On inclusive interviewing

On inclusive interviewing

March 13, 2020


These are my personal opinions on technical interviewing in general, and are not intended to represent the specific viewpoints of any employers past or present.


Belief statement

The best way to truly see a candidate's strengths and weaknesses is to help them to succeed. This does ¡¡not!! mean that we change the standard. It means that we apply information that we otherwise would not have at our disposal to the standard. I can help a candidate to succeed at solving a problem, but still pass on them based on the amount of help that they needed and the expectations of the would-be role.


I once interviewed a candidate that was so nervous, they got stuck on the first warmup question. I assured them that there will be no trick question and guided them through the first question. After that, they found their confidence and flew through the remaining questions. They now work here. If I'd let them stay stuck on the first question, would that have happened?

Interview Process In practice

Work to get unstuck

Try not to end the interview without the candidate having a working solution (or how to make it work). The intent is to be in a mindset to “pull” a solution out of the candidate, without leaving them stuck

Prompts before hints

Asking prompting questions (e.g. “where do you think the error is coming from”) before providing hints (e.g. “take a look at line 13")

Listen before speaking

Leave at least 10 seconds after a prompt before jumping in to give candidates a chance to formulate thoughts.

This is important because you don't want to be in a position of saying that a candidate didn't know something or wasn't able to solve a problem without actually having given them a chance to demonstrate their ability.


Back up inferences with observations

For example, if I say that in a particular area, a candidate is "competent, but not necessarily excellent", that's what I'm inferring. The observations I might provide are that they were able to solve a problem and then provide an explanation, but didn't go into great depth when prompted, or parts of the explanation weren't quite right but not off base.

I think this is especially important when providing a critical assessment. Someone might say "this candidate didn't do well", but when you dig deeper, it turns out that they were operating on a different set of expectations, so given the same observations, someone else may have a different inference

Keep track of when and how you prompt a candidate

If two candidates arrive at the same correct answer, but one does so on their own but the other needed a lot of prompting to get there, that might be a valid decision making data. Its also important to align on this with other interviewers. Because when and how candidates receive guidance can greatly influence who does or doesn't get through

If I provide a lot of hints, or hints that are related to “fundamental” knowledge (e.g. covered in the rubric), I’ll make a note of it in the evaluation. I try to be specific here, so that the hiring manager/team can determine can map that back to the expectations of the role

Avoid gender pronouns

I usually go with "the candidate" or "they"

Avoid gendered or racialized language

Hard to think of an example, but something I keep in the back of my mind. What picture does the language paint?

Post Interview Process

Write eval as soon after the interview as possible, especially if you didn't get the chance to take notes

Who died and made you an expert?

These opinions are my own, and are based on my experiences on both sides of the interviewing table. When something works well for me as a candidate, I try to reflect on it and replicate it as an interviewer.