Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Good Gatekeeper, Bad Gatekeeper (Part 1)

I have to reject a lot of applications, and I'm quite certain many of the people I reject think I'm an HR drone that doesn't know what the heck I'm talking about. Anyone who says I don't know enough about the position I'm hiring for is 100% correct. I don't REALLY know what a CTO looks for in a good software engineer, and I don't REALLY know what anyone is thinking at all. Still, I am forced to make decisions about who gets to play (aka interview) and who gets benched. So, how do I do it?

  • I measure how quickly you return emails and phone calls. The quicker you respond to my inquiries for anything from questions to interview scheduling and the less time I spend tracking you down, the more I believe you make my life easier and/or you're interested in the position.

  • I listen for how clearly and articulately you answer one of my questions. If I ask you a question, I want to hear you answer it without dodging me. You may or may not know something the position asks for, but if I ask you about growing bananas and you tell me about giant herring, I suspect something is fishy (pun intended).

  • I want to know if you can clearly communicate your compensation expectations to me. I'm willing to share with you what a position is likely to pay. If you tell me that you're looking for $X, or at least that you'll work within the salary range, we're golden. If you refuse to tell me how much you're looking for, or you say you're looking to find out more about the position before giving me a price, I know that negotiating salary with you will be time consuming. Things that are time consuming make everything more difficult.

  • Do I have to ask you to repeat yourself? I don't mind people with an accent, I have an accent to anyone who's not from the burbs of Los Angeles, but if we can't communicate clearly you are less likely to do well on a phone interview. Being effective in the workplace doesn't always require the best spoken communication skills, but it is something I pay attention to. I'm also very forgiving of people who use AT&T, because it's not your fault.

    TIP: If you can, do a phone interview from landline, especially when you'll be doing the interview in any language other than your native tongue.

  • Can you tell me why you applied? I'm not expecting everyone to know what a position is all about, but I would like to know what got you interested in applying. If we both know what we're thinking about, it's easy to talk about why you may or may not be a fit. If you tell me you want to learn more about the position and you haven't given it any thought at all, that's when I start to cry. You don't want to make me sad, do you?

That's all I've got for now. More to come when I can think of how to expand on this topic.

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