Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Response To People Looking For Feedback

This is about the first post:

Elements of writing techniques in this are primarily used to adhere to the conditions that make a post go viral. The fact that the post reached ThoughtWorks was no accident. The glassdoor feedback uses a different language as glassdoor is a different platform but the messaging is the same:

The cloak of anonymity is because of lack of trust in the system of ThoughtWorks and the experience I had with the interviewing ThoughtWorks' employees. To me, ThoughtWorks folks came across as too proud and unwilling to listen. I also felt strongly that they were not going to take the feedback in a positive light after my interview. I did start giving my feedback to the recruiting person. However, he gave my a sympathetic look and said how he would surely get back if requirements in the future came up. I did not continue with the feedback.

The process of feedback is anonymous in its construct. I strongly feel that the minute one knows who the feedback is given by, the majority of the efforts of patriotic readers is to find that person and get back. There are hundreds of views of the Logan profile. That was not to know if I was Wolverine. I decided that rather than giving a feedback to one person in isolation, I chose to be the voice of many people who go through the same thing and provide feedback to many.

Based on the responses, it appears that a few people are honestly concerned and are looking for more feedback to improve the whole recruitment process.

Have a look at Priyank's post:
It brings out certain good points.

Every company has elements of greatness and elements of silliness which are both subjective. It is not about what the company aspired to do in this case, this is about what the company actually did. And it also boils down to the employees of the company who did it. Common sense was quite far from the discussion of that day. It also would dictate that there are thousands of companies across the world that modifies their policies to bring inclusiveness and diversity. Thoughtworks is not the only company that has done great modifications to their policies. They are simply one among thousands, thousands of caring sensitive companies across the globe, if not more.

I half agree with the view point that "Interview is an art and you acquire it over time". If it's an art, it's not going to come to all naturally over time. Some people have the ability to acquire it over time, most others need to be trained. "Training to take interviews"??. Sounds unheard of? Well, this kind of terrible interviews that happen in ThoughtWorks and other such companies, that too people (including HR) say is unheard of. But, we all know it's not unheard of. This is a young industry and it is continuously changing, interview training is simply one such change. I'm implementing it in my current firm and the policies of recruitment are being restructured drastically and well accepted.

This is not the first company where I have faced this. In other firms where I faced this, my feedback was taken with out making it a sympathetic event (in fact I was called back for a fresh set of interviews). I would say one of the best interviews was with a firm that I did not place in. It was a good discussion, I exited with the knowledge why I will not be joining the firm and I didn't have the feeling that the entire day had been wasted. I made good contacts in that firm and professionally have been in touch ever since. Basically the point I'm trying to make is that there is no correlation between being selected / rejected and good / bad interview.

Here's the feedback that I have : 
(Though this conversation is in context of ThoughtWorks, this applies to a whole bunch of companies and their employees, including where I am now)

1) Keep Interviewers Free : Make sure the employees doing the interview are not deeply in the middle of something when they are being pulled out. Their minds need to be focused on assessment. Many a times there is a last minute adjustment to conduct the interview discussions. This is pointless, there needs to be more planning for interviews. (Did I think that my interviewers were pulled out of their regular task? Yes they were, they were extremely impatient with what I had to say. They needed to be elsewhere, that was evident)

2) Assessment, Not Recruitment : Employees need to be told that they are not recruiting, they are merely helping with assessment. They are entering a handshake situation, not a "I bless you with a job" situation. It's a common habit of a lot of the employees to mistake that they are recruiting. No, the company is recruiting, the employee is lending a hand assessing. 

3) Awareness About The Candidate : Does the employee know why this particular candidate is in his office? What was the prospective role the candidate is being interviewed for? What are the key strengths that need to be looked for? Interview questions being defined and asked only based on the employee's professional experience and parameters does not make sense. It needs to be aligned with companies requirements.

4) Relative Experience Of Interviewer : Make sure the assessment is done by someone who is relatively senior and has spent more time in the industry. A 5 year experienced person is always better assessed by someone with 10 years of experience than someone with 5 years of experience. Sometimes companies get into a mind frame that their employees are far superior to the other companies. Employees and candidates are both humans and have common behavioral traits. People with similar experiences are likely to have ego clashes in an interview (Check with any of the other non-software industries, there is always much senior folk assessing, that is done for a valid reason). 
      If it's going to be a same experience assessment, then it should be a peer to peer discussion where it is equally important for the employee to explain why the candidate would like to work with him/her. If the employee is younger than the candidate, then let that discussion be more about the employee trying to find out openly if he would like to be mentored by the candidate. 
      If the employee happens to be younger, it should never be an evaluation of skills of the candidate. Sending someone younger to evaluate also shows that the company is not serious about their recruitment. (Usually, companies have a silly justification that their employees are damn smart even if they are young. This applies to the candidate as well, so don't do it, stop giving other excuses also) 
      See how the same interview discussion based on the relative experience can become very different? 
Bottom Line : Employees need to be told that it is okay to know less or as much as the candidate, it is not a competition in that room. It is simply adding another person to the company to take projects forward.

5) Assessment By Asking A Solution To A Problem: Problems that we all face can be solved in multiple ways. Each solution fits a kind of industry and the resource pool / infrastructure available. It is important for employees to stop expecting the solution in their heads to be the one thrown by the candidate. The candidate might throw a solution which may not even be the apt one. But it is thought-of and given in those few minutes of discussion. No one in actual working environments would do it that way. The same candidate on a different day could throw a different solution. The assessment needs to be based constant aspects like the thought process of the candidate; how giving the candidate a direction makes a difference in his thought process. Importantly, an interview is no place for putting forth individual opinions, regardless of how passionate one may be about it.

6) Taking feedback needs to be done only for internal improvement. The feedback process is not a venue for consoling the candidate. It is not to tell the candidate that "we will get back in case some other roles open up in the future". When a candidate with a promising profile and code doesn't make it, it would be essential to take the employees' feedback and candidate's feedback, and compare them to see why the unexpected gap. With confidence I can say if not for this blog, that discussion didn't ever happen.

7) Respect The Candidate : Right from their first interview employees need to be taught to respect the candidate who has made time to come their office (unfortunately people need to be taught this, considering the concept of ThoughtWorks' 3 pillars, I thought the aspect of respecting the candidate's time was a direction extension). Candidates don't have a problem with companies saying - "Sorry but we don't think this might work, we didn't find what we were looking for". But candidates need to feel respected when they are in an interview. 

There is no one absolute company, a great career can be built in a combination of various companies. Acceptance and rejection is part of life and happens in both directions. There is nothing to be proud of or dejected based on the result of an interview. However, the interview process itself needs to feel like time well spent. This is the industry I can call mine, I am taking time to write this because I care and as senior folk we need to fix things that are wrong. 
An open question would be : "How many such feedback have come and how many has the company acted upon?"


  1. Hi Logan,

    This is a great set of guidelines (with one exception, which I'll get to) for all companies recruiting. I've seen problems in recruiting caused by a lack of adherence to all your suggestions above. Hell, I'm sure I've been guilty of all of them at least once over the time I've done interviews at ThoughtWorks.

    The one I disagree with is the Relative Experience Of Interviewer. Whilst it's true I wouldn't consider putting a single (relatively) inexperienced interviewer with a more experienced interviewee, we often put a experienced/inexperienced pair of interviewers together.

    There are a couple of reasons for this, one of which you mentioned:

    - Never confuse experience (i.e., time in the industry) with competency. I've meet lots of people with "2 years of experience, 5 times in a row".

    - An objectively less experienced interviewer is still more experienced in understanding what it's like to work in company X than the interviewee. Maybe they're a grad, maybe they've been there 5 years already, but they have an insider's perspective into the environment the interviewee may be interested in joining. That experience counts during an interview.

    - As a more experienced interviewer, how do we look for your skills at explaining complex technical concepts to less experienced people? Can you recognise the gap in experience? Can you check for understanding during the conversation? Can you strike the right balance between overcomplication and condescension?

    - We get lots of danger signs from interview where an interviewee appears to be ignoring the less experienced interviewer. As consultants, we work with clients of all different levels of experience and interviewees will be expected to work with a wide range of people. Showing signs that you're dismissing junior interviewers is a concern.

    P.S The last comment is equally applicable if your substitute "less experienced" with "non male". We see a lot of that as well, nor surprisingly.

    1. When a company is recruiting someone with a certain years of experience, the company wants competency of relative proportion. No company wants to recruit a less competent person. If the candidate appeared unimpressive over any prior conversation, he/she wouldn't be there in the interview room, yes? So it is safe to say that interviewers are better off going into the interview assuming the candidate would be competent rather than not. In my experience, the 4 Thoughtworks employees came in with a mission to show how they were much better and more competent – beats the point of an interview, doesn’t it?

      Getting to the lesser experienced, like I said, it’s good to have them there, but the purpose is not technical assessment and competency. In my interview, all the interviewers were doing technical assessment – experienced or not. At least they were trying to, the lesser experienced were clearly failing terribly due to insufficient knowledge and lack of maturity. This, anyone would consider a waste of time.

      In India, specifically, no one tells the lesser experienced what his/her role in the interview is, that they are to look for mentorship, approachability etc and not join hands with the senior interviewer and assess the candidate. Because of this, lesser experienced gain an automatic pride in a scenario where there are interviewing a more experienced person. They assumes that they’ve been chosen because the company sees them as more competent. This is a mistake on the company’s part to not explain (read : training) the role of the lesser experienced as they go in to the interview room. The result is that they end up acting egotistic and extra smart (to compensate for what they don’t have in relative competency).

      What you have said, Andee, is fantastic from a theoretical standpoint. However, like I have already mentioned, it’s not what the company aspired to do but what the company actually did. In my case, there was no one relatively much more experienced assessing me. It was just interviewers half busy with something else coming in and trying to throw ego all over the room with no grounded knowledge on the subject matter or company’s direction. The sad part is, this is not a rare occurrence, this is commonplace and nobody looks into it. There is always a silly excuse or a justification.