Interviewing + What Employers are Looking For

If last weeks episode was taking down myths about code school, we couldn’t leave you without real pointers on three things we employers want (we know from experience!) and how to stand out in an interview! Listen or read below.


[00:00:00] Let’s tackle the interview process. Specifically, we are going to focus on what employers want.

Welcome to effectively human, where we discuss how to close the knowledge gap between technology and the people who use it each week. Your host Morgan Lopes will share a real life practical tools on how to bridge the gap. Let’s jump in.

It helps to know what the person across the table is optimizing for in the interview process. And so we’re going to take a second and talk about that. As we do, it’s worth recognizing that hiring is really expensive for companies. It takes time, it takes energy, many [00:01:00] organizations invest money, either in recruiters or job boards.

Hiring is expensive and it’s risky. It is very rare that even when extending an offer to a top candidate, that you have complete confidence that you’re making the right choice. And so, we want to cover the three things that every employer is looking for. They’re going to have a group interviews and they might do whiteboard assessments and coding challenges and different exercises. But at the end of the day, they’re really trying to get at three things. The first are you capable? Can you do the work that they will be paying you to do? You might not have the exact skills today, but they should at least have a confidence or they are looking for a confidence that you could acquire those skills if needed.

And so they are wondering, are you capable? Many of the questions that they ask [00:02:00] and the portfolio that they want to see is ultimately getting at that question. Can you do the work?

The next thing that employers are looking for is, are you curious, are you interested in doing the work that they need done? Interest can look different for different employers. At new story, curiosity could come in a couple of different forms. New story is a global housing, nonprofit working to end global homelessness. So for us, you may be very interested in software engineering and that curiosity of anything pertaining to code is wildly valuable. Or you could say, “Hey, my life mission is to end global homelessness and I have these tools and abilities, but I will use any skills that I have to achieve this mission.”

And for us both are great for different reasons. And so curious may not be specific to the exact nature of the [00:03:00] work today, but it could be, and that’s worth recognizing.

Finally, culture. Will you connect well with the people we have here? Google actually did a massive research study on the topic they interviewed and worked with 10,000 of their teams across campuses all over the world. And they wanted to figure out what factors determine how people work best. What composition gets us the best, most high performing teams?

And so they got their all stars and they put them on the same team and they had their under-performers and they put them together. And then they had mixes of all stars and under performers and everyone in between. People with different backgrounds, different experience, they mixed and matched across all of these different teams.

[00:04:00] And at the end of the day, what they found was there was no correlation between the composition of teams based on mere skills, abilities, and experience. The number one indicator. Of whether or not a team would work well and perform together, had to do with trust. Do I trust the people I’m working alongside?

Do I feel like my opinions are valued? Can I speak up and be received? Accepted, heard, encouraged, supported beyond my mere contribution to the team. Culture is so much more than ping pong and beer on Fridays and flip flops at the office. It is about how connected I am to the people I’m working with. And so culture is the third part that employers are looking for in the interview process, based on Google’s research findings, that is actually the most important by a landslide.

Culture is so much more than ping pong and beer on Fridays and flip flops at the office. It is about how connected I am to the people I’m working with.

So, are you capable? Are you curious and are you [00:05:00] a culture fit? Those are what I would call  The Three C’s. And every employer, whether they recognize it or not are ultimately trying to determine those three things when figuring out if you are a fit for their organization.

Now, if I had to wrap all of this together and summarize what a great culture is all about, I would say a great culture is a place where the people could work anywhere, but they choose to be here.

Now in the interview process, it can feel like the person across the table has all the leverage. Even knowing the three questions that they’re asking, it can feel like there is a game going on and you’re just struggling to keep up. But I would say during the interview process, you have more power than you realize. It is worth asking questions of the person across the table.

The one interviewing you it is fair to bring questions. And in many cases, when I’m interviewing somebody, [00:06:00] I expect questions. Questions are an indicator of a curious person, of somebody who thinks deeply. Who is thoughtful. Who actually is interested in the work. So by simply asking questions of the person interviewing you, you start to illuminate your capability, your curiosity.

But I would say during the interview process, you have more power than you realize.

And for many organizations, you share that you are someone like them. If you’re looking for great questions to ask, there are two that come to mind that I find especially valuable. The first is asking to talk to somebody who works within the organization, who is not involved in the hiring process. This gives you access to team members.

And you can start to understand what it is actually like to work there. You can have more frank conversations. The expectation on this individual is typically a little bit lower and they are not as invested in the hiring outcome. And so you can get more honest answers by asking [00:07:00] the employer or the potential employer to let you interview somebody who works there.

Another question to add to the interview process for the person who is interviewing you is around your first 30, 60, and 90 days. What will be expected of you? What does success look like when you get started at their organization? Many organizations make it a point to create that for every new hire, but many don’t. There’s a chance you’re asking a question that they haven’t considered yet. Which is a great way of standing out among the other candidates who were in the room.

Thanks for listening to effectively human. Want to join in on the conversation? Submit your questions on, to hear them on the show. And of course subscribe so you never miss a beat.

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