Re: Interviewing potential coworkers

Subject: Re: Interviewing potential coworkers
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- progeny -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 14 Mar 2001 13:27:00 -0800

"Ehr, Meg" wrote:

> I am not the hiring manager, but the boss says she will
> want me to talk to candidates to help determine fit, etc. The final decision
> will be hers, though, not mine.
> That said, does anyone have any questions/techniques/criteria that might
> help me determine what someone would (could...) be like to work with?

Your manager says that your job is to determine "fit." That means
that your role isn't to determine candidates' skills, but to help
decide whether they can be part of your immediate team.

In many ways, this isn't something that you can ask questions about.
Despite what the advocates of various hiring processes claim, any
process for interviewing is only marginally better than chance at
picking suitable candidates. For this reason, I suggest considering
any questions you ask as a means for engaging the candidates in
conversation. In other words, what matters isn't the answers so much
as the person revealed by them.

A good way to begin is by making a summary of how work is done in
your department. Then, try to develop questions that will get the
candidate talking about their approaches to work, and see how the
two compare. Or, if you're good at drawing people out, simply
develop a list of topics to raise about workflow, and make sure that
you discuss all the topics while talking to each candidate.

Your goal is to see if you can work with the candidates. You don't
have to see the possibility of a great friendship, but do you think
that you could rely on them? Trust them? Interact with them on a
daily basis without going home muttering about them? Are their work
habits compatible with yours, or with your department?

At this stage, many of the answers to these sorts of questions will
be tentative, but, given the nature of hiring, you can't really
avoid this problem. Interview questions are really only effective at
weeding out the obviously unfit, and, if your company is like most,
that has already been done before you get to meet any of the

However, you may still be able to tell that a person wouldn't fit
in, simply because nobody has thought much about that question until

Oh, and one more point: this process will give you some valuable
insight into the hiring process, the next time you do a job-hunt.
So, while taking notes about candidates, take some about the process
from the perspective of an interviewer.

Bruce Byfield 604.421.7177 bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com

"From the hag and hungry goblin
That into rags would rend you,
And the spirits that stand by the naked man
In the book of moons defend you."
- Steeleye Span, "The Beggar"


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