The two types of interviews

This is my theory of the two fundamental types of interviews.

The first type happens when you get the sense the interviewer or the company is looking for gaps, looking for mistakes, and generally seeing the interview process as a gauntlet to be endured. Typical of these kinds of interviews are the presence of trivia questions and puzzle hoops to jump through that bear little resemblance to the work you’d actually be doing on the job. These interviews are adversarial and unpleasant. Some examples from earlier in my career of these interviews were being yelled at for imperfect Java syntax on a whiteboard, and being asked to rattle off the list of LINQ query methods in C# during a phone interview. These interviews are at their root distrustful and are about weeding people out instead of expecting to find a great person.

The second type of interview looks for your strengths. Interviews in this type are a conversation. You feel listened to. The interviewers ask about your interests. They get excited to hear about something you’re excited about. They want to hear your story and what you’re passionate about in the industry. They ask what they can do to make the interview more comfortable and relaxing for you. As a result, I (and I imagine most job seekers) feel more at ease and actually perform better and feel more confident in the interview. I find in this second type, I recall information better, and I smile and laugh more during the interview. I feel less nervous, and less judged. If you’re lucky enough to encounter this second type — since it’s such a refreshing experience and relatively rare — you’ll probably be much more interested in working for the company by the time the interview is over. The company will have left a great impression.

Being a good interviewer is a learned skill. It’s not something you’re born being good at it, and it’s not something you can get good at by plugging “how to conduct a technical interview” into Google a few minutes before the candidate arrives. This second type of interview is possible after practice and reflection and a sincere effort to make the process a good one for the candidate. And I think you’ll find if you adopt this style and learn how to do it well, you’ll see quality candidates stick around for you, instead of your competitors who don’t adopt it.