This was originally written on January 26, 2017
Hiring is hard. It’s a stressful process where you’re trying to find a good fit, both personally and technically, all in a few short hours. Over the last 7 years, I’ve hired many developers and while they haven’t all worked out, I’ve been very fortunate to have been able to work with some excellent people.
In every case, as I’m sitting across from them in the interview, I focus on trying to see if the candidate exhibits the following five traits.
Research shows that happy people are more productive at work. Happiness is also infectious, spreading to your coworkers, staff and customers. One of our core values at G Adventures is ‘Create Happiness and Community’ and it’d be hard to do this if the candidate can’t even fake happiness in the interview.
Happy people are also less likely to leave. Employees leaving are extremely expensive to the company with one study showing that the cost can be from 16% to 213% of their salary. When an employee leaves it can also be hard on their manager. They’ve spent 40+ hours a week together, often more time than they’ve spent with their families. This bond can be difficult for the manager and lead to burnout or worse.
I like to ask questions like “What are things that your current company does that you like?” and “What makes you happy?” to judge their happiness.
Curious people find better solutions to problems they’re working on, learn things faster and weed out inefficiencies with current processes. They ask more questions, getting to the bottom of issues or new requests faster than less curious people.
I believe that everyone is born curious. This curiosity is taught out of a lot of us via school and work where the correct answer is valued but finding out the why behind it isn’t.
I like to ask questions like “Can you explain a problem you encountered in the past and how you solved it”, “How do you go about learning new things?” and “What’s the next thing you’re interested in learning?” to see how curious they are.
Communication skills are extremely important. You could be the best engineer but if you can’t communicate why you’re doing something in a certain way to your coworkers your impact on the team will be limited.
The only question I ask that touches on communication is “Explain a time where you disagreed with a co-worker and how you came to a solution.” This will give me insight into how they communicate with others, especially when there’s conflict. For the most part, the entire interview process gives me an idea of how they communicate. I’d worry about hiring someone if they’re struggling with eye contact, fumbling with responses or giving short answers. One thing I’m conscious about here is how nervous they are. Some people shut down more than others when they’re really nervous.
This is the hardest of the five traits to look for since creativity means something different to everyone. Creativity to me is the act of turning an idea into a reality. This can involve problem-solving, organization, planning and judgement which are all incredibly useful things for employees to have.
This question is one that I ask rather bluntly “Give me an example of your creativity.” I’m looking for examples from their past jobs or schooling as well as how they define creativity. If the person starts talking about their latest painting or poetry I’ll often nudge them back to how they showcased it at work to keep things focused.
I’m not interested in hiring brilliant jerks. I know there’s some controversy over that term but at the end of the day if an employee can’t treat their coworkers with respect I don’t want them on the team. This conflict leads to discouragement and distrust with the hiring process and ultimately leads to other staff leaving.
As I mentioned above, I like to have the candidate talk about a time when they had a conflict with a co-worker. This shows me how they handle conflict, how they try to get their points across as well as how polite they are. I’m looking for the candidate to describe a time where they collaboratively improved a difficult situation through positive discussion, coaching, and problem-solving.
Obviously showcasing these traits doesn’t excuse a candidate from lacking a required skill but if it comes down to two comparable candidates I’ll select the one that’s stronger in one of the above traits every single time.