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On Thursday, I was asked by my manager if I would like to ‘shadow’ some technical interviews on Saturday for hiring Software Developers for our company (‘Shadowing’ interviews means that one is just an active observer of how an interview is being conducted and learn how the candidate is evaluated and judged by the main interviewer). Since, the event was being conducted on weekend and that too at 9 a.m. (so early in the morning) I made the excuse of having some prior appointments. However, on Friday evening, when he asked me again if I was interested, I checked up my calendar, it was totally clear (since I don’t have a social life), I agreed to go ahead and do it as I thought it would be a learning experience for me.
So, Saturday arrived and I dragged myself out of the bed, to drive to the office to reach in time for shadowing the interviews. In total, I took 5 interviews in the day, each lasting at least an hour. With each interview, I became more and more comfortable with my position on the other side of the interview table than my usual position as a candidate.
In the first interview, I quietly observed how the main interviewer was conducting the interview – how he was testing the candidate, how much of hints to the solution he gave if the candidate was struggling, how he was trying to make the candidate comfortable (but I felt the candidate was getting intimidated). At the end of interview, he asked me to assess the candidate before he filled up the feedback form.
The second interview also went along on the same lines, with me acting as the inconspicuous interviewer. However, this time, the main interviewer, asked me a few times during the interview to ask anything if I had something in my mind. I chipped in asking a few test cases to ask the candidate to check the validity of the solutions proposed by him for these test cases. At end of this interview, the main interviewer asked me if I would like to begin the proceedings in the next interview. I was a bit hesitant but I agreed to see how it would roll out.
In the third interview, I was a bit nervous since I had to begin the proceedings. And the candidate belonging to the fairer sex also didn’t help to calm down my jitteriness. Since, I didn’t have much time to prepare a new question, I asked a question which I was asked during my interviews. As I began asking questions, I realized that the first thing I had to ensure that the candidate understands the question i.e. I should be able to communicate the problem statement effectively. The second thing was to quickly realize the loopholes in the solution proposed by the candidate and try to push him towards thinking a better solution. I had to repeat this process a few times but the candidate was not able to nail the problem down. After asking the first question, I gave the charge back to the main interviewer to lead the interview.
After the third interview, there was a break and then I was asked to shadow another interviewer. Now, this main interviewer’s style was quite different from the last interviewer as I discovered in the course of my fourth interview. The candidate turned out to be a senior from my institute. The main interviewer did all the talking this time and emphasized on coding down the solutions, without giving enough time to first listen through what was going on in candidate’s head. So, the candidate kept coding for 45 minutes and he never interrupted him, so there was a dead silence which killed me.
After the fourth interview, when the HR folks came to schedule another interview, then the main interviewer was reluctant as he was planning to leave soon. At this moment, I volunteered to lead the interview and asked the main interviewer just to stay there initially shadowing how well I was conducting the interview. Although, I am not the one who would put his hands up and say I will do it, but I simply couldn’t bear the thought of getting killed twice in the same day by another 40-something minute long, silent coding session. Hence, I agreed to lead the interviews, although, at that moment, I didn’t have any questions prepared.
I raked up my brain to recollect questions from my previous interview experiences as a candidate to select a few questions to ask as an interviewer. Now, the fifth and last interview of the day was the most interesting one for me. I asked the candidate three questions and whenever the candidate struggled, I tried to drop him a hint. However, despite my best efforts, I couldn’t get the desired solutions from him in an hour-and-half long session. At last, when I was asked to fill up the feedback form, I realized how hard it is to fill up 3 simple columns and give your final verdict which would disappoint the candidate. So, sadly my first verdict as the lead interviewer for a candidate was ‘Not Inclined to Hire’.