Interview technique idea when hiring for an Agile job

July 19, 2013 5:58 pm

I’m not sure if this is an original idea, but I came up with (and used it) today. Normally I’ve had my questions written down in a notebook and gone through them one by one, trying to steer the conversation, which sometimes causes abrupt and somewhat awkward transitions. Today I did this instead:

Write down each question on its own index card. Some questions are fully formed, some just keywords.
Show all of the cards to the person I’m interviewing, saying “Here are the questions and topics I’d like us to talk about. Please play product owner for a minute and prioritize them in an order that works for you, and then we’ll start talking. If you want to ask me clarifying questions while you order, feel free to do so.”

I didn’t know how this was going to work out, so I started by asking “What do you think of this idea for our interview?” I got a really good response.

In order to not take up the whole time with the candidate talking about the cards, I stopped midway through and said “OK. How about your questions for me?” After that we came back to the remaining questions on the table, and finished with another short “Do you have more questions for me?” segment.

I think this was a pretty good way to be transparent about the interviewing process, a good way to let the candidate start forming a narrative and not getting blindsided, and giving the candidate a breath of fresh air from the traditional interviewing format.

These were the questions on my cards:

Agile Journey
Organizational Change
Scaling Agile
Outline a retrospective. How do you keep it fresh?
What is your Agile superpower? [I shared what I consider mine as an example when we got here]
Frameworks you’re not familiar with
Reading. Who influences you? Who do you influence?
Agile method/framework you’re familiar with

As we went along, I sprinkled in more questions, of course, but this was my skeleton.

What do you think? Novel? Useful? Boring? Comments would be much appreciated!

2 Responses to “Interview technique idea when hiring for an Agile job”

Shyam Kumar wrote a comment on November 9, 2013

Very interesting way of doing an interview, Oluf.

I would very much enjoy being interviewed in this fashion.

Also – I am glad that you invite questions. Usually – I do not consider and interview to be an interview – but more like a meeting. I am checking them out as much as they are checking me out. I let them know upfront that I have many questions and I will be glad to hold my questions till such time that they have finished with theirs. I always go well prepared with questions – and I have had a couple of interviewers tell me that they have learnt more about me from the questions I asked them – than from the questions they asked of me.

Very interesting. Thank-you very much.

Request you to also do a follow-up post on how the results of such an interview turned out.

Best Regards

GeekTieGuy wrote a comment on November 9, 2013

Shyam, thanks for your comment. Glad to hear you found this interesting.

I probably don’t have enough material for a follow-up post about the results, but I’ll say a few things here in the comments.

I used this idea with 4 or 5 people that I helped interview over the summer. Some of the people really liked it, some not so much. I asked specifically about that. I think the majority found it a novel way of having a conversation about a job, whether they liked it or not. As a result of these interviews, I recommended one person as my top choice, and that person was later hired for a Scrum Master position.

Care to comment?

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