“When I hire someone, that’s when I go to work for them.” — John DiJulius
I have interviewed hundreds of developers over the last twenty years and it’s either fascinating and exciting and a ton of fun OR it’s the dregs and you wish it was over a minute into it. I have roughly an hour to determine your depth, breadth, character and skills.
That’s no easy task so here are ten things I hope for:
Get my attention: This is your time. I don’t want to be bored. Dig right in. Let’s do some work. Show me how we’d engage if you were on my team. Chit chat is fine. For about 30 seconds. Now I want to know that you’ll take the floor and show some thought leadership.
Don’t try to impress me with jargon: I’m not really impressed with acronyms and jargon and so-called impressive sounding system names and technologies. I’d be much more excited if you did the opposite: take a complex system, break it down for me and tell me in minutes how it functions and the role you played in implementing it.
Make it simple: You’ll be working with a variety of people, both technical and non-technical. Can you make a complex technical system understandable? Will people be intimidated by your technical prowess and be afraid to look stupid and engage you with questions? Or are you inviting and encouraging, making sure that all variety of people enjoy seeking you out because you make them feel valued and supported?
Tell me what you’re all about: What is your passion, what’s the theme I can recognize that you’ll bring to the table on my team. Are you a systems guy? Can you take anything apart and put it back together? Are languages your thing? Are you über passionate about the difference between static and dynamic typing, between functional and OO languages? Are you super-excited about HTML5 and can explain why it will change the world?
Make me trust you: If you’re going to be on my team, I’m going to have to trust you to represent me (and my boss, and his boss). Can I do that? Can you tell me of a time where you came through for your team because you were the trustworthy one? If I promote you to a position of leadership, will people follow you? Do you know how to be hard to soft people and soft to hard people?
Tell me where you’re going: Although I’m curious about where you’ve been, of much greater interest to me is where you’re going. Hook me on your vision. Clearly you’re ambitious (right?). Show me that your ambitions will be something our team can rally around and prosper from. Do you have a vision for where Big Data and High Performance Computing will converge to change the world? Bring me into that vision. Excite me. Turn the tables on me. Instead of you trying to hook me into hiring you, make me scared to let you out of the room before I give you an offer.
Look like you belong: We’re a consulting company. It’s not about jeans and t-shirts and stacks of Mountain Dew cans. We speak very often directly with the CTOs of Fortune 500 companies. Will I be eager to bring you to a client site? Do you have the social maturity to represent my team well? Show me that you have the depth to do more than just crank out code. Let me see in my mind’s eye how you’ll be engaging with clients or other teams in the company.
I want to hire YOU: I don’t want to see the Wizard. I want to get to know the person behind the curtain. So let’s get real. Don’t try to convince me you’re someone you’re not. Don’t embellish all the great things that you did if in fact you really didn’t. That’s not who I want to hire. If I hire you, I want to hire YOU. Our relationship has to start off with integrity. I’m not going to embellish the position I’m hiring for. Equivalently, I want to know exactly what you’re all about.
Have fun: I want thoughtful people on my team. But not dull people. Show up with confidence and engage me. Show me that your teammates will enjoy working with you and that clients will genuinely like paying for your time. If you stumble or lose your train of thought, crack a joke. I care far more about you as a person than you being perfect.
Know when to listen: All of the above are action items. Almost the most important of all though is, can you listen? Will you take direction? During our time together, I love it if you take the floor and show me something. I want to not want the time to end. I want to leave our time excited to get you on board because you did all of the above. But key to that is, did you take the time to listen as well?