Yes, I am on the market. You should really hire me. This though is about an excellent interview. It is strange to think about, but when you are talking to somebody at my level. Every interaction of the company is me interviewing them. Does your human resources system require structured interviews that illicit simplistic answers? Does your tech team play stump the chump with text book answers that miss the nuance of systems of systems integration? I hit the market about every 24 to 36 months but as a hiring manager I am in the process all the time.
Let me tell you about the interview. It did not start out with 15 minutes of the company telling me what I could find on their “about” web page. Instead it was a simple question, “What do you know about us and the job?” The company and directorate were well known to me, but the job not so much as the description was succinctly, “Be awesome, be the best, don’t cost too much.” The redirect was gentle but informative. 5 minutes in we were having a dialog. The immediate creation of a framework of team work and mutual understanding was enticing. My passion for technology and security fed their solution oriented paradigm nicely.
They asked the standard questions. They asked me to talk about my number one success which I always state is my PhD. That question is always followed by the, tell us about a difficulty or failure question. Writing with good grammar and spelling is my hardest and largest failure. As a product of public school, I took the bare minimum of classes in high school, but learned to program in the 1970s. I work constantly to overcome my faults and that is how I got a PhD at a major research university in the top security program in the world. I may make mistakes and in the face of ridicule I still do not give up. Ever.
The questions were relevant and at each phase of the interview they asked how I was doing, did I want to continue, and did I have any feedback for them. We walked through the technology problems that they had, then went on to discuss the human resource issues that they struggle with, and finally some issues with customers. Each phase started with a simple change in direction posed as a question, “We have been having trouble with XYZ technology within the security stack. Have you ever had to engineer a hardware and software solution around XYZ performance specifications?” Why yes I have. Here is how I did it at company A and what they saw as an improvement. The redirect was around the delta on my answer showing how flexible or not I was in my thinking and dogmatic in their solutions they were.
I interviewed for a major company’s director of incident response in the Seattle area. When I asked about work and life balance and the stilted conversation that followed insured I would not be working there. With this interview, they did not give some pabulum answer about work hard and play harder. Life is not an HR poster next to the water cooler. Instead they discussed individual contributor goals, right sizing work load, and leadership goals as a factor of work and how they track performance at the leading edge of creation in the company.
A great interview.
Interviewers cannot help themselves and it is after all only polite to ask, “Do you have any questions?” I hit them with my standard response, “Why yes I do. What do you need to hear, or need answered to make me your number one choice going forward?” This can derail an interview. The staff may look at each other in panic. How they answer is more important to me than what they say. Do they say, “Oh you did just fine we’ll be in touch.” Maybe they ask some more questions. Maybe they give some honest feedback on the interview. How serious they take what I consider to be the most important question of the process tells me a lot about fit. This time they nailed the answer.
The most awesome interview ever.
The leader pushed back from the table, opened his arms wide indicating the entire group at the table and said, “You are a senior leader, writer, and top executive thinker in the high technology space. How did we do interviewing you?” I was being asked to succinctly evaluate the performance of the executive team talking to me. The depth, thinking, relevance, and honesty of my feedback made this the most important question of the whole interview. They had been leading up to this question the entire time.
I gave a quick synopsis of the candidate viewpoint on the interview. I told them I was going to write about it. I talked about creating a teamwork atmosphere with the candidate. The trust bonds created so quickly allowed for honesty and understanding that would be missing in most if not all interviews I have had previously. I listed off the perceived strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (yes SWOT is a great structure for quick feedback). I dived into two leader’s responses to my questions and suggested ways to tighten up the feedback and why in one case it might give the wrong impression.
I gathered up my things, their business cards, and headed for the door. The senior executive escorted me out of the building and we sat talking in the parking lot. When you think about this level of interview it can be kind of cool. It also can be very cruel. The hiring executive looked at me and said he would give the others the bad news. He knew before I left the table I was not going to accept the job. I like the company product. I really like the executive team. I very much enjoy being a singular contributor and leader of people. I though am trying to make an impact before I retire in ten or so years. A sense of legacy creation and mission orientation drive me. The hiring senior executive recognized that in our discussion. I could come to their company and bring superior value to their needs. The job was mine, but it was not the job for me. Now I am keeping their business cards as I may need to hire them. They were awesome.
I have a couple irons in the fire with some awesome teams, but I am still looking until the paperwork is signed. So, how to you interview people?