July 20–24, 2015
Portland, OR

Humane interviewing

Jay Goel (Rent the Runway)
1:40pm–2:20pm Wednesday, 07/22/2015
Collaboration D139/140
Average rating: ***..
(3.90, 10 ratings)

Prerequisite Knowledge

No prior knowledge is required to get something out of this talk. It is aimed at people who are involved with hiring at companies, but will also have insights for candidates.


Part 1: Introduction

Interviewing is tough — especially if you’re a small company. It is difficult to balance “actual” work like building new features with reading resumes and scheduling interviews. It is similarly stressful for candidates, who must research each company, take time out of the office, and answer a barrage of questions for interviewers.

We say that interviews should be a two-way street: a way for both people to get together and see if there might be a mutual fit. How can we actually achieve this?

If we are successful, then even if there is not a good fit, candidates still feel positive about the interview experience and the company. If not, this creates frustration and bad will.

Part 2: Common anti-patterns and what we can do

As employers, we have a responsibility to be respectful of candidates’ time. We also want to be efficient. We will talk about why employers say they don’t want to waste time with candidates who may not be a good fit. We’ll talk about tips for being more efficient, and avoid making candidates go through lengthy processes (like large code tests) until the end of the process.

We get busy with the day-to-day, and miss following up with candidates. These are missed opportunities to showcase diligence and respect for their time.

We will talk about tips for giving a coding challenge, and how to do so in a way that is the least disruptive to the candidate’s schedule. We’ll talk about how to maintain a sense of urgency and excitement throughout the process.

On the flipside, we will talk about what candidates can do if they see employers being unresponsive. We can set boundaries and push back against strict policies, and this will help keep people calm during what is a rather stressful time!



Anti-patterns and what we can do better

  • Scheduling: efficiently choosing a time that is convenient. Minimizing back-and-forth chatter
  • Being unresponsive: bad PR for your business
  • Starting with a code test to “save time”: frustrating for candidates, unfair
  • We should instead have a clear plan for how to hire, with clear objectives
  • Start small (30-minute interview) and grow (full-day interview)

Tips for candidates

  • Realize that people are human! Don’t be afraid to follow-up if people aren’t responsive
  • Make it easy to schedule: give multiple dates and times.
  • Be prompt and brief
  • Do research and write a good custom cover letter. This goes a surprisingly long way

Final thoughts

  • These are people who can do multiples of their salary worth of business value. Treat people as such!
  • Referrals are the best source – so treat everyone pristinely. Be considerate
  • As candidates, don’t let yourself be overwhelmed. Communicate with the company about your timelines and interview schedule. If a company thinks you are valuable, they’ll work with you.
Photo of Jay Goel

Jay Goel

Rent the Runway

Jay Goel is a software engineer at Rent the Runway, where he develops software to efficiently manage inventory, shipping, and logistics for dress rentals. Previously, he was the lead engineer at Eponym, a Brooklyn-based eyewear company, where he used Python to implement everything from inventory management, shipping, accounting, to Twitter-boostrap based dashboards. Previously Jay has done engineering for a midtown wine startup (Lot18), and wrote accounts receivable software for Fidelity Investments. In his spare time, he’s liable to be working on one of innumerable side-projects on GitHub, playing the saxophone, and listening to NPR.