Getting the candidate to the finish line

Hiring for Tech
November 16, 2020

A woman running with her arms raised.

It’s important every interview cross the finish line. Photo by Ethan Hoover on Unsplash

Hiring is a two-sided endeavor, and it’s important for a company to make sure the candidate has a positive experience regardless of how well they do in the interview. In my last post, I talked about how candidates should make sure they have something to show at the end of the interview. On that note, interviews should ensure candidates end the interview with some working solution, instead of a failed attempt.

The candidate’s perspective

Whether you’re giving an algorithm-based problem, or a project, there’s always the possibility the candidate will run up against the time limit. There are a few reasons you want to ensure they still feel like they ended up a reasonable stopping point:

  1. First, you want to communicate to potential hires that your company treats failures as a learning experience and is capable of providing a welcoming experience for those who do pass the bar. This is useful branding for your company.

  2. Secondly, if the candidate has more interviews coming up that day, you want them to feel relaxed for the subsequent sessions. Regardless of their performance in your session, you want to give them a fair chance for the rest of the interview in order to get an accurate signal of their capabilities.

  3. Finally, if the candidate actually did well and they simply haven’t reached the end of a “stretch” problem, then it’s important for the candidate’s confidence to acknowledge they did well.

A strong finish

In the case the candidate is really struggling, especially near the end of the allotted time, it’s important to help them get to a logical stopping point:

Whatever the situation, a logical stopping point is key to a sense of closure.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

Suppose the interview did go well, and now you’re talking about some follow-up questions that really challenge the candidate. One example may be the candidate produced a working implementation of their project, and now you’re discussing potential optimizations.

It’s good to be clear you don’t expect an implementation of these optimizations. At the end of the interview, finish up the candidate’s thought process in order to communicate they succeeded in answering the follow-up. “I see, you would use the cache in front of this endpoint because it’s the highest traffic endpoint. Makes sense!”

Interviews are stressful enough for a candidate, even when they’re doing well. For those who run up to the time limit, it’s important to give them a strong finish that frees them to think about the next steps, instead of dwelling on an incomplete problem.