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The Interview in the Enterprise

See also an earlier article in the blog, and Why I Don’t Talk to Google Recruiters mentioned in the comments.

Where I work we have regular round tables, in which you can talk and ask questions to middle management from other departments than your own. I had the opportunity to talk to a person who manages development priorities and staffs teams, and who of course has some insight into hiring and the interview process. That was very enlightening.

For example, finding people to hire in a large organisation is a hard job. Hiring rates are quite fixed, so in order to find people to hire you need to go through a relatively fixed, larger number of resume reviews, phone screens and face to face interviews. Assume that for each three people you would want to hire you need to sift through 100 resumes – that’s 10.000 resumes to look at for 300 people to hire. And it can not be automated.

An interview process for hiring, then moving people and their families, and finally on-boarding has latency – several months, often half a year, until the move and first day at work, and then another three months of on-boarding and three more months of team formation (the four *ormings).

I agree with whiteboard programming being a useless exercise in hiring interviews, and prefer other methods to validate credentials and capability – I like to ask people “Choose a previous project from your resume and tell me about it. What was that about, what was hard, and how did you handle this? What did you like about your solution, and what would you be doing differently in retrospective?” I like to hear about things they are proud of, and things they have learned, and I like to hear about possible choices and reasons for preferring one over the other.

But this

Thanks for your email. I’m very interested indeed. I have nothing against an interview. However, there is one condition: I have to be interviewed by the person I will be working for. By my future direct manager.

is not going to work in any larger organisation, and for sure not in the place I work in. “We don’t hire for a specific position, except for very few and distinct job profiles. Certainly not for developer positions.” has been explained to me. “We would for example hire for specific positions in deep infra, Network Engineers or Database Administrators, but that’s rare and an exception.”

When I asked for the why, we ended speaking about one core work of that manager, and how an agile organisation at scale can work. In our case, the organisation has a very specific culture and way of working, and of course a huge established codebase. The purpose of on-boarding is to explain our way of working and our past choices to beginners, and to familiarise them with our vocabulary, toolset and environment in a safe way.

After completing this, beginners like everyone else, can enter the “Choose your next team” process, in which wishes and requests, skills and interests are being matched, and in which people can move laterally through the organisation.

It may very well be that the job and team you are applying for after completing on-boarding did not exist yet when you were interviewed – and in fact that’s not entirely unlikely, considering growth and the speed of change in the business environment.


Published inWork


  1. Ralf Ertzinger

    This was a Bones episode, right?

  2. Jürgen

    I just – more or less successfully – went through a 6 month marathon of 10 interviews with one of the big four. In none I was asked to draw some algorithms on a whiteboard or code on a whiteboard or how many golf balls fit into a 747. I had to solve a technical problem as “homework”, which indeed involved coding. Not an easy task, but quite realistic for the job I applied for and in my eyes a good way to prove the technical skills of the applicants. One interview then was to explain and discuss the solution with other people already working in similar position.

    Not so nice about the process: Interviews were re-scheduled quite often, interviewers often came late. I was flown to offices just to have video calls with people in other offices. Quite early in the process I clearly told the recruiter about the only hard deal breaker that would make me not sign, no matter how much they’d pay me. After the whole process, she asked me, how this could be resolved, as they won’t be able to meet that requirement.

  3. A. Nonymous

    The link to “an earlier article” is wrong?

    • kris kris

      Thanks, fixed.

  4. AndreasLobinger

    Intially i wanted to reply with “Here at Nokia (large enough?) you will be interviewed by your manager. Not only, but she/he will be on the list” and then i recognized that in my work environment it’s not very clear for whom you are working. So management splits into line manager and project manager (and yes, sometimes this creates circular dependencies).
    Allocations to project also fluctuate and it might be you’re hired for a project that stopped before you start working. But still, you’ll be in a team/group/department organization that i roughly long-term stable.

  5. This doesn’t apply to IT jobs only, it applies to pretty much all jobs. I’d say most big companies don’t hire much for specific positions, but more for company fit. Of course there will be the odd specialist position where you might stay for a longer period, but otherwise even if initially you’re hired for a specific position working for a specific manager there’s a very good chance that within 6 months to a year that job will have changed and/or the manager has moved on. Insisting on being interviewed by the hiring manager (or “the manager you will be working for”) is therefore pretty pointless.
    In regards to interviewing techniques, in both my previous and current company the “official” interviewing technique is behavioural interviewing. In a nutshell, you get asked to talk about a situation where you demonstrated a specific behaviour (most technical skills are typically taken for granted or if necessary you’ll have to learn them. Quickly.). You don’t get asked what you would do, but what you actually did. Of course you can still make something up here, but I would argue it’s much more difficult than in a hypothetical situation.

    • FadingSun32

      There are a lot big companies and they are quite different to each other .. especially when it comes to culture and hiring. I work for a somewhat big company (> 70bn. revenue) and we do hiring for specific positions with interviews by your future manager .. but then we are quite heavily rooted in automotive and struggle a lot with all that agile and post-car-society stuff ..

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