One of the biggest differences I’ve seen between big company and small company hiring is how involved I get to be in the hiring process.
In a big company, I’m asked to conduct a one-hour interview with a candidate I’ve never met before. I ask my questions, submit my feedback in the applicant tracking system, and I’m done. Or, I’m part of a hiring committee where I review the feedback left by other interviews. And when someone is added to my team, it may be the first time I’m meeting them because someone else interviewed them.
In a small company, I have a hand in screening resumes, collectively choosing with the team which questions to ask, and making a final decision based on our joint debriefing. If we hired that candidate, they came to work alongside us. I was even involved in non-technical hires, like in hiring a designer, as part of the interview was to see how they would work together with the engineering team.
As a co-founder of a startup, I had to do all of this and source the candidates. Being the main technical half of the founding team meant I had to decide where we would find good candidates, what the interview process looked like, and ultimately if we would make the hire. And the person we hired was one-third of our team afterwards!
A big company has to delegate and specialize, but it’s troubling to me when there’s no one member of the team who sees the candidate through the entire pipeline. In particular, I’ve heard people claim they’re interviewing the “right” way, but they’ve never even been able to compare how an individual performed in the interview with what it’s like to work with that person!
Interview vs. work
The only fool-proof way to know if you’ll work well with someone is to actually work with them for an extended period of time. This even applies to best interview processes, except maybe contract-to-hire (which I’m conflicted about and will talk about in the future).
Two experiences come to mind:
One coworker we hired was inexperienced but a quick learner. We hired them based on their ability to pick up new skills. I remember their first week, when I gave them an assignment that I thought take the whole week, but they finished in a few days! From my time working with them, I realized the ability to learn can be tested for and is an accurate indicator of the pace they’ll work with.
Another coworker we hired did well on their project interview, making well-reasoned trade-offs and explaining their reasoning. And after hiring them, they did good work, but they also tried to coerce a lot of tech stack-specific ideas into the different tech stack we were using. I wouldn’t change my hiring decision, but this experience taught me to be more explicit about what the job required.
What’s important here is I had a chance to compare how a candidate performed on the interview with how they performed on the team. This in turn helped me tune my hiring skills based on actionable feedback. In a big company, I feel more isolated in my approach.
If your organization is serious about training great interviewers, give them feedback about their interviews the same way you give feedback about their technical work. Make sure interviewers get to see how a variety of candidates perform on their interviews, and what those performances translate to in their work. Otherwise, your interviewers are only seeing one piece of the puzzle.