Visual Basic


We tend to interview people in batches, on what we call "recruitment days." Normally we see eight people at hourly intervals. Each candidate gets a general interview, a technical interview, and takes a technical test.

The whole procedure takes about half a day. This is quite a lot of time to give up and some people say they can't afford to do so. We do lose a few (what look to be) good people this way, but we regard this as another important part in the filtering process. If a candidate can't give up a reasonable chunk of time for an interview, how keen are they on joining us, really?

At TMS, we have a three-person team, comprising two interviewers and one person to administer tests.

How we interview

We always bear in mind exactly what we're trying to achieve during any interview. Our objectives are as follows:

  • To assess a candidate's ability to make informed, intelligent, and objective judgements under pressure (in a limited amount of time and in an interview situation)
  • To assess the likelihood that a candidate will share our company's values, goals, and culture
  • To assess how well a candidate matches the position being interviewed for

Always keep these points in mind: make them your interview mantra. Also, ensure that you have a structure to your interviews, which accomplishes the following:

  • Enhances effectiveness by providing a framework promoting the systematic coverage of content
  • Is essential for accurate and consistent measurement across a group of interviews
  • Is efficient

Interview preparation This is how we prepare for interviews at TMS:

  • Run through the position we're recruiting for in our mind's eye-this is a kind of "mental reminder" as to what the job involves and helps us to form a "picture" of the ideal candidate.
  • Scan-or better still, study-the applicant's résumé-are there questions we would should ask about what we see?
  • Make sure that we have a pad for taking notes. This is important, because it'll reduce the amount of information that we have to hold in memory.
  • Ensure that the interview room is adequately prepared.
  • Be sure that we have all the materials that should be given to the applicant.

We always take an instant photo of any prospective employee. We staple this to the notes and résumé so that our recollection is made easier at the end of the day and in the future.

Controlling the interview Remember that the interviewer controls the interview. Prospective employees should be given an opportunity to ask questions at the end of the interview-inform them of this structure before you start asking them questions. It's important that you separate these two phases, the formal "pull" part of the interview from the more informal "push" part where the candidate usually asks his or her questions.

Sometimes we find it useful to have at least two people attending each interview. For one thing, it gives one of you the chance to "observe" the candidate while the other interviewer is asking a question or listening to a response. Of course, it's also useful to have a second opinion during the debriefing.

Remember that as well as being your chance to assess a candidate, the interview is the candidate's chance to assess your company and you as an individual. It's unwise to arrogantly assume that they'll take any job you might offer simply because they turned up for an interview. It's also an opportunity to sell your company. If the candidate isn't made an offer, or if the candidate turns down an offer from your company, you still want them to have a lasting and positive impression of your company. Keep in mind that the candidate might have an opportunity to do your company a good turn-if they've been impressed with you, that is.

Here are some important things to tell the interviewee about the open position and about your company:

  • Tell the interviewee how the company came about and its successes and failures to date.
  • Tell the interviewee where the company is going, what its vision and mission statement are. These are what make your company unique.
  • Give the candidate details about the position that's being interviewed for, because the advertisement is likely to have been sketchy and perhaps a little vague.
  • Tell the candidate what makes your company special: quality, management style, employee care package, company car policy, and so forth. These details combine a reiteration of the company's vision plus factual information that might otherwise have to be gleaned from an offer letter.
  • Perhaps most important, tell the interviewee about the reality of the company, warts and all. Neither you nor they want to be surprised further down the line.

Sample interview questions Here are some of the interview questions we use:

  • Describe in detail what you did the day before yesterday.
  • Describe the best boss you've ever had.
  • Describe your ideal development environment, everything from the tools you'd use to the philosophy you'd apply.
  • Given your personal goals and limitations, what job would be your dream job?
  • Having just walked in, what do you think of [company name] so far?
  • How did you choose your last job?
  • If it were in your power, how would you like to see your current main development tool improved? Have you informed anyone of your views, especially the tool vendor?
  • In what ways do you think you can make a contribution to our company?
  • What are you reading currently? What have you read recently?
  • What are your two favorite technical books? Why?
  • What are your own special abilities?
  • What do you consider to be your most important contribution or accomplishment in your current position?
  • What do you know about [company name] and why are you interested in joining us?
  • What does success mean to you?
  • What kind of people appeal most and least to you as coworkers?
  • What's your definition of a team? Of cooperation?
  • Why should [company name] hire you?

Looks for attitude as well as ability. Be careful to spend as much time as possible listening; don't do too much of the talking yourself.

It is important to take notes during the interview and write up a summary as soon as the candidate leaves the room. Do it while your thoughts and impressions are fresh.