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Mark Gilbert
Mark Gilbert
Mark has been involved in EDA recruiting for over 18 years. He is Founder and President of EDA Careers, but started his career in EDA as executive Vice President at EDA Jobs. Mark was also VP of Marketing and Business Development in the beginning of the Internet revolution and has been a … More »

A Must Read: The Most Common Catastrophic Interviewing Mistakes Made By Companies…

April 11th, 2012 by Mark Gilbert

This column is my first column covering one topic.  The contents are so insightful, even incredibly beneficial, and should be a must read for anyone involved in any part of the interviewing process.  I believe that much of it will lead to better hires.

Everyday I deal with either prepping candidates for their interview or debriefing companies on their thoughts about that interview. From all this listening I have comprised what I think are the most common interviewing mistakes on both sides, though in this column I will only discuss the company side.  Remember after every interview I hear the thoughts on what occurred from both sides.  I hear the questions they were asked and I hear how they were answered, and I actually get to hear this from both the candidate and the company.

Every, and I mean every, company thinks their interviewing style and approach is the best.  Fact is, every company has good and bad hires, and the most promising hires sometimes do not work out and vice versa.  So take a look at the following and think if your company can use the following suggestions: after filtering much from both sides, here are just a few of the most common easy to remedy mistakes…

  • Phone Interviews…Phone interviews should be simple pre-qualifiers, not interviews!  In depth PHONE interviews rarely work sufficiently and they work even less when one or both do not have English as their first language.  Add cell phones (maybe on both sides)…need I say more. Nothing should ever take the place of face to face interviews, as nothing delivers more accurate results.
  • Technical Interviews with the “unintentional” goal of not hiring the candidate…It seems that interviewers that think they know the most, ask the most difficult, sometimes unanswerable questions and if the answer is different than the candidate perceives it, they are wrong for your company, even if they were right in their answer.   Then there are interviewers that are trying to impress their colleagues or superiors and ask questions to catch candidates, rather than nurture and help them.  If the candidate knows the answer but are fumbling A BIT, a little help will never hurt. No one knows everything “on-the-spot” and what is not fresh on the candidates mind can almost always be picked up in next to no-time. (I am not talking about those that absolutely do not know the answers). So often, interviewers want to ask questions that are near impossible to answer clearly and definitively, because the answers can vary on the approach to the problem.  Fact is, corroboration is what the synergy of working together in the office is all about.  The way you approach a problem is not necessarily the only way it can be done.  In fact, you can hardly expect most candidates to think/approach problems exactly as you do.  If so there would be two or there would be more products just like yours.  Think about it… how many times have you produced better results by discussing a situation in a meeting or with your colleagues brainstorming. Approach an interview the same way…Nurture; try to deliver questions so that you can get a successful answer.  Work with them so you can find out if they are “teachable” and willing to listen and learn.  See how they pick up what you’re saying…that is the true test!
  • Fact is, rarely, and I mean rarely, does a candidate come along that does not need ramp up time.  If a candidate is decent but not perfect, all that usually means is they may need another week, two or four.  I can virtually guarantee that candidates that are a majority of the way there will ramp up before the wish-list candidate. Clarification…For example, if you hire the pretty darn good candidate on May 1, he/she should be up to near full speed by say July 1.  If you wait to hire the wiz you think you are going to get, you will have gone through many more cycles of everyone’s time interviewing and wasted another (minimum) month, most likely more. (I would bet more). Can you really afford waiting several more months and all that company time interviewing in hopes of finding someone better?  The first candidate will be up and running and delivering and a lot less effort and cycles of company time will be wasted.
  • Questions only an insider would know…I cannot tell you how many times…I MEAN A LOT, an interviewer wants a question answered that only someone working on the product should reasonably know.  Amazing as it seems, that is the case so often.  If you are interviewing, try to remember what you knew when you started and how you grew…. follow that as your interviewing path and you will hire faster and get better, more qualified engineers.  After all, different is usually better as long as they know what they are doing and it fits what you are doing.

The more a company wants to hire, the faster they will hire.  The shirt being the wrong shade of medium blue (kind of) reasons should be re-thought…(btw that was a metaphor, or was it)? Don’t hire out of desperation or because you do not think you will find a better hire. Hire because you feel they are good enough and the pieces they do not know can be learned in a reasonable amount of ramp up time.  This will get you the engineer you need up to speed faster and will allow you to get going on the project at hand, rather than hoping and delaying.

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One Response to “A Must Read: The Most Common Catastrophic Interviewing Mistakes Made By Companies…”

  1. Tom Anderson says:

    Mark, you make some good points but I would qualify your statement that “Phone interviews should be simple pre-qualifiers, not interviews!” For a local candidate, I agree completely, and usually I talk for no more then five minutes by phone before suggesting a face-to-face meeting. However, flying in a non-local candidate is an expensive proposition, and in my experience the phone interview needs to be considerably more detailed to prevent wasting travel money on a candidate who turns out not to be a good fit.

    Tom Anderson, Breker Verification Systems

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