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Software Engineer Interviewing: Remember the candidate experience
May 24, 2018

Your interview process often serves as the candidate’s first and only impression of your company before making a huge life choice. Every interaction with the candidate, even the small ones, shapes this impression. Treat every interaction as an opportunity to show the candidate why they should work for your company. Here’s a few ways to make sure the candidate walks out of the experience feeling high and likely to tell all their software buddies about how excited they are to work for your company.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time interviewing and being interviewed. This article is part of a series on conducting fair, repeatable, and high signal job interviews for software engineers. While the content is geared particularly for interviewing software engineers as individual contributors, much of the content could be applicable to any interview process.

  • Outline the entire interview process for the candidate upfront. This can be laid out on the website, via email after the candidate applies, and re-enforced after the first contact.

  • Move the candidate through the process as fast as the candidate can go. The company should rarely be the bottleneck. In normal scheduling circumstances, the process from application to offer should be less than 10 working days.

  • After every interaction, always be crystal clear on next steps and when the candidate should next hear from the company. Do not miss any of these follow-ups.

  • Every interaction, such as a phone call or on-site interview slot, should include at least 2 genuine reasons the interviewer likes working for the company. Even better if the reasons incorporate the candidate’s interests fished out during the other steps of the interview process. Again, be genuine.

  • Send the candidate many examples of your culture and work before they talk to
    anybody. This includes articles featuring your company, talks from the CEO, talks from engineers, your career path, exciting roadmap items, or blog posts about recent releases.

  • If you are particularly jazzed about a candidate, give the candidate an opportunity to meet a couple members of the team in a casual setting before any formal interviewing takes place.

  • Make the candidate feel as comfortable and welcome as possible while on-site. Start the on-site with a casual coffee or tour of the office with the hiring manager. Take the candidate for a lunch which is truly a lunch and not a secret interview. Start each interview slot with a bit of casual banter and ask if they would like anything to drink to eat.

  • The first interview slot of an on-site should be a demo of your product by somebody really good with the product. Give the candidate an opportunity to ask questions about the product and business.

  • Provide multiple opportunities to make the potential role and day to day clear to the candidate. Show the candidate what their first month might look like and the projects they might own. Walk through the team’s roadmap for the next 6 months. Pair program to introduce hands on some of the current problems. Walk through how code goes from laptop to production. Show off the tools and process which make the company stand out.

  • Give ample time for the candidate to interact and even grill their probable manager. This is the person which will have a significant role in the candidate’s professional life and arguably their most important relationship while at the company.

  • Look and be organized during the on-site. Have somebody ready to greet the candidiate wehn they arrive. Have rooms booked. Have interviews run on-time. Have the interviewers know their role and who they are interviewing. Don’t ask the same questions repeatedly. If you can’t even run an interview day in an organized fashion, there is no way I’m trusting you to run a software engineering operation.

  • Never make the candidate feel dumb. Ever. Even if they are completely botching an interview slot. You can realize the candidate is not a fit and still have both sides feel positive about the interaction.

  • Ask for feedback from the candidate after the experience is over. Incorporate the feedback!

An interview is just as much a candidate evaluating the company as vice versa. Give your company a better shot at closing good candidates by remembering the candidate experience.


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