Interviewing candidates

A quick note: I’m going to be traveling for much of the rest of June and I haven’t got articles queued up, so the blog will go dark for a bit; see you in July!

In the last two episodes I did reruns of earlier articles on the technical interview process. I thought I might go into a little more detail about how I structure interviews and what I’m looking to get out of them.

I have some primary goals:

  • Prevent bad hires
  • Make good hires
  • Leave the candidate with a positive impression of the company

Of course preventing bad hires is of far higher priority than getting good hires. If we fail to get a good hire, that’s too bad, but if we make a bad hire, that can drag down the productivity of a team for years.

That last point is also key; if we want to hire the candidate then obviously they need to have a positive impression. But I want all the no-hire candidates to have a good impression as well. They have friends who might want to interview. They may be in a position to make purchasing decisions or product recommendations now or someday. An interview is a very expensive “high touch” business process; if we don’t get a hire out of it, at least maybe we can get a customer, or if not that, at least some good will.

The actual interview goes like this.
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It’s not magic

Last time on FAIC I reran my 2004 article on tips for coding on whiteboards for interviews. This time, a rerun from 2009 article on a similar topic. Next time, some more thoughts on this subject.

Interviewing job-seeking candidates is probably the most impactful thing that I do at Microsoft as far as our business is concerned. Sure, the day-to-day work of implementing the compiler is of course what I am specifically there to do. But ultimately nothing impacts the bottom line of our division more than preventing bad hires and encouraging good hires. The dozens of people that I’ve interviewed who got hired will collectively deliver much more value (or do much more damage!) than I can alone. So I think about it a lot.
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Writing code on whiteboards is hard

I got an email from a reader in India recently asking me to talk a bit about thoughts on technical interviews. Here’s a rerun of my 2004 article on that subject. (Note that this was before I was on the C# team, so this has a very C++ flavor to it.)

Next time on FAIC I’ll post another rerun on the same topic.

I occasionally interview candidates for development positions on my team and other Visual Studio teams. Plenty of people have written plenty of web pages on interviewing at Microsoft, so I won’t rehash the whole story here. What I wanted to mention today was some words of advice for candidates for development positions. This is by no means complete — I want to concentrate on one important aspect of the interview.
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