Youโ€™re reading an excerpt of The Holloway Guide to Technical Recruiting and Hiring, a book by Osman (Ozzie) Osman and over 45 other contributors. It is the most authoritative resource on growing software engineering teams effectively, written by and for hiring managers, recruiters, interviewers, and candidates. Purchase the book to support the author and the ad-free Holloway reading experience. You get instant digital access, over 800 links and references, commentary and future updates, and a high-quality PDF download.

โ€‹cautionโ€‹ Interviewing is an active process that requires the interviewer to be completely engaged. This requires that interviewers not be on their phone or check email or Slack. If you take notes on a laptop, turning off notifications will prevent interruptions. Candidates can tell when the interviewer is distracted, and it makes their performance worse. Likewise, the interviewerโ€™s active engagement at all times will ensure they are collecting the clearest possible signal.

Being engaged with the candidate also ensures the interviewer feels like a human being to the candidate. An interviewer who sits silent and stone faced will intimidate the candidate, who will then underperform.

At the same time, effective interviewers will guard against giving the candidate unintended hints. This is a matter of some judgment, but it is likely that if a candidate is constantly pausing and looking at the interviewer, theyโ€™re fishing. If itโ€™s clear theyโ€™re focused on the problem at hand, small positive signs at points of breakthrough can reinforce progress.

Note-Taking During Interviews

Itโ€™s essential for an interviewer to take some form of notes during an interview. These notes can be turned into a formal write-up, ideally as soon as possible after the interview itself. New interviewers should typically budget about the same length of time for their write-up as they spent on the interview, although with a great deal of practice and good in-interview note-taking, the time commitment will go down by half or more.

Good notes capture the questions that were asked and give a high-level description of what happened during the interview, including both candidate answers and any key moments in the discussion.

When interviews include coding questions, a complete report will capture the candidateโ€™s written code, to allow the hiring team to objectively evaluate the results and consistently calibrate the process. A complete and final write-up will include a high-level assessment of the code quality.

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