John Papa's post with interviewing tips is an excellent read:
I also share John's belief that the tech skills won't get you the job. At least at telerik they won't. The tech skills are just a prerequisite to get you to an interview. Typically, at the interviews in our company we don't ask a lot of technical questions. We do so only in case we are not 100% certain that what the person has written in his/her resume is true. Once we get past that, we spend most of the time trying to understand the person on the other side of the table.
It has always been my belief that in an experienced and supportive team, even a person with little experience can quickly catch up and do a great job. It's a matter of time and dedication. What I've learned over the years, however, is that in contrast to tech skills, people have great difficulty to "learn" how to be nice, be self-starters and be responsible. These are things that you learn at a young age and it's unbelievably difficult to change your character when you are a mature person.
If you are hiring a person that will work isolated in a cell, 6 floors under the ground in a bunker, then personality may not matter that much. However, when you have a team of people working on a common set of deliverables where communication, coordination and taking of tough decisions are necessary, you'd better look for people that offer more than pure coding skills. Here's a list of what we look for:
- Motivation: if you don't have a flame for what you do, chances are you won't be a stellar performer. You have to love what you do.
- Desire to learn: we live in a fast-paced world and something new pops up on a daily basis. You have to ensure that you are ready for the challenges of tomorrow and that your skills are always up to date. What's good for you is also good for the company. - Team spirit: we work in tightly knit teams where there's no internal competition and decisions are taken on the basis of consensus. If you are overly competitive, if you can't work with other people and you are not comfortable accepting the views of other people, you're not well set for a career at telerik.
- Teaching skills: that's actually one of the most fundamental questions that we try to ask ourselves at the interview - "Will this person be a good mentor? Will s/he be able to disperse knowledge to the younger folks that join the team?" The presence of this skills ensures that the accumulated knowledge is spread through the organization and the team can grow without this having an impact on performance.
- Sense of humor: oh, yes. This is a major one. When everybody is stressed out, you definitely need good sense of humor to handle tough decisions when they arise.
- Constructiveness and decisiveness: the fact that you identify problems and talk about them doesn't make you a hero. You have to offer constructive feedback how things can be improved. Even better, show that you are a person that is willing to help resolve the problems.
- Initiative: most employers I know appreciate it when people show initiative. Sure, you will make mistakes. Sure, many of your ideas will not get support. But you'll eventually get there is you have an inner drive to improve the things around you and not wait for a clear cut order from management to get you started.
And here's a list of what we at telerik consider as the "mortal sins":
- Show only cursory knowledge of who we are and what we do. If you don't know our offering inside out, then you probably don't know what our expectations are. If you don't know our expectations, then you can't map what you can offer to what we are seeking and it simply doesn't make a lot of sense to point out that "...my experience and background have prepared me well for the requirements of the job..." You have to show genuine interest in joining telerik and you have to know us well as the potential buyer of your skills:)
- Say bad stuff about anything. Even if your ex-employer was the biggest ass on the Earth, you shouldn't use the opportunity to bash. Typically this says to us that you are likely to speak the same about us when you leave telerik.
- Be rude. It's not always a matter of what you say, but how you say it. Many times, personal issues arise because someone had a valid point but given the inappropriate timing and manner s/he hurts someone else's feelings. You don't accomplish anything by saying “You did a very stupid thing". It's so much better to simply say "Hey, this happens to everyone. Let's see what we can do so that this does not happen again in the future. I think you could do..."
- Have a strong ego: this inevitably affects everything and is the biggest "team-killer". People with a strong ego have the wrong attitude - they don't listen to what their peers have to say and they tend to omit criticizing themselves. Someone else is always to blame - it's either the boss, the development tool, the sun radiation, the customer, and it's never him/herself.
My advice: regardless of the background and tech skills of potential candidates, DON'T hire them if they have the wrong attitude and you have even the slightest doubt that they could negatively affect the people dynamics in your team.
p.s. here's a classic on the matter of HR: http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/fog0000000073.html