questions are critical, and making sure you don't duplicate things on a given loop is important. What makes a question good is depth. Not complexity, although that's sometimes a part, but layers. You want to be able to go one level deeper into the problem. You're looking to understand the candidate's reasoning. Asking why a choice was made, probing deeper into how choices are made, because that reasoning is at least as important as the choice. Maybe there's something you didn't think of or maybe something the candidate didn't think of. When you provide some new information/constraint, how does the candidate incorporate that into the decision? As an interviewer you need to have thought about this before the interview and be ready when the time comes.

After the interview is the scorecard and the debrief. Here the most important part is your decision. And I mean decision. Don't be on the fence. If it's not absolutely yes, then it's no. Make sure you write down the objective "why" behind your choice. At the debrief you're expected to say what your choice was and why. You don't need to do a play-by-play recap of your interview. Just what your area(s) was, how the candidate did, your reasons, and any potential red flags. Then listen to the other interviewers. If you have questions, ask them. Think about trends and consistency across interviews. It's ok to change your mind. The BR should ask at the end, but if not bring it up.

So as we (re)start the interview process, remember how important it is. As a BR, and previously as an HM, one of my goals was to make sure we didn't make the wrong hire. I'd much rather have an open req a couple of months longer than have the wrong person in the seat for years.

Finally, besides looking at what I. M. Wright has to say about interviewing, look around at the other Hard Code entries. I talked to Eric a few times when I was at Microsoft and almost worked for him once. He's got a lot of interesting things to say.