Hiring and interviewing advice


3

I'm in the process of evaluating resumes for a web marketing / project management position. I've never considered myself very good at interviewing. Beware, my question is multi-faceted, so don't feel like you have to answer everything.

I need someone independent, a self starter, and someone I can trust. The company is virtual so we will not work together in an office every day. I think I'm good at judging a person's character, but I don't want to miss out on any good interview questions used by others more experienced than me.

Do you have any favorite interview questions effective at revealing a person's qualities?

Overall advice for conducting the interview / good resources on this topic?

Sample employment contracts or advice for clauses to include in a contract? i.e. non-compete against our clients for a period of X years?

What is the best way to discuss salary requirements? All of my hires in the past have been programmers and salary was very clear cut. Should I ask their salary requirement in the first interview, and if I decide to hire them, is it appropriate to offer them much lower than their requested salary?

Hiring Contract Employees

asked Oct 13 '09 at 13:52
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Dlynton
1,057 points

5 Answers


3

We've published a number of articles on this topic, but from all the experts I spoke to my favourite advice about hiring came from a high-level recruiter.

His advice was to conduct a structured interview that answered three basic areas - 1) candidate's background, 2) skills & 3) reasons they should accept a position with your firm .

He recommended that in a 1 hour interview you spend 15 minutes on Q1, 30 on Q2 and the final 15 minutes selling your company (especially if you like what you heard in the first 45 minutes). Too often the first item takes up most of an interview, esp in smaller companies.

Tips for asking good questions: ask for concrete examples to back up claims made on the resume, for example, "Your resume shows that you have strong project management skills. Tell me about a project that you think best demonstrates how you were able to use those skills in your current position."

Challenge the candidate and probe further if they give weak, non-specific answers. A tough interview will help make a strong candidate more interested in working for you, as people like to rise to a challenge and succeed.

I also like to have a matrix that I use to score each candidate on relevant skills, with a range of n/a if they don't have any experience to 1-5 in terms of their sophistication. This helps maintain objectivity and is good legal documentation if someone ever challenges a hiring decision. (Not as important in very small firms.)

As for salary, I always try to have the candidate state their expectations first, even if that means bouncing the question back and forth a few times and waiting through some awkward pauses.

Thorough reference checks are critical. Listen carefully, as a former employer may try to tell you something negative in a very subtle, indirect way. Employers are unlikely to volunteer information about negative experiences, but will usually be honest when asked a direct question about a specific aspect of employment (punctuality, how the person got along with other team members, etc.).

The recruiter I mentioned above had an unusual approach to reference checks. He would ask the person for a list of bosses, peers and direct reports and then select randomly from that list to do your reference check. This may be difficult if the person does not want the current employer to know they are looking for a new job, but leads you to a much more realistic evaluation of the person than you'd get from hand-picked references.

As a final thought, don't go against your gut. I've done this in the past, trying to justify one small wrinkle because there were so many other things I liked about a candidate and every time I have regretted it. Case in point, we use a programming test for programmers to identify what they know (and where their potential weaknesses are).

One candidate I like failed the test badly and found myself trying to justify the reasons this could have happened so I could convince my partner to hire him anyway (he interviewed very well) ... only to have a eureka moment where I realized that the test was doing its job and had helped us screen out a potentially disastrous hire.

answered Oct 14 '09 at 07:56
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Julie King
871 points
  • Thank you Julie! This is wonderful advice. I will put it all to use for my interviews. The recommended time structure & matrix are especially helpful. I am a new subscriber to your site :) – Dlynton 9 years ago
  • Glad it was helpful! The matrix is one of my favourite tools, it often makes difficult choices easier. – Julie King 9 years ago

2

In my job posting I request that the person does not include a cover letter but instead answer the following questions.

  • Describe a programming project you have worked on on your own time.
  • Describe a project you have worked on with a team. List your responsibilities to the project.
  • What is your opinion about asp.net versus php The idea is to get a glimpse towards their attitude towards software development and different technologies. Another bonus about the question is that it gives you a nice starting point from which to start the interview. In your case you would have to adjust the question to be relevant to the candidate you are looking for.
  • answered Oct 13 '09 at 14:41
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    John Soer
    596 points

    2

    Here is my priority list when I'm looking forward to work with a person:

    1. Desire to work/passion and has required skill set.
    2. Desire to work/passion but will need training.
    3. Doesn't wants to work but has required skill set.

    For skill set you may want to ask questions about previous work experiences.

    Desire to work is a difficult one, but you can ask them for some challenging work/sample. Also if they really care to improve upon their skill set, are they really passionate?

    I find it very difficult to find the "1." but will settle for a 2.

    Ideally, salary should be proportional to the value they create for the company + some adjustments.

    answered Oct 14 '09 at 00:41
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    Arpit Tambi
    1,050 points
    • Thanks Arpit! I think I have a couple 1s by talking to them on the phone, but won't be sure until I interview them face to face. – Dlynton 9 years ago

    2

    Since the company is virtual, the applicant's character will be very important. You won't be watching them daily, so it's important to find someone who can work on their own. Questions during an interview won't uncover this.

    Do you have any favorite interview questions effective at revealing a person's qualities? I like to ask one hard-to-impossible question to see how the applicant reacts. Do they at least make an attempt at answering or get flustered and say nothing? Just be careful, you don't want to bruise the applicant's ego.

    Sample employment contracts or advice for clauses to include in a contract? i.e. non-compete against our clients for a period of X years? Non-competes can be almost impossible to enforce in most states. If you're going to include one, make sure you have a good lawyer to help you draft it. Just don't copy one that you find on the internet.

    What is the best way to discuss salary requirements? All of my hires in the past have been programmers and salary was very clear cut. Should I ask their salary requirement in the first interview, and if I decide to hire them, is it appropriate to offer them much lower than their requested salary? It's fine to ask salary requirements but I wouldn't give away your number right away. If anything, give them a range. You can definitely offer them much lower than their requested salary, but be prepared for them to walk out the door. Remember, when hiring, it's got to be a win-win for both of you.

    answered Oct 14 '09 at 01:11
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    Matt
    21 points
    • Thanks Matt, great advice. I'm working on formulating my hard-to-impossible question :) Regarding the contract, I plan on hiring a contract employee paid a flat monthly fee for X services. They will work both onsite and from home. Therefore I believe I can stipulate a non-compete whereby they cannot work directly with any of our clients. I certainly don't want them approaching our customers offering competing services that we're already providing. I'm in no way interested in trying to enforce a non-compete where they can't work in my local market or industry, that's just unreasonable. – Dlynton 9 years ago

    1

    For long term employees (who you hope will grow), the minimum I'd like are:

    1. Passion and enthusiasm for doing the job well and truly caring about the customer (even if it's a programmer I'd like them to care about the customer they're writing the software for).
    2. Awareness of their own failings or failures (mistakes, etc.).
    3. Interest in and ability to learn from those mistakes and improve.

    I think that if you don't have all three of these it's unlikely you'll improve. If they do have all three then I'd settle for them maybe not being 100% qualified right now.

    I have different criteria for a temp worker (since we don't have a long term investment in them)

    answered Apr 12 '11 at 01:48
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    Clay Nichols
    737 points

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