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  • A Crash Course On Interviewing

    [10.16.18]
    - Coray Seifert
  • Recently, a colleague who's been in the industry forever - but never involved in the hiring process - came to me with a conundrum. It went something like this:

    Colleague: "Hey I have to interview someone in 30 minutes. Give me a crash course."

    I'm currently managing the hiring process to expand the FTX Games team at our HQ in San Diego, so this topic was top of mind for me. I've been similarly responsible for staffing game development teams for the past decade so it would be safe to say I have a lot of thoughts on the matter.

    We chatted on Slack for the next ~28 minutes and the subsequent interview went great. What follows is a summary and slight expansion of what we talked about. I hope you'll find it useful and if you ever find yourself across the interview table from me, I hope you will use this information for good, not evil.

    Summary:

    Frame - Provide the agenda so you both know what to expect.
    Listen - Learn their history, find out what's important to them, understand their skills and capacities.
    Pitch - Give a from-the-heart pitch on where your company aligns with those goals.
    Drill Down - Find their red flags and knowledge gaps. Find out what will keep them from getting hired.
    Two-Way Q&A - Have a conversation. Pay attention to the conversational habits of the candidate.

    So that's the structure! Frame the conversation, get the information you want, pitch the hell out of your company, find out why this person won't make it through the hiring funnel, then tie up loose ends while making sure you represent your organization well. 

    I've used this format - or slight variations on it - for the better part of the past ten years, and it's generally led to great results. This particular flavor of interview structure is well suited to initial phone calls or in-person conversations - the ones where you're trying to get a high level understanding of a candidate's skills, passions, talent and personality. More technical interviews or detailed conversations to discuss specific projects or changing parameters are great follow-ups to this format.

    Alright! Let's dive into the details:

    Frame

    In general, I like to provide the agenda for the conversation right up front:

    "I'd like to get some more information and context on your background, provide some information about FTX, and then we can dive into any questions. Sound good?"

    This accomplishes a few things:

    1. It puts the candidate more at ease. A big thing you'll be fighting throughout the process is uncovering the true nature of a person. The more relaxed they are, the more honest they'll be, and the higher a correlation you'll find between the person they're presenting to you and the person they'll actually be when you work together. 
    2. It helps the candidate prepare meaningful questions and content for you to review. You only have a few minutes with this candidate before you have to make a critical decision. Make sure you're utilizing them to the absolute fullest extent.
    3. It makes sure you don't skip steps. Saying this stuff out loud at the beginning of the conversation provides natural pivot points and refreshes in your meeting-addled mind ("Wait, which call is this?!") the specific points that you need to hit.

    It's like the old business saying: 

    "Tell ‘em what you're gonna tell ‘em, tell ‘em, then tell ‘em what you told ‘em." 

    This is the first "Tell ‘em" part.

    Listen

    Once you've used the opening stanza to try to get your candidate settled in, let them talk. Get their history ("So, tell me a little bit more about your experience in the games industry."), but focus on the stuff that's not in their resume. 

    Early in this section of the conversation, you want to communicate your interests - what hard decisions did they have to make? What are their technical competencies? What are the gaps in their experience? - so feel free to redirect an early topic to those details. For example, "Oh that's super interesting! Tell me more about your time at [company]." is a great way to communicate that you're interested in drilling down deeper than the surface level. Smart candidates will note this and be sure to provide this level of detail throughout their history. 

    Again, you want to be putting candidates at ease throughout the process (more on this later) so if you hear something interesting, exciting, or thoughtful, let the candidate know. A personal favorite tactic of mine is to highlight games of theirs I've played. Nothing feels better in an interview that the interviewer saying something to the effect of "Ohhhh I'm like 200 hours in on [game series]." for a game you poured years of your life into.

    Build that confidence up and get closer to the ground truth at every moment you can.

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