Engineering the interview process

A strong engineering culture is cultivated through a thoughtful interview process. Implemented effectively, this approach mitigates the necessity for implementing bell curves and performance improvement plans.

Interviewing is fundamentally about answering three questions. Can I work with you? Can you work with me? and importantly, can you do the work?

Engineering the interview process


A strong interview process starts with a well-defined job description(JD). Hiring managers should take extra care when describing the company, role, and responsibilities, to avoid making a laundry list of wants. Instead, focus on the core competencies you desire in a candidate, and be explicit about what's mandatory and what is nice to have.

Apply friction

When reviewing candidate applications, bringing in an async stage provides several benefits:

  1. Assess a candidate's written communication ability. Can they articulate themselves in a clear, concise manner and provide examples of lived experiences?
  2. Filter out window shoppers. If candidates are not serious, they typically won't put in the effort required to answer thoughtfully, this will manifest in either short terse answers or AI-generated boilerplate.

Introducing this stage after the initial CV and phone screen will provide the hiring manager with a clearer understanding of the candidate's abilities, to make an informed decision about progressing them in the process.

Role reversal

Some of the most valuable data points are in the questions you don't ask. Leave time for candidate questions, and make it explicit in the interview loop.

If a candidate only asks about the tech stack, you may wish to probe deeper, but if the candidate instead asks about specific team challenges and company goals, this provides valuable insight into their motivations and drivers.

Demonstrate Principles

When devising behavioral questions, consider the company principle/value and work back to formulate the question.

If the company emphasizes accountability and ownership, for example, consider asking a STAR-based question that allows you to identify if the candidate is aligned with this principle. Consider building a question bank for the company principles and sharing it with interviewers so questions can be calibrated and used when hiring for other functions.

Technical assessments

Establishing if a candidate can do the work under artificial conditions is challenging. Regardless of whether you choose live whiteboarding, coding questions, or take-home assignments, the interviewer's role is to allow the candidate to demonstrate why they should be a strong yes 'inclined to hire'.

Setting a clear playbook for running and evaluating technical assessments will ensure interviewers minimize their biases.

technical assessments

Interview loop in practice

Combining each of the elements will leave you with the following stages, which can be applied to create a robust interviewing process:

  1. Phone screen
  2. Async (2/3 written questions)
  3. 1 hr interview on behaviors
  4. Technical assessment
  5. 1 hr Interview with the hiring manager/founder
  6. Debrief / Offer

If you want to learn more, check out the recommended reading materials below.

Further reading