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A critical part of staffing a project team involves conducting interviews. After describing to a co-worker how several colleagues and I ask candidates to ‘show me’, by using a whiteboard to show what they know versus just telling me in words, my co-worker said “That’s Entrapment!” What do you think?

The first time I saw this practice applied was by a Customer who managed a network services group.  My first surprise was to discover that this employer required candidates to pass a one hour English proficiency exam. This was an activity, I was informed, to mitigate previous negative experiences where new employees didn’t make it through their probation period because of the inability to communicate using basic English, creating a need to repeat the hiring process. The candidates had been advised this test would be administered.

During the interview, the manager informed me he would probe to see how well the candidate’s knowledge aligned with the claims in the resume. Nothing sinister, or tricky.  For example, he would draw a basic network diagram with an obvious error in it, and ask the candidate to point out what was wrong (i.e., he’d put a router on the wrong side of the firewall). Or, he would ask the candidate to draw a basic network configuration for a corporate campus, or to link up multiple campuses. Things a Network Planner with the years of experience claimed by the candidate must be able to do. The interviewer discovered that at times the results were less than expected and the candidates were rejected.

A PM colleague who is an expert coder applies the same technique during his interviews. He would ask candidates to go to the whiteboard and at a high level, sketch out basic program structure, or sketch a few lines of code to describe basic functions (i.e., in Java or C+ depending on the requirement).

Now, least you think asking candidates to whiteboard during an interview is out of line, today’s interview coaches will advise you that, as the Interviewee, this is an excellent technique for standing out amongst other candidates – bring a marker to the interview and use the whiteboard to diagram your responses!

While interviewing for Senior Business Analyst positions, I’ve asked candidates to sketch out the most complex solutions they  have ever analyzed. I don’t need them to fill in the words on the boxes and give away proprietary information, or identify the company.  I’m hoping to see a Use Case diagram, ‘swim lane’ diagrams, or a data model.  A candidate drawing a HIPO diagram lacking even conditional ‘if’ statements doesn’t speak “Senior BA” to me.

“That’s Entrapment!”, my colleague said. What do you think?

One Response to “It’s “Show Me” Time During the Intervew”

  1. Mike Hollosi says:

    Absolutely NOT entrapment. The examples demonstrate ability to communicate, to think on your feet, and even ability to act as a reviewer.

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