(Photo by Instagram user @MelissaIvone)
Nick Shiftan has never aced an interview.*
So it was a little funny, the Curalate cofounder and Chief Technology Officer admitted, that he was giving a talk about exactly that topic. That’s the beauty of working at a startup, he said. Doing things you’re not qualified for. (His colleague, designer Melissa Morris Ivone, echoed that. It’s all about thinking, “I’m just going to jump in and figure it out,” she said.)
At last week’s NET/WORK jobs fair, which Technical.ly Philly organized, Shiftan talked about the art of the job interview: what makes a good interviewer, what to expect and how to impress.
One major takeaway from his talk? Interviewing is a precious skill and one that needs to be taught. Especially if you work at a startup that’s staffing up at an alarming rate, like Curalate, which, after three years, now employs more than 80.
Conducting job interviews is a team effort at Curalate.
Shiftan runs interview training at the company, where staffers learn that as an interviewer, their mission is to develop an opinion about someone’s skills and traits in one hour.
One way they do that is with numbers: every interviewer has to choose a number between one and four to rank their interviewee. It’s not 1-3, Shiftan said, because there shouldn’t be a middle ground. If an interviewer chooses the number “2.5,” the interviewer has failed.
Sometimes an interviewer is looking to test culture fit more than anything. (If a business staffer is interviewing a developer or vice versa, they’re likely looking for culture fit more than domain expertise.) In that case, Shiftan likes to ask questions like, if you had an extra hour every day, what would you want to learn? He’s looking for curiosity and a passion to keep learning.
Here’s how one engineer recently impressed him during that part of the interview: instead of telling Shiftan what he would learn, he taught Shiftan something. He spent half an hour giving an “incredibly detailed” description of how a phone’s gyroscope works.
“It conveyed intellectual horsepower,” Shiftan said.
That engineer — Andrew Ziegler — started at Curalate last month.
Here are some other tips from Shiftan:
- Dress to fit the company culture. It shows you did you research. If you don’t already know what people wear to work at that company, follow the company or a staffer on Instagram or just ask, he said.
- If you put something on your résumé, it’s fair game. If you put a certain technology on your list of skills, you better be able to talk about it. If you put an experience on your résumé, you should be able to talk about it in great detail.
- If you’re doing a coding test, don’t cheat. Sounds obvious but it happens, Shiftan said.
- Leave a good last impression. The last question will likely be, “Any questions for me?” You just need to get the interviewer talking, Shiftan said, because people love talking about themselves.
- Think out loud. When the interviewer asks a question that requires you to problem solve, it’s OK to stay quiet for a little bit and work it out in your head but as soon as you start getting a sense of where you’re going with it, start thinking out loud. Even if you get the question wrong, you’ll get partial credit for that, he said.
*At least according to him.-30-
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