Candidate Seduction

How to Conduct Interviews so the tech candidate says I want to work for your company.

tldr;

Tim Jagodzinski is a team lead in Germany. Every candidate he speaks to wants to proceed after the initial interview. Here are his top 5 interview principles.

  • Practice transparency and authenticity at all times.

  • Address the candidate's question of "What is in it for me?" and emphasize what you require from them.

  • Provide immediate answers to basic technical questions, like the stack and operations.

  • Ensure that your process does not exclude potential candidates who interview poorly but have impressive skills.

  • Be realistic in your approach:

    • Gain a deep understanding of what attracts candidates to your organization.

    • If you cannot offer a candidate significant challenges - don't hire them.

    • If you can not pay a candidate a competitive salary - don't engage with them.

Kat: Hi Tim, would you mind sharing a bit about your background and where you're from?

Tim: I was born and raised in Berlin. I started building websites back in school, and programming just stuck with me. About eight years into my career, I was in a team needing leadership and in this first leadership role I started interviewing people.

Most people who talked to me wanted to join the company, and that's the reason I began to focus on it more.

Kat: Why do you think hiring "clicked" with you?

Tim: I love writing code and consider myself quite capable - but my other strength lies in connecting people, which is a powerful combination. In big organisations, it's not just about building and maintaining team - but also about connecting technology with non-technical people. This ability is also what allows me to recruit better, because this bridge is often a challenge.

Kat: What is your strategy so candidates want to move forward in the interview process?

The tech industry has a shortage of talented professionals, particularly in specialized areas. For example, if you have an extremely complex database requiring an expert, there may only be a couple of candidates with the necessary skills in the world. Moreover, it is not just about recruiting them but also about providing them with what they need. We must ask ourselves, What can we do for you? and What makes us an attractive option?

The first interview then is about answering these questions, and you need to catch these people with the challenge first and the environment second. Simply because high performers are high-performance because they love challenges - not foosball tables.

As someone who hires for various positions, I also recognize that one of the challenges in the recruitment process is to get hiring managers on board and to enable them to give excellent, bias-free interviews. Their job is usually not to full-time hire - this is where we need to work as consultants.

In tech, there's a talent shortage, especially in specific areas. Let's say you have an extremely complicated database. You need a specialist to handle it. Say five people in the world can do it. How do you get these people? And how do you validate them? And at this point, it's not about you getting them in the interview and recruiting them but what can they get out of you? We need to ask What can we do for you? What makes us interesting for you?

In the positions I work in, I hire people. And I think one of the biggest issues of hiring and recruiting is that the hiring managers themselves usually don't care too much about how to interview right. I want to do the opposite. I want to be somebody who facilitates the process and makes it better.

Kat: What is it that you do right when you interview a candidate?

Tim: One central goal is to give the message that the company is incredible based on how it felt to talk to me. Generally, this means not being tired and stressed but being friendly and open and giving space to the candidate. You also need to read the room; an introverted candidate might need a softer approach, and people in love with tech want to talk more about that, too.

During that, I am transparent and authentic, which only works in combination. And because I am a software engineer, if the candidate has a technical question, even during the first interview, I immediately answer it. I had a candidate who told me they talked to many people, but I'm the first "tech recruiter" who knew something about tech - this is a great USP in an interview.

The goal is that we, as the employer, can reject people. Nothing is worse than having the perfect candidate just for them to reject us .

Kat: What is the key to finding the right candidate?

Tim: An interview quickly becomes a filter for people who interview well - but organisations want to hire people who do the job well instead. This is a problem because this fear often leads to more interview steps, which favours people who interview well even more. That is why I aim at a maximum of four decisive interview steps:

  • Introduction

  • Technical Tasks

  • Technical Interview

  • Team Interview

The key is to structure each step well, commit to a structure, a timeline, and, most importantly, on how to judge the candidate. This is the key because if you have unstructured interviews, you can not find great candidates.

Kat: How do you differentiate between Juniors and Seniors?

Tim: The difference is less in what you seek on a personality level. You want someone hungry, intelligent, and gets things done. The most significant difference is in the technical questions. Asking general technology questions works better for juniors because you want to understand if they are interested in technology - or just a profitable job in engineering. For Seniors, you should ask more specific questions based on the position.




Kat: What is your strategy to distinguish whether the person will be successful in a role?

Tim: Be realistic - there is no guarantee trying to make the process 100% successful will make it, in fact, worse. As I explained earlier, focus on your appeal and create a structured, committed process. A key component is still the technical challenge. It's a dicey topic on the internet, but still the best way to judge a candidate on something more objective.

I do technical tasks differently based on the seniority of the candidate. Juniors and student interns always get a live coding task about writing a function based on a real-world case. I always prepare them on what features of the language they will need and even help them in the interview if needed. The goal is to check for three things:

  • Are they prepared?

  • How fast do they pick up the problem?

  • How well do they?

I had candidates solving a challenge in Go, even though they didn't know the language a week ago. This usually means you struck gold. For Seniors or people in between, I give out take-home tasks. To make the task work, the tasks must be clear, time-boxed, and appropriate. Unclear tasks reflect poorly on you. The task should take a maximum of three hours and must be a challenge - sending Seniors a basic task might seems insulting.

The result can then be judged based on the criteria you decided on before and will be the basis for the discussion in the technical interview. My tip is to do a real code review and start the conversation there.

If you do it this way, you will naturally invest much less time into interviewing juniors and much more into seniors with out sacrificing quality.

Kat: Thank you, Tim, for your time.

Tim: Thank you for talking to me!

Hi, I am Kat Stam and you are reading this because you have subscribed to TIM (The Tech Interviewer’s Manual).

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