What You Learn About Yourself By Interviewing Others
One of the great things about my role at Function(x), Inc is working on building a great front end development team. I’ve been interviewing a lot of developers over the past few weeks. It’s forced me to clearly define the skills and personality I want in a team member. A big part of that has involved more effectively defining my own strengths and weaknesses.
I stopped looking for a “mini-me”
Early in the search and interview process I was looking for developers with similar skills to my own. Function(x) is an exciting workplace, and very busy. There’s a lot for me to do, and I started searching for staff who could help take on some of that workload. Once I started to think about it I realized that this wasn’t the best way of building out a team.
Someone with the same kind of skills as me could certainly contribute. If the team is really going to become exceptional it needs more than that. I needed to find skilful developers who could complement my skills, not replicate them.
Finding complementary skills means that a team will have the capacity to do a wide range of tasks well. It’ll also give every member of that team the opportunity to grow and develop their talents. I want to bring in people who I can teach. I also want to bring in people I can learn from.
I started asking better questions
As I defined the type of roles I wanted to fill, I started interviewing more effectively. A big part of this was coming up with effective questions. Getting a general feel for a candidate’s personality and skills wasn’t enough. It’s important that anyone joining the team at Function(x) hits the ground running. I needed more specific questions so that I could be confident I was talking to someone with a good technical knowledge.
I’m not trying to ask “trick” questions to candidates. I know that even the best developers still often refer to various online resources on a day to day basis. There are questions that can quickly identify a level of understanding of HTML, CSS, jQuery and other technologies. E.g.
- How would you use an <aside> tag?
- What are the drawbacks of HTML5 form validation?
- What’s the difference between visibility:hidden and display:none?
- What is responsive design?
- Do you know what event bubbling is?
- How would you populate a paragraph with new text using jQuery?
Some of these questions don’t have a simple right or wrong answer. A strong candidate will be able to give an answer and justify it. Answers to technically specific questions are a good demonstration of overall skills.
Make sure and get more opinions
There are lots of engineers at Function(x) interviewing candidates for a variety of roles. We’re all going to have to work together effectively. We all need an understanding of each other’s skills.
I’ve got a lot of benefit out of having other people speak with front end developer candidates. It could be one of our platform engineers getting a feel for how the candidate would integrate front end and back-end code. Our iOS engineers might give me some great feedback on the candidate’s understanding of combining web and native app work.
A note for the candidates
There’s a lot of good talent out there. It’s a competitive market. I’m surprised at how many candidates aren’t taking logical steps to maximize their chances. Some big things for me:
- If you’re looking for a front end development role, have your own website. Put together a portfolio of past work; professional and personal projects. It’s all very well saying in your resume that you’ve worked on x project for an agency, or on your major corporation’s website. I need to be able to see what you did, take a look at your code, get an idea of your design aesthetic.
- Be well read and demonstrate an interest in your profession. If you draw a total blank when I ask you what blogs, websites and publications you read, it tells me that you’re not motivated to always be improving your skills. The best candidates will always be those who are passionate about what they do.
- Learn about the company you’re interviewing for. If I’m meeting with you and ask what you know about Function(x) “not much, I took a quick look at the website” isn’t a great answer. If you have no idea what Viggle is then I’d be really worried.
Every interview is an opportunity
Not just an opportunity for a candidate to get a job. Interviews are an opportunity for interviewers to hone their skills too. To be able to more effectively define their own skills, and their needs. To be able to quickly summarize the kind of work they need someone to do. For candidates, treat every interview like it’s a dream opportunity. Not only will it help you impress for that job, it’ll make you better at the interview process all round.
I worked hard to get my job at Function(x) and I’m excited to be working here. In helping to build a team of front end developers, I want other people who are as passionate as me about their profession, and excited about the company and opportunity. Those are the best interviews, when the lessons I’ve learned about meeting with candidates in the most effective way possible help me to find great new colleagues.
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