The Virtuous CIO  

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February 20, 2011 — Hiring Competent Employees 4

The interview itself is a high-pressure event, both for the interviewer and the interviewee. I often want to take the same approach I used for the young man who asked for my daughter's hand in marriage: "Just relax. We will both probably live through this." For those of you who have undergone such an experience you may have had cause to doubt the advice.

Some interviews resemble blood sport. The interviewers fiendishly designed the questions to put the candidate on the defensive as well as embarrass everyone. I believe that to be a gross dereliction of the duties of the CIO, as well as need loosely cruel to the candidate. Remember the goal of the interview. It should be designed to explore the personality and capabilities of the candidate to see if this individual will be a good fit in your organization. Conversely they should be designed to give the candidate enough information about the company to enable intelligent choices in the event of a job offer.

First of all do whatever is necessary to put the candidate at ease. Try to avoid sterile environments for the interview. I like to hold them in my office, surrounded by the knickknacks and other paraphernalia of my existence. I tried to convince the candidate that I am a human being also, and that I have interests outside of the office. Some of my coworkers doubt that is possible, but I try.

Spend the first five to ten minutes in small talk. This is part of getting to know the candidate. It may also be the first step to a lifelong friendship. I have absolutely no problem with being a friend to anyone who works for me in IT. I believe it to be an essential lubricant to teamwork. Find out what the candidate likes and dislikes. Use the time to gain more information about her background.

In considering a candidate for a position in your company, there are a number of questions which you should not ask, both for legal and ethical reasons. It is illegal to base a hiring decision upon things such as marital status, age, and other things. On the other hand, your company absolutely requires you to make a judgment on the fitness of this candidate for the job.

For example, if you're looking at qualifying resumes from both male and female candidates, the interview will be crucial in determining which best qualifies for the position. Because of our litigious society, it is wise to document your decisions and the reasons for them in cases like this. And if you do allow any bias to affect a hiring decision, you will deserve whatever fallout you receive.

Remember the candidates we are interviewing are people too. I try to make it my practice to encourage everyone I interview, whether I end up hiring them or not. They are going to need a job somewhere, and if you can help them develop a positive attitude you will be doing them a great favor.

Next time we want to look at evaluating a candidate during the interview process.