What makes for a successful interview?

Hiring the perfect candidate is one kind of success. The other equally important kind of success is when the candidate pushes back in their chair, takes a deep breath, and tells you they aren't a good fit for the position. That they won't love the work.

People can say whatever they wish in an interview. They can put almost anything on their resume. But the only way to really gauge how they will actually feel about the work is to audition them. Make them show they possess both the ability to fulfill the job requirements and the desire to geek out on the work itself. To do it, think about it; even relish it day in, day out.

When hiring an individual, I prepare with an example set of real tasks I expect them to perform. I also select some team members to help me get a 360° view of the person and how they work.

And then I put them on the spot by making them work.

Examples:

  1. For designers: Have them build a logo or a landing page in your presence. Are they excited to do it? Can they explain and defend their ideas? Do they care?

  2. For programmers: Have them write code to solve problems already existing in the business. This isn't a time for clever puzzles; instead make the tasks mundane. Will they still get excited the 50th time they have to add fields to that admin? Do they think about how their code will be used and maintained by others? Do they love detail while being able to speak the big picture?

  3. For analysts: Have them work with a spreadsheet of real customer data. Can they figure out how everything fits together? Do they explore the tabs, ask questions, and make assumptions? Is more data a burden or a delight?

  4. For sales: Have them take your pitch sheet and sell. Sell the room. Have them call someone else in the company and sell. Can they relate? Do they love the adrenaline? Can they make 100 calls a day, hear 95 Nos, and still have a smile on their face?

  5. For customer service: Have them handle a disgruntled customer. Have them reply to a real email your CS team gets. Can they defuse the situation? Can they explain complex policy? Can they find a middle ground? Can they do it over and over again, cheerfully?

  6. For leaders: Have them take charge of the meeting. Can they whiteboard ideas and systems they don't yet understand? Can they ask good follow-up questions? Can they facilitate a conversation? How do they handle people? Have them deliver a performance correction or mediate a dispute between two people in the room.

Let them show off

You can't write an offer letter after 20 minutes on the phone or an hour in the office. You'll need an afternoon. You may need two. But take the time to make sure they are not only a good candidate on paper, but that they will really love the work. Good people will thrive when asked to do good work. They want to show off their skill and not just their experience. They want to step into the arena.

put them on the spot