Interviewing tips for the interviewer

I’m starting to be asked to interview potential hires for my company and I wanted to ask for other people’s experience on this. I’m at the 7 year mark out of school with a Bachelor’s in ChemE and I have interviewing assignments with those that would be my peers (in job title at least). I’m interested in how others approach interviewing engineers that have a few years of experience like me. Currently I have a set of behavioral and technical questions I’ve been asked previously and I pick a selection of those that seem most relevant to the position and the candidate. I’ve asked if my company has any formal policy/guidelines about interviewing and I was told there isn’t one.

I ask open ended questions to draw the interviewee out and get them to talking from their experiences, then ask follow up questions on that specific experience.

Like, tell me about your most challenging technical assignment? Or, most important project? Or, a project that went off the rails? Or, a personnel conflict that arose? Or, where your sense of ethics were challenged? Or, your best accomplishment?

I have a small set of very old, trick questions, that should be immediately identified as trick questions by anyone skilled in the art. They quickly eliminate the amateurs and poseurs.

If there is time, I then follow the candidate’s resume, and ask non-trick questions, specific to the experience claimed, that are pointy enough to indicate whether the candidate was doing the work, or watching someone else do it.

I NEVER reveal the correct answers to the questions I ask. I just make a notation for my own use, and move on to the next question. That way, the candidate doesn’t get smarter as the day progresses. It also enables you to assess their ability to deal with stress.

I hope you at least tell them if they’re right or wrong - I’d drive myself up the wall not knowing one way or the other! I personally don’t have/know trick questions, my technical questions are more around making sure people haven’t forgotten the basics.

Is there a framework you have on how to develop those pointy questions or could you give an example of a pointy question? In my mind, I’m thinking I should ask about some minutiae on PSV sizing if they claim something about PSVs but I wonder if that’s really a good way to determine/realize the candidate’s aptitude.

A bit like Mike H does, I have a set of questions that I can choose from. Answers to these questions quickly reveal who is well versed in the dark arts I practice.
I don’t give the answers away. Actually, the questions have enough grey area for there to be no “perfect” answer although there are many possible mistakes in every one.

To the OP.
Think like you own the company you work for. Imagine yourself hiring a person whose output will determine how much money you make next year. That should focus your attention on the problem.
FYI, I don’t always do this myself - it’s hard! I usually am participating to provide a point of view, not the hire decision, but I personally learn A LOT from the discussion with my colleagues after the interview when we are trying to choose from the candidates.

Sample question for a candidate who claimed some expertise with nuclear reactors:

“In a fission reactor, what does a ‘moderator’ do?”

That particular candidate produced only a blank stare in response.


I think I can sharpen some of my technical questions to be a bit more advanced so as to get to that level of discernment for more experienced people. While I expect some embellishment on resumes, hopefully people don’t have outright lies on them.

Don’t be so sure. There are habitual liars out there. I met/know one and their resume has outright lies in it.

For every job posting that I’ve helped with or done interviews, more than half of the applicants would not pass basic muster on items like qualifications, experience, location on this continent, etc. We usually don’t need to validate the claims on these resumes, and yet they are the more likely to have exaggerations or falsifications. The top applicants that already have a job, salary, credentials, professional standing etc. have something to lose if they are caught in a lie, but some may exaggerate. A fellow from Mumbai has nothing to lose if caught lying. As a result, I have no idea how often people lie on their resumes. What I do know is when they clearly don’t fit the job, they submit the things anyway.

Aren’t they the ones that receive questions from the audience, and pose them to the candidates, and monitor how much time each candidate gets…

Or, um, is a moderator something that slows fast neutrons down to slower (“thermal”) speeds so that they are more likely to result in fission if they encounter a fissible (U235) nucleus?

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To the OP’s question, I like to take some various parts of our product(s) with me, briefly describe them and ask the interview victim questions about them (What material do you think this is made from, and why? How would you service this device if the user complained that it was doing x?)

I agree with the spirit of your advice but my biggest hurdle is reconciling my very conversational interviewing instinct with trying to respect the preordained interview time limit that the candidate is expecting. That may be something I can try to change though.

And I find it disheartening that I know you’re right - c’est la vie?

I don’t do work that enables this style of interviewing, but one of the most interesting job interviews I had when I graduated was with a manufacturing company where the engineering manager did this during the interview. I almost forgot myself in the puzzle of all his questions, in a good way!