[This post reflects my own views and in no way reflects the views of any past, present, or future employer of mine.]
I interview a lot and I’m always interested in new and novel ways to recruit developers efficiently while maintaining a good candidate experience. Recently, I was invited to a 2 hour speed interviewing event where it was advertised that I would be meeting with 15-20 companies in 5 minute increments. Now, I’m not actively looking for a new position. I like where I’m at; but the advertised list of companies who have used this service before was quite impressive and this opportunity to experience something new was too hard to pass up. Looking back, I should’ve realized that this speed interviewing event was not for my benefit or any of the other developers that showed up, but, in fact, for the companies that paid a nominal fee for some marketing, and, more importantly, a roster of credentialed candidates. But all is not lost…
Like all good recruiting efforts, I received an unsolicited email regarding a great opportunity to quickly meet and interview, in a speed-dating style, many local companies for a private event that normally costs upwards of $50 to attend. But, conveniently, as the email went on, if I apply the following promotional code, it would be free this one time. As much of a red flag as this was looking back and at the time, I was interested in learning more. I perused the company’s website and the associated event website and was fairly impressed with their ability to land some big-ticket companies along with the coordination involved. Excited about going through the experience, I signed up.
A few days before the event, I started getting a bit concerned since I hadn’t heard anything from the coordinating company in a little over 2 weeks. I started digging around the internet for this event and came across the same event I was going to but it was for companies to sign up to be ‘interviewed’. Looking through the purchasable tickets and the quantities remaining, I was surprised to see round numbers listed. 10 of this type, 5 of this type, 1 of the super-omega type. This was a bit unsettling for me. I started to question which, if any, companies were going to show up.
Event day came around and I received an email from the event site reminding me of the details and when it would start. I revisited the ‘companies to be interviewed’ event site again and found the quantities had ticked down a few. I was really hoping to see all 0s. Anyways, after work, I spent a bit of time researching what types of questions are appropriate and not appropriate for ‘speed-dating’ interviews. The internet’s consensus was not much different than the behavioral and shallow technical questions I ask at the beginning of an interview to break the ice with a candidate. Typically, these ice breakers yield nothing since most candidates are a bit guarded at the beginning and the interviewer is just trying to get them to open up a bit. But when approached correctly, they can yield subtle, nuanced, and useful data points. So, good, I’m all studied up and ready to go.
I arrived at the event on-time and walked into the building. I was promptly escorted to the interviewing room with a few other developers where I was immediately dismayed. Looking around, I saw at least 40 developers, some food, a small handful of companies (later to find out there were 7), and a line that was 20 deep. Quickly doing the math (moving a dev through the line ever 5 mins), this was not going to go well. About 5 minutes into the event, I received a roster of the companies that were present and what skills they were looking for. To add to my disappointment, I did not see any of the big-ticket companies listed on their website and no required skill sets that matched mine. So, that’s a bummer. However, it was nice to see what companies are around my area and what they are up to. I still wanted to go through the experience and, fortunately, I ran into several acquaintances which made staying way more enjoyable.
70 minutes in, it was my turn. Excited, I sat down with the first company and received my question. “So, what are you looking for in a company?”. Wow, really? Alright, I understand the need for culture fit, but such an open ended question can easily take 5 minutes and yield no data points that you are interested in. I quickly answered the question in a positive and neutral way indicating I’m a fit for any company and replied with a question of my own. “I see you do a lot of PHP development, how do you maintain a high quality bar?”. The company representative, a developer, responded with tangentially related data points including their release management practices, scrum methodology, and management style. Ding! “Please move on” commanded the coordinator. That was it. That went really quick and I got nothing I was interested in. Not good. Unfortunately, I got more of the same as I went from company to company. Too little time to get anything useful out of the introduction. About half-way in, we were informed that the event was nearing a close and that we would transition to an open-forum where you can just converse with any company at your leisure. With about 4 companies that I had not interviewed with yet, I would now have to contend with the other developers to get the time to ask and answer questions. I left.
Leaving the event, I kept asking myself “what did I miss here?” Such a terrible experience should have been predicted fairly easily. But I think the novelty of applying speed interviewing to developer recruiting trumped my better judgement. But I don’t think all is lost on the speed interviewing approach. Here are some quick wins that should be agreeable for all parties:
- Provide registered developers of the event the list of companies that will be present and what skill sets they are actively looking for
- Ensure all registered developers of the event get to have their 1:1 speed interviewing time with the companies present
- Reschedule (with enough lead time) when the event is not at capacity
- Provide sample speed-interviewing-style questions for developers and companies. Speed interviewing is probably new for both parties, so briefing each is worth-while.
The above will go a long way in terms of making for a good candidate and company experience. In that folks will be interested (due to a match in skill sets, interested in business space, or some other reason), adequately prepared, expectations are met, and, ultimately, time is not wasted.
For less agreeable improvements that favor the developer over the company or the event host (which is the correct party to favor, btw) include:
- Guarantee an interview for the developer assuming the developer is interested after the speed-interviewing session. For any reputable recruiter, if the candidate has been screened and is advertised as being credentialed, there should be no reason to not interview the candidate
- Instead of piping developers into the speed-interviewing flow serially (where they get speed interviews back to back until they complete), have developers speed-interview then take a small break to allow other waiting developers to interview. This allows developers to interview right away without waiting in a long line.
I believe the above changes will go a long way and would have made my experience an enjoyable one. For developers or companies out there reading this, request or demand these things. If the speed interviewing company doesn’t want to comply, think twice about what you’re getting in to and whether it’s worth it.