The Questions That Matter Most

What to ask at the beginning and at the end of the hiring process.

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Nov 29, 2023

When meeting with a hiring manager about an engineering opening, a recruiter should aim to gather detailed information about the role, the team, and the company culture to effectively source and assess candidates. Here are some questions a recruiter can ask during the strategy session:

  • What problem will this hire be responsible for solving?
  • What’s missing from the existing team
  • What are the key responsibilities and expectations of this engineering role
  • What are the specific technical skills and expertise required for this position? (e.g., programming languages, frameworks, tools, industry experience
  • Are there any certifications or educational qualifications that are essential or preferred for this role
  • What level of experience is needed for this position? (e.g., entry-level, mid-level, senior
  • What are the critical soft skills necessary for success in this role? (e.g., communication, teamwork, problem-solving, adaptability
  • Can you describe the engineering team’s structure and dynamics? How will this new hire fit into the existing team
  • What is the team’s working style? (e.g., agile, scrum, waterfall, pair programming
  • Are there any specific project management methodologies or tools the team uses that the candidate should be familiar with
  • What is the company culture like? How would you describe the ideal cultural fit for this role
  • What are the short-term and long-term goals for this role? How will the new hire contribute to the team’s and company’s objectives
  • What is the expected timeline for filling this position? Are there any deadlines or milestones that need to be considered
  • What is the salary range and benefits package for this role? Is there any flexibility in these aspects
  • What is the interview process for this position? Who will be involved, and what topics or assessments will be covered
  • Are there any unique challenges or requirements for this role that we should be aware of when sourcing candidates
  • How do you envision the onboarding process and ongoing professional development for the new hire?

By asking these targeted questions, the recruiter will be better equipped to understand the nuances of the engineering role and identify candidates who possess the right mix of technical skills, experience, and cultural fit for the company. This will ultimately lead to a more efficient and successful hiring process.

The Most Important Question

Another question to ask is a quintessential one that cuts straight to the heart of the matter: “What problem will this hire be responsible for solving?” Let’s take a moment to ponder the sheer gravity and brilliance of this query, shall we? So buckle up, and prepare to be enlightened.

You see, in the high-stakes game of talent acquisition, success is not just about finding someone who can merely fill a role, but rather someone who can tackle challenges head-on and propel the organization to new heights. And it all starts with this one, all-important question.

When a recruiter asks a hiring manager about the problem the new hire will be responsible for solving, they’re essentially homing in on the value proposition of the position. This inquiry seeks to uncover the essence of the role, the raison d’être, if you will. The answer to this question is the North Star that guides the entire hiring process.

By understanding the specific problem or challenge, a recruiter can more effectively identify and assess candidates who possess the skills, experience, and temperament required to rise to the occasion. It’s like a key that unlocks the door to a treasure trove of talent, just waiting to be discovered.

Furthermore, this question helps the recruiter to craft a compelling narrative around the role – a story that will resonate with potential candidates and pique their interest. After all, the most talented individuals are often drawn to opportunities that allow them to flex their problem-solving muscles and make a tangible impact.

In summary, the question “What problem will this hire be responsible for solving?” is a powerful tool in the recruiter’s arsenal. It’s the secret sauce that enables them to zero in on the true purpose of the role, identify the best candidates, and ultimately, ensure the success of the hiring process.

The Post Mortem

Ah, post mortems, the ultimate autopsy for the corporate talent search. Picture this: a hiring manager and their team, huddled together in a room, dissecting the lifeless remains of a candidate assessment process. What, dear friends, is the point of this seemingly macabre exercise? Allow me to illuminate your minds.

First and foremost, we have to recognize the value of data. Data, you see, is the new oil, the lifeblood that pumps through the veins of the modern business world. And just as any shrewd wildcatter would do, a post mortem session is all about drilling down to extract the most precious and valuable insights from that data.

By conducting a candidate debrief, the hiring manager and their team get to indulge in a luxurious feast of introspection, reflection, and learning. The main course? A deep dive into the factors that led to the selection (or non-selection) of a candidate. The side dish? A generous helping of lessons learned, served up with a delightful garnish of feedback and improvement.

Let’s not forget that the hiring process is a high-stakes game, my friends. Every decision made in this labyrinthine maze of recruitment has a direct impact on the organization’s performance, culture, and bottom line. A post mortem allows the team to evaluate and dissect each decision, like a master surgeon skillfully wielding a scalpel, to ensure that they emerge victorious in this relentless battle for talent.

And finally, the pièce de résistance: the continuous improvement of the hiring process itself. As any entrepreneur worth their salt knows, progress is a never-ending pursuit. A post mortem is the perfect opportunity to identify gaps, weaknesses, and inefficiencies in the hiring process, allowing the team to fine-tune their tactics and strategies in the ongoing war for talent.

In conclusion, the point of a post mortem – or candidate debrief session – is to extract those invaluable nuggets of information, to learn from past decisions, and to refine the hiring process. It’s all about embracing the data, finding the signal amidst the noise, and ultimately, ensuring the continued success and growth of the organization.

What To Ask In the Debrief

Alright, so you’re a recruiter looking to debrief with a hiring manager after interviewing a candidate. The key here is to gather valuable insights and assess whether the candidate fits the role and the company culture. Here are some crucial questions you should ask during the debrief:

Overall impression. What was the hiring manager’s first impression of the candidate? Did they come across as professional, enthusiastic, and a good fit for the team

Skills and qualifications. How well did the candidate demonstrate their skills and qualifications for the job? Did they provide concrete examples of their accomplishments and how they’ve applied their skills in previous roles?

Cultural fit. How well does the candidate align with the company’s values, culture, and work environment? Can the hiring manager envision them collaborating effectively with the team?

Problem-solving and critical thinking. Were there any instances during the interview where the candidate showcased their problem-solving abilities or critical thinking skills? How did they handle tough questions or hypothetical situations?

Communication and interpersonal skills. How effectively did the candidate communicate their ideas and experiences? Were they able to articulate their thoughts clearly and confidently? How were their interpersonal skills during the interview?

Growth potential and ambition. Did the candidate express an interest in growing within the company? Did they seem ambitious and eager to take on new challenges?

Concerns or red flags. Were there any concerns or red flags raised during the interview that the hiring manager would like to discuss further?

Comparison to other candidates. How does this candidate compare to other potential candidates for the role? Do they stand out as the top choice, or are there other candidates who may be a better fit?

Next steps. If the hiring manager feels positive about the candidate, could you discuss the next steps in the hiring process, such as reference checks, additional interviews, or extending an offer? If there are reservations, discuss whether it’s worth proceeding with the candidate or if it’s time to consider other options.

By asking these targeted questions during the debrief, you’ll gain a comprehensive understanding of the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses and help the hiring manager make a well-informed decision.

Adapted from Talk Tech To Me: The Non-Technical Guide to Technology Recruiting by Brian Fink. © 2023

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