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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

Interview is Experiment


I’m recruiting like crazy recently. It means I spend a lot of time on interviews with different fellow interviewers. First interesting observation is that basically all interviewers I know (me included) start with some, usually rather detailed, plan. We want to check some traits and technical knowledge. We want to get some feelings whether a candidate would be a good match to a team.

A short break. You’ve definitely heard this one: “Plans are useless but planning is indispensable” – the famous quote from Dwight D. Eisenhower. Not a surprising thing that it applies to interviews as well.

So yes, I do start interview with a plan, but I hardly ever follow it step by step. I prefer to go with the flow of conversation. I prefer to dig over interesting things I hear from candidate instead of going through a standard list of questions. I prefer to wander around different subjects to get the gut feeling whether a candidate would fit the team.

Every interview is a kind of experiment for me. As a rule of thumb – the further we go away from my initial plans the better is my opinion about the candidate.

There’s another perspective as well. Every interview is an experiment done on my general interview plan. From time to time I hear that I ask interesting questions during interviews. Well thanks; I invented them all during interviews. Usually talking with especially interesting candidates.

If your interviews are all done routinely and looks each time exactly the same rethink whether your job is just to ask some standard questions. If so, are you more than just an HR droid?

If you treat every interview as an experiment you will learn more about candidates and improve your hiring skills as well.

in: recruitment

6 comments… add one

  • jfbauer February 9, 2011, 2:08 pm

    I most certainly agree with “As a rule of thumb – the further we go away from my initial plans the better is my opinion about the candidate.” I find that going off script usually indicates to me a candidate that is truly engaged in the interview rather than just providing dull, canned answers to scripted questions leaving only the obvious next step: ask the next dull scripted question.

    Thanks for sharing your interviewing thoughts!

  • x-Project Management Software February 10, 2011, 1:23 am

    When hiring, we should always keep in mind the 80/20 rule: spend 20% to talk, 80% to listen and judge. It will help you to be more wisely.

    Happy recruiting :)

  • bartek February 10, 2011, 8:27 am

    Once I had an interview for PM at one of wroclaw software companies. Despite we started on IT we finished on how yoga and aikido are related do scrum :)

  • Pawel Brodzinski February 10, 2011, 8:49 am

    I guess this must have been damn good interview. And at least pretty good interviewer as well.

  • Alex February 12, 2011, 10:50 pm

    There is something very snobbish about how interviewing process usually described from this perspective. I never liked interviews, and if I have to I usually never ask technical questions. I prefer to evaluate candidates based on credentials, I often ask for transcripts and I do check all references twice if I want to hire someone. It works. One important thing I learned is that to evaluate a skill it takes 3 times more skill from the interviewer and it is hard to find people like that around. More often observing the procee as a bystander I find it obvious that candidate simply taking chances in 50/50 game.

  • Pawel Brodzinski February 13, 2011, 1:28 am


    Personally I don’t ask technical questions. I’m already incompetent in this area for long enough to stop fooling myself I can be a partner for the discussion.

    What I look for is how candidates think, whether they keep learning, how they tackle problems, is there a passion in what they do or it’s just what pays the rent. But then it’s not me who will be working with the guy hand to hand. It’s not me who will be asking him to deal with everyday technical issues. I’m not surprised that people who will want to check his technical skills.

    I agree with you that checking references (although not an easy task to do well) may give you a pretty good clue about technical skills but won’t tell you much about candidate’s character.

    As a side note: I’ve seen enough references sweeten to the point where their value was negative as the only thing you could possibly get from them was being tricked.

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