Most interview processes are as follows: a candidate applies for a job, they get screened, then they get an interview. The candidate arrives at the interview not knowing what to expect.
The interviewer knows exactly what to expect. They know what questions they will ask, what kind of presentation they like, and what skills the candidate needs. The interview questions or guide are already defined, yet none of this is shared with the candidate.
Why is that? Interviews are not quiz shows, yet they’re treated like a guessing game or test where, if the individual hasn’t revised enough, they fail. Except failure doesn’t mean they can resit the test, it means they lose out on tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars. Their reputation with that company is in ruin.
The idea of a traditional interview is that the candidate should prepare, and if they don’t, then it’s on them. But that approach ignores many things.
- They are nervous, as we all are in interviews. They are in a vulnerable state, meeting new people, and being quizzed.
- They might not know to the interviewing methods or expectations. This is especially true of immigrants where expectations may be very different.*
- This may be their first time interviewing for a position like this. They might be able, but not know the typical way to prepare, how to package up a presentation, or what kind of questions will be asked.
- They might not have the time or the network to prepare for the unexpected interview.
- Finally, they might not be neuro-typical. Being surprised with questions, or feeling unprepared might cause anxiety or stress. Heck, the format might not even work for this person at all, so we should do everything we can to make sure we aren’t excluding these candidates.
*This one resonates with me because interviews in England and the United States are different.
None of these factors are good, and none are likely to crop up in a healthy work environment. Each factor might exclude the best candidates during the interview process; and that’s only 5 of many many things.
How can we do better?
What is an equitable way to level the playing field for all candidates? It is a process that helps prospective candidates feel prepared.
- Let the person know what to expect in the meeting.
- Provide an outline of the kind of presentation you expect.
- Share the questions you are going to ask in the interview.
- Tell them the number of interviews who will be in the meeting.
- And, if necessary, whether it’s formal or informal dress.
Next, make sure you share this list far enough in advance. Not everyone has spare time to whip up what you expect.
Worried about writing that? Here’s an example.
We loved your portfolio and wanted to invite you to a design interview. This will be 45-60 minutes, and give us time to understand your process and experience for this role. The interview will be informal, and myself and a design colleague will be in attendance.
Here’s an overview of what to expect from the interview, and how you might prepare.
Prepare 1-2 design projects to share in a presentation. We use this to form an idea of your process, highlighting key areas from start to finish. We want to understand your end to end design process, particularly your research and prototyping skills. This can be a slide deck or a PDF and we would love if you could share it with us after the call.
Note: this presentation doesn’t need to be polished, we’re looking to understand how you think and work, not whether you can create a powerpoint!
If you don’t know what to include, refer to the job description and think about which projects might highlight the requirements best.
If the questions haven’t already been answered in the walkthrough, we will be asking the following questions:
- Question 1, 2, 3, etc.
The final part of our chat will be your opportunity to ask any questions to us, so bring them along.
I hope that helps! If you have any further questions about the interview process or need more time to prepare, let us know.
You might read this and think we are pandering, and should test people based on merit. That people are masters of their own destiny, and a lack of preparedness is their own fault. But I disagree with that. By helping people prepare for interviews, we /are/ judging people on merit, instead of whether they can read your mind or are really really good at interviewing.
Interviews suck, and it’s not okay that we put candidates in such a vulnerable position. We should help people prepare for interviews by giving them the time and information they need to best show their skills. Alleviating these barriers will provide an equitable experience, growing our pool of candidates, and giving a better chance to people getting the job they deserve.
I was able to write this blog post thanks to a great workshop by Tessa Cooper from Collaborative Future. If you’re looking for ways to create an inclusive workplace, go check them out.