A TechRepublic member and IT pro has been asked by his boss to sit in on his company's interviews for a Customer Technology Programmer/Manager. He wrote to me asking for suggestions on how he could better contribute to the interviewing process.
From his email:
I was wondering if you have an tips or suggested questions I could ask the candidate that would be pertinent to my department and the department they'd be overseeing. Since the Internal/ERP mgr is also a programmer, he is able to ask questions related to programming. However, I'm not sure what types of questions to ask that would incorporate the candidates' skill sets with the department that I oversee (networking). Also, the person who gets the job and I would be peers so I'm not even sure what types of questions would be fitting for that situation.
First, I'd like to say that you should feel complimented that your boss asked you to take part in the process. Obviously, he trusts your judgment. I understand your point that, to properly gauge a candidate, you have to know what to ask him or her.
Since your colleague will be able to ask programming-specific questions, perhaps you should concentrate on more general issues like soft skills. (For example: Do you consider yourself good with details? and How would you handle the customer management side of the job?)
Sometimes by asking general questions and just sitting back to really listen to the answers, you can get a great window into a person's ability, attitude, and work ethic. For example, ask her about the worst project she ever worked on and how she overcame the problems. Getting a sense of how she handled the stress will tell you about what you can expect from her as a coworker.
Since you'll be working as a peer with this person, it might help to ask about how he has interacted with networking divisions in the past. (If the reply is "I wouldn't lower myself," well, then, you have something to use in your decision.)
It's important to ensure a culture fit, which is something your boss is trying to get at with having potential coworkers be in on the interviews. Are you a very serious culture? Ask if she functions best in a laid-back environment or a pressure-packed one. Anyway, you see what I'm getting at here. You don't necessarily need to know the technical questions to ask the job candidates because that's just part of the evaluation.
But I will also open your question up to the TechRepublic membership who, I assure you, will have some great suggestions of their own. Folks?
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Toni Bowers is the former Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.