Hiring for technical roles: 7 preparation steps for effective interviews

Intulog • May 26, 2020 • 4 min read

In the last post1 we looked at the use of different interviewing styles in hiring for technical and data science jobs. However, successful interviewing candidates for technical or data jobs can’t just be an afterthought. Getting the best results from the hiring process requires meticulous attention and careful planning.

Here we look at 7 steps employers should take to prepare for an optimal interviewing process:

1. Determine the ideal (and second-best) candidate profile

With data science jobs, in particular, there are a great variety of types of work that come under that label. So, it’s very important for those doing the hiring to know just what the job involves and what skills are needed to accomplish it. In the broadest sense, data science involves a combination of programming skill, math and statistics knowledge and business knowledge or substantive expertise.


However, these domains decompose differently with each job profile. Often, there’s also a need for communication skills, drive, good fit, and so on. But finding a candidate that ticks all the boxes can be prohibitively expensive, if not impossible. So, it’s important to have a clear sense of which elements are an absolute prerequisite, which can be learned on the job and which can be dispensed with if necessary.

2. Give resumes more than a casual scan

As we talked about in the last post1, having candidates walk interviewers through their resume most often yields filler material that is unhelpful within time-bound interview processes. Instead, it’s always a good idea for interviewers to have a good grasp of candidates’ resumes and sample work. This helps get a sense of the potential value the candidate could bring to the job, eliminate irrelevant questions, and target the interview to candidates’ specific past work history, digging deeper into interesting highlights.

3. Develop appropriate technical tests

“Toy” puzzles and borrowed tests do not tell interviewers much about the candidate’s competence for the tasks he or she will face in her new role. Getting a real sense of such competence depends on being able to mimic the everyday job conditions as closely as possible. The best way to do this is by custom building technical tests out of actual business problems tackled by the company in the past or the present. It’s also important to test these out on members of the prospective team, to ensure that they sufficiently measure all of the necessary skills and are not outside the limits of what could be expected as part of the recruiting/interviewing process.

4. Prepare standardized questions and evaluation criteria

One of the easiest ways to derail the interview process is to not invest time and effort into systematically developing a standardized set of interview questions. Without standardized questions, it’s easy for interviewers to fall back onto their biases and undermine the objectivity of the process. And while there need not be one right answer for every question, it’s important that every interviewer measures all candidates according to a uniform set of evaluative criteria.

5. Build a diverse interviewing team

Another important step to avoiding bias is to avoid putting only one person in charge of the interviewing process. Instead, it is advisable to build a diverse interviewing team, not only to overcome systemic biases of race and gender, but also to create room for candidates with diverse personality and communication styles.

6. Prepare for selling the job

At most times, demand outstrips supply in technical fields. This means that the good or great candidates have to be sold on the job during their interviews. Thus, interviewers require a good sense of what candidate’s expect now and in the future, what the company offers in terms of work, benefits and growth, and how the company stands in comparison to its likely competitors. It’s also important to have elevator pitches to communicate all of this information during the interview, and to budget enough time for the candidate to get a good grasp and ask every question that could sway the decision between accepting and rejecting the offer.

7. Give the candidate room to prepare too

While effective interviews should challenge candidates and give them a chance to show off their skills and abilities, they shouldn’t seek to trip them up. The heightened stress of a job interview can easily throw promising candidates off their stride. So, it’s useful for interviewers to give candidates time to prepare for the process by communicating in advance about the subjects and domains expected to be addressed in the interview.

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