on the way to the dream team

I was sitting in an unfamiliar room. There were two in front of me. Names are the only thing I knew about them. There was another person in the room. He was sitting on my left. When he spoke, I had to turn around in my chair to see his face. At this time, two strangers were out of my sight. They asked a lot of questions about my experience, about my knowledge. They gave me one problem after another, which I had to solve without any preparation. In other words:

they judged me.

It was terrible stress. This is how my interview went, which lasted a little more than an hour and a half. The next day I received an offer for a job in this company.

Two years later, I was sitting at my desk reading my resume. I was preparing for my first job interview as an interviewer. Why did I do it? Because I recently got promoted to team lead. And I had to recruit a team.

I put down my resume and thought about my last interview as a job seeker. It was more like an exam than an interview. Moreover, all the interviews in my life as a job seeker were the same. This is stress. I don’t like interviews like this. Even more. I hate.

And each of my interviews as an interviewer, I try to find a balance between the job duty, assess the experience and skills of the candidate, and the desire to make the interview a conversation, not an exam. And today I will share my experience.

What is the problem?

In general, the interview is most often built on a question-and-answer model. The interviewer asks a question, the applicant answers. Usually, at the end of the interview, the roles are reversed, and the applicant is allowed to ask questions about the company, the project, and working conditions.

The question arises:

and what is the problem? Each side is allowed to ask questions.

The difference is that the interviewer asks questions related to the applicant’s personal qualities, while the applicant asks questions about the company, the project and working conditions. I have not heard of a job seeker assessing the skills and experience of an interviewer in an interview. Therefore, the interviewer feels more comfortable at the interview than the applicant.

Moreover, often the interviewer comes in the company of colleagues, and the interview itself (before the coronovirus) is held at the company’s own walls. The applicant is alone, in an unfamiliar place, surrounded by unfamiliar people who will evaluate how “good” he is according to their version.

And, in my opinion, it is completely normal that a person, being in such a situation, feels discomfort, anxiety, fear. And when a person is afraid, he usually activates the strategies laid down by nature: attack, pretend to be “dead” or run away. In such situations, a person is more interested in being safe as soon as possible, rather than showing what a great specialist he is.

And here is the problem.

Meaning of words

The word “interview” as a process of assessing the experience and knowledge of a candidate is rarely used here. Usually they say “interview”. If you look in Ozhegov’s explanatory dictionary, you can find the following interpretation of this word:

interview-I, cf. 1. Same as conversation (obsolete). Friendly with. 2. A specially organized conversation on social, scientific, educational topics.

In both cases, the interview is interpreted as a conversation. And the conversation, according to the same Ozhegov’s dictionary is a conversation and an exchange of opinions.


An interview for an open position is often difficult to call a conversation. It’s usually like an exam where you have to answer a bunch of questions, try to get the highest possible score, and hope you pass the competition for the vacancy.

I’ve had an incredibly tough interview in my life. It wasn’t even an exam. It was a real interrogation. Unless they didn’t shine a lamp in their eyes. The interviewer asked one question after another, very unpleasantly and rudely commenting on all my inaccuracies in the answers. And then moved on to the next question. At some point, I realized that I no longer want to join this company, I don’t want to answer this endless stream of questions, I don’t want to listen to these sharp comments of the interviewer.

At that time I did not find the strength to say that I had had enough, and just at some point I began to answer every question “I don’t know.” And the thought throbbed in my head: if only it would all end faster. And the interviewer kept asking and asking questions, like a machine that couldn’t stop until it reached the end of the list.

After the interview, I felt so overwhelmed. Just destroyed. I walked home and thought: “I am not competent and useless”, “I have no future.”

Interview: Conversation or Exam?

I am sure that most people who are looking for a job prepare for an interview in one way or another. As an interviewer, I also prepare for the interview. I do different preparations from time to time, but my goal is always the same:

in a short period of time to get to know the candidate as best as possible and make a decision: can we form a team and solve problems and difficulties on the project together.

This is an incredibly difficult goal that I’m trying to achieve in an interview. And the assessment of technical experience and knowledge is only one part of the big picture.

You may get the impression that asking questions is a bad thing. This is not entirely true. Imagine that you are in an exam where the teacher asks you a question without preparation. I’m sure most people will be worried about their answer. And most often the questions arise: how well did I answer? Will there be additional questions? What grade will I get? But imagine the same situation at work, when the teacher is your colleague in the development workshop. Will you worry about evaluation or extra questions in such a situation? I think no.

In other words, a person’s response to the same action may be different depending on the context.

Context switching.

Typically, a job seeker expects an interview to be like an exam. And when the interview starts, he expects that they will ask a lot of questions, give them to solve problems in order to evaluate his experience and skills.

There was an interesting case in my practice of conducting interviews. One day, a developer candidate asked me about my level. I asked him to clarify his question. And it turned out that he was interested in me – a middle or senior developer. I answered honestly – team leader. This was my position. Then I asked him why he had such a question. And it turned out that the candidate was surprised that I did not drive him on all possible issues, and we have been sitting for an hour and discussing how to improve his test project. And I realized that the candidate was expecting an exam, and I offered him cooperation, a conversation on improving his test project and adding new features to it.

I know that many people in IT expect to be forced to solve problems, write code online, answer a bunch of technical questions. This is a context where each question asked is associated with an exam – pass/fail. And switching that context from exam to collaboration is the first thing I try to do in an interview.

Why am I doing this?

I’m just convinced that a person is best known in practice
in collaboration with other people rather than simply answering questions.


Above I wrote the main idea of ​​this article. Technical skills are important, but in modern team development, this is only part of the big picture. Communication within the team, an atmosphere of trust, the ability to work in a team, empathy, helping colleagues on the project, etc. – all this is no less important than technical skills.

And I managed to put together a team. Together we made it cool and successful. For several years we have successfully developed the 112 system in the Russian Federation, developed and participated in the launch of the 102 system in Uzbekistan.

And when I had to leave the company, I had bitterness, because I was very happy to work surrounded by these people.

Guys, thank you!

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