I tend to be afraid to interview candidates because I feel like I am the interviewee… but I am trying to step out of my comfort zone and be better at interviewing. Mind you, I am super happy to get questions about the company, and how it is like to work here, and the core values etc, but I would hate having to answer questions about Active Record Associations in Rails on the spot. It’s one of my Achilles’ heels.

I started shadowing colleagues who give interviews for both developer and designer roles, as I am interested in the holistic approach, rather than the questions themselves.

Thoughtbot impressed me, already when I was a candidate, for the way interviews are performed.

Pair programming is pair programming

One of the thing that infuriated me at the time I was interviewing for new positions, was the hypocritical definition of “pair programming session” when in the end it was not pairing at all, it didn’t reflect real work, and the person on the other side had a notepad with the solution and was waiting for me to come up with that, or bust.

One of the things that I love is the attitude of learning something today, for both the candidate “did I learn anything new today during this interview?” and the interviewer “did I learn something new from you while we worked together today?” other than the almost obvious to mention part of “would I enjoy working/pairing every day with this developer?” (see note below)

⚠️ Almost-a-separate-post Alert⚠️

Note: On the value of pair programming.

In my opinion this goes to so many levels: asking questions, thinking out loud about the process, bouncing off ideas, rubber ducking as one of the most powerful tools of all times, and to reinforce the understanding and the goal of what we are doing avoiding getting lost in rabbit holes.

Back to the interview process

Setting clear expectations

Explaining how the interview is going to be done, the timing, the steps.

Be respectful and go through the listed steps.

Ask if there are questions or need for a break, especially in 1+ hour long sessions.

Warm-up questions

This one is fantastic to me!

Everyone (aehm…me at least) is nervous coming into an interview setting.

Starting with some warm-up questions, or some sort of previously prepared assignment is a great way to loosen up and talk a bit.

Show empathy

We are humans. Also when we are in interviews.

Recognize if someone has asked a good question, or be lightly reassuring (when true) that we would likely do something similar, make sure to highlight there are no right or wrong answers (when true), and no trick questions, make sure there are no misunderstandings in the requirements or in the question, by erroneous assumptions.

Smile. Nod. It is OK.


During these shadowing sessions there were so many times where, if I were the interviewer I wanted to chime in so many times, there were so many things I wanted to add and tell the candidate, but in those moments, my fellow interviewers were quiet instead, say even if there was a small error or something minor like that…because they were there to LISTEN!

And while discussing this last point with Sam, it made me think of Analogies Between Interviewing and Teaching

A real A-HA moment.