By Kevin Wu, co-founder and CEO at Pathrise
If you have been searching for a job recently, you probably have noticed the increase in the number of people you speak to at each company. Gone are the days when you would talk to a recruiter on the phone and then meet with your hiring manager. Now, you are likely to go through three to four rounds of interviews, with an onsite that can be an entire day of meetings.
Why do you have to talk to so many interviewers? The more people a candidate speaks to, the less risky the decision becomes.
In my experience in the career accelerator field, each interviewer rates the candidate on a scale of hire to no hire with levels of confidence (ex: hire, very strong confidence -- hire, average confidence -- no hire, weak confidence, etc). These ratings are reviewed individually and as a whole by stakeholders to make a decision.
If a candidate gets average confidence or above from most of the interviewers, then it is successful. Many companies feel that there is less risk in rejecting a candidate who might have been a good fit than hiring someone who is a bad fit, which is why they take the ratings seriously and want so many interviews. If you get some positive ratings but someone in the process catches a red flag, then you likely will not get the job because it is too risky.
Among the rise in the average number of interviews comes a new type of interview -- cross-disciplinary -- which does a good job of measuring the risk of whether someone is a team player or not. Emotional intelligence and collaboration are often major factors when teams are deciding who to hire. This is especially true at startups and smaller companies because there are many more opportunities for people to work together cross-functionally.
Therefore, you should not find it odd when you go in for a software engineering interview and meet with a product manager. Likewise, designers will often meet with product and engineering team members so that they can get a sense of how the teams interact with one another and if this candidate would be a good asset.
How can they tell? Most of the time, they are asking questions to see if the candidate has the empathy that is necessary to work on interdisciplinary tasks and teams. Likely, they will ask questions about the candidate's experience working on cross-functional teams and how they would react in certain situations.
Here are some examples of these types of questions. As a hiring manger, consider putting these questions on your interview agenda. As a candidate, prepare to answer them:
- What would you do if a product manager made a request that you thought was impossible?
- How do you deal with design criticism from someone who is not a designer?
- Talk about a time when you had to prioritize work within a cross-functional project.
When answering these types of questions, it is important to stay positive, even if you are describing a difficult situation or conflict. Never blame other team members or use negative words like lazy, stupid, annoying or useless. Explain the situation briefly and move quickly onto how you worked well with other people to solve the issue and highlight the result.
Cross-disciplinary interviews also play a role when determining the candidate's culture fit. The best way for a candidate to show they fit into the culture is by reading up on the company's mission, goals and values. These types of questions come up in the behavioral interviews, which are often done by the recruiter or HR but can also be done by interviewers from different teams.
Questions that are often asked when determining culture fit are:
- Which of the company values/principles is your greatest strength?
- Here at [company], we value transparency/moving quickly/asking questions. Talk about a time when you incorporated that value into your work.
- How does our mission resonate with you? What made you interested in joining this company?
Keep in mind that your responses should be succinct and specific. For the most part, companies just want to make sure that you have done your research and that you would fit in with their mission and values. Explain your interest in their mission or experience with similar values so that you can show your impact in light of what is important to them.
Kevin Wu is co-founder and CEO at Pathrise, helping students and young professionals around the country land their dream jobs.