Onboarding Trials #1: Interview
In the past, we’ve encountered several issues with inexperienced developer employees. Not that we had issues with employees directly. Instead, we’ve experienced those issues along with them, together.
These issues weren’t usually related to their technical skills and knowledge. We have those checked during interviews and internships, which are also mentioned at the beginning of this article. Our employees have had different problems, which were related to their soft skills; organizational, managerial, and skills related to their estimation abilities. These problems would pop up during their interviews with clients, project onboardings, and other meetings.
Naturally, after we’ve identified the problems, we figured out that it was wrong from our side to presume that the employees will “get the hang of” other skills besides programming, while engaged in in-house projects. So, we decided to help them by training and educating them, focusing less on implementation and coding, while paying close attention to analysis and purposes of meetings, putting them into the spotlight to share their thoughts and findings.
This article does not cover other roles, such as Managers, SCRUM masters, UI/UX Designers, QA Testers, DevOps, SysAdmin, etc. However, it’s not that unrealistic to say that some of these steps can be applied to other roles as well, though with different types of questions on technical interviews, different educational materials during their internship and trial work period, as well as different types of tasks.
Interviews represent our first step in checking whether the candidate is a good fit for us, as in most workplaces. It’s a preliminary check of candidates’ knowledge and skills, which helps us identify their interests, strengths, and weaknesses. Based on that, we compare those results with the results of previous and current candidates and employees, considering the progress of those people as well.
We conduct three types of interviews: HR, Technical, and Feedback. Often, we conduct them one after the other.
HR interview is a candidate's interview with a Human Resource Manager. HR Manager in our company often evaluates employees, tracks their progress via feedback reports from colleagues, discusses their satisfaction levels, and can help them identify what they need, why they need it, how can those things be accomplished, and who can help them.
These are also the reasons they conduct interviews with candidates, during which they can assess them, identify their needs and expectations, as well as check if those are aligned with the company's requirements. According to this, an HR interview commonly follows three steps: introductions, experience check, and expectations check. These steps include questions and answers from both the interviewer and interviewee.
During introductions, the interviewer explains the company’s work, goes through its history, and presents the current status. Data presented are usually topics like the choice of technologies, number of employees, scope of work, education plans, etc. It’s not uncommon that the interviewer also shares some information about the company’s future plans.
The interviewees introduce themselves, sharing details that were not mentioned in their CV, their education, previous work experience, current status, and future plans. It’s important for them to also show their interests and explain their strengths and weaknesses, which can help narrow or broaden the scope of questions in this and other interviews, as well as in planning the internship.
In the previous segment, there’s mention of the previous work experience of the candidate. This segment focuses solely on that, in detail if possible. Interviewees are expected to talk about their past experiences, good and bad, and are encouraged to say what they think could have gone better and what additional roles and responsibilities they had, which they did or did not feel comfortable with. We ask them what they’ve learned, what they hope to never face again, and what obstacles can and still can’t overcome.
Based on what they say about their experiences, we can relate and compare that with our company’s experiences. That way we’re acknowledging their previous difficulties and showing how we try to handle them and other challenges we face.
Finally, based on introductions and experience talks, the candidate says what he expects from the company, in terms of pay, medical insurance, working hours, mentorship, education, projects, and technologies. Accordingly, we tell them what and how is possible to accomplish those things from our side, as well as present our expectations from candidates, in terms of quality of work, reports, communication with clients and team members, mentorship, English language knowledge.
Technical interview is a candidate's interview with one or two employees that have acquired enough mentoring skills and technical knowledge to be qualified to conduct the interview. Based on the position the candidate applied for and technologies used by them, we choose a compatible employee to conduct the interview. Questions are split into groups related to Object Oriented Programming, Procedural Programming, Development Concepts (Web, Mobile, API), Databases (including SQL) and their technology stack of choice.
These questions are of course prepared and refined by employees of relevant expertise. Of course, we can’t expect every candidate to know each and every detail from every group of questions, but we do run them through at least a couple of questions from each group, giving them hints if needed and, if necessary, detailed explanations. During this interview we also analyze if the candidate has difficulties understanding the questions, we follow their thought process and logical conclusions. Then we evaluate their knowledge in each of these question groups, which helps us and the candidates to identify their strengths and weaknesses.
This is also helpful in figuring out what the next steps should be.
A feedback interview is a candidate’s interview with previous interviewers, including HR. It consists of evaluating, from both sides - interviewer and interviewee, the candidate’s knowledge, the difficulty of the technical interview. This should be the next step for the candidate, and if the results are satisfactory, and for the company.
The candidate gives their evaluation of their knowledge first. That is, they tell us how good they think they were during the technical interview. The tech interviewer then presents their evaluation and the two discuss the similarities and differences. Giving the opportunity to the candidate to evaluate their knowledge first, instead of receiving the evaluation from the interviewer first, this puts the candidate in a situation where they need to perform a self-assessment, to criticize or praise themselves, using only information they have extracted from the interview itself. This makes them more open to discuss the whole process when the interviewer presents their thoughts.
Later on, the candidate gives their assessment of the interview's difficulty. They share what questions they did or did not expect and which of them seem fit or unfit for the position in their opinion. The interviewer then shares the purpose of those questions and explains what potential problems they would cause if they were skipped. The discussion between the two can also help the interviewer and their colleagues in the refinement of the questions and interviews.
Finally, the interviewer presents what should be the candidate’s next steps. Based on the previous two stages and discussions, the results might be satisfactory or not. In case of an unsatisfactory theoretical knowledge, the interviewer is required to provide learning materials to the candidates and tell them what to focus on in the following period. If the candidate has theoretical knowledge but has little work experience or trouble when presenting them or giving an example of them, we offer them an internship to put their practical knowledge to the test and improve it along the way. However, if the candidate has shown practical knowledge as well, then their next step is to discuss employment and their responsibilities with the CEO.