Interview apprenticeship

Hiring for Tech
January 25, 2021

Two engineers looking at code together.

Engineers work together to learn from each others. Interviews should be no different. Photo by NESA by Makers on Unsplash

Some logistics before getting to today’s topic: I started a new LinkedIn group Better Hiring For Tech. The group is for any and all discussions on how to make hiring more effective and more equitable in the tech industry. If you’re interested in conversations with others who are passionate about improving hiring, come join the group!

Software engineers are well-positioned to evaluate a candidate’s technical ability, but conducting an interviews is much more than evaluating code. Non-technical skills like the ones I’ve been writing about, and even interview-specific technical skills, are crucial.

Unfortunately, many software engineers are thrust into interviewing candidates without proper training. Just like engineers need mentorship for their technical skills, new interviewers need hand-holding and feedback. When done right, pairing interviewers of different levels plays a huge role in up-leveling junior interviewers.

The apprenticeship model

The apprenticeship model transitions an engineer from a junior interviewer to an experienced one:

  1. First, an engineer is considered an apprentice interviewer. Every interview is scheduled with an experienced interviewer and up to one apprentice. At no point does an apprentice interview on their own.

  2. After a sufficient number of interviews, the apprentice is designated as an experienced interviewer. At this point, they can interview a candidate on their own, or even with a new apprentice.

However, any process is only as good as the culture that applies it.

Applying apprenticeship effectively

Companies need to focus on using the apprenticeship program as an opportunity to teach, not as a gate-keeping mechanism. To that end:

If this feels like a lot of work for an hour-long interview, realize that interviewing affects people’s lives. It’s important to take the job seriously.

Pairing an inexperienced interviewer with an experienced one allows engineers to slowly learn how to interview effectively. Best of all, this is done without the candidates being negatively affected, as the experienced interviewer is always present to take the reins.

This post was sent out on the January 25, 2021 edition of the Hiring For Tech newsletter. Subscribe to get future editions sent to you by email, once a week.

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