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Interview Guide

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Management section

Management section

In this interview, we test the management skills of the candidate for team leader, technical manager or an architect. Feel free to pick some significant points and bring to the interviews with other roles. The interview consists of the stages shown in the figure below.
It all starts with a free-form discussion of the candidate's experience. This is partly to get to know each other and enter the interview smoothly, because this part is very familiar to the candidate, and they can start the interview without much stress. Next, the interviewer switches into a questioning mode on basic topics. It’s up to you, how to lead this discussion. My personal preference is asking for a 2minutes story, showing the requesting qualities, rather than requesting the structure of on-one-ones and how often the candidate gives feedback to the colleagues. This shows me what points of view the candidate can take and usually takes, along with making the interview more comfortable for them. Anyway, in my experience, we all mostly tell the stories to each-others, rather than giving the result of the equation.
People management: here it is about how the candidate knows how to work with people, such as how they conduct one-on-ones, give feedback, direct employees, deal with employee development and delegate responsibility to people.
Teams management: when interviewing a team leader, it is logical to ask them questions about creating a new team, debugging dysfunctions in the existing team, and building good decision-making processes within the team. The important metric here is the desire to servant leadership and building the decision-making processes without direct involvement of the manager.
Process & project management: the team leader is responsible for the team's results, so it is essential for them to be able to understand how to structure the team's processes to meet stakeholder expectations, such as meeting certain deadlines. They should understand the limits of applicability of project management, scrum, kanban, lean or other approach, and choose a specific option taking into account the context and circumstances. The question “when will something be ready?” should not put them in a shock. In addition, such a lead should be focused on improving efficiency and effectiveness, and, most importantly, understand the difference between them.
Engineering practices: here it is about improving the engineering culture of the team. A story about integrating the improvements into CI/CD pipelines is expected here to gain the basic score. Another facet of this skill is organizing the processes of working on system improvements in terms of architectural processes, writing RFCs (request for comments), capturing decisions in ADRs (architecture decision records), and writing good documentation for the systems the team is responsible for. A good hint here will be to talk more specifically about how well they ever meet non-functional requirements, such as reliability, scalability, or ease of maintenance and development.
The final part of the interview is the candidate's questions to the interviewer, by which you can understand the focus of their interest and the match of their focus to your objectives: the product and its metrics, engineering, processes or the team…
My personal preference, which is based on my values, is to reserve the last 5 minutes of the interview to directly share my honest thoughts to the candidate. People call it feedback, and I strive to write to the HR system the same conclusions, as I give to the candidate. My main objectives for these 5 minutes are: to make the last hour or two of use for the candidate even if it is already clear, that they don’t fit us. To do so, I point out to their responses, and describe of how that was understood by me and what conclusions did I make. Next, I say directly, what was bad with the focus on what to improve: the language skills, lack of system thinking, inability to grasp the given idea, lack of interest in the given topic or the perception of it. As my main personal desire is to grow the world intelligence, I gladly share links in the chat to the observed topics and point to the resources and methods to get the knowledge.
If the time allows me, I ask about the past interviews of such stage in other companies, what tasks were there and what feedback the candidate got. That allows them to bring me some personal value in return and leaves the candidate in balance after the interview. I, in my turn, learn new tricks and utilize the experience of others.
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