Fog Creek

5. In-person Interviews


This video covers examples of good interview questions, the importance of question consistency and just how many interviews you should run.


I would recommend doing at least five interviews before you actually hire somebody. And leave the last interview for a very, very senior manager who can make the final call, or basically, sell the candidate if everybody else is already sold on them.

It’s very hard for an interviewer to decide whether or not the person they are interviewing is smart or not. The needle barely moves in the course of that hour. It’s really, really hard to tell. It’s very, very important, there’re all kinds of things that I tell people when you’re doing interviews. Number one, don’t ask the interviewee a question that you know the answer to. Or don’t ask them to solve a problem that you just solved the day before. Because in both of those cases you’re going to have an incredible bias towards the interviewee, the candidate, who gives the same answer as you gave or the candidate who gave the same answer you came up with or the candidate who gives you the answer that you were looking for. And that’s not really what you were looking for. You are looking for smart candidates. Not identical candidates to you. And so, you may be brilliant but they may be brilliant in a different way. So it’s better to come up with questions that are not something that you’ve ever worked on before.

It’s also good to keep asking the same question to all of the candidates that come by. And pretty soon you’ll be able to calibrate that question. If you’ve got a question that you ask everybody, after about the third of fourth person that you’ve asked this question, you start to know what to look for and you start to get a real good feel about whether they’re answering quickly or slowly and whether they’re doing a good job or not with that particular question.

Also, one more time, remember – the goal of interviewing somebody is to decide if they are smart, and if they get things done. And to do so, you may happen to give them a problem and they may or may not solve that problem but the problem is just an excuse to have a conversation. It’s sort of a pretext for a conversation about programming that will let you decide if that person is smart and likely to get things done.