Tips for Interviewing Candidates for Your Team

Watch this video to learn tips and hints for interviewing candidates for project roles…


Hi. I’m Devin Deen, Content Director here at During the initiating phase of a project or project sub-phase, you go through a process of appointing the team members to work on that particular project. Now when doing so, I like to use three different types of interviews to make sure I get the best possible people for my project teams. I use technical interviews, a behavioral-type interview and, lastly, I do reference-checking interviews.

Each of these interviews have a specific outcome and you’re trying to find out a lot more about the candidate who’s applying for that particular role. They all have a general flow, which I’ll go over a little bit later in this section talking about the flow of the interview, but let me just spend a little bit more time elaborating on what you’re looking for in each of these types of interviews.

Now, in your technical interview, you’re really trying to get down to the nitty-gritty of what that person can do, how they contribute to the project team resources, what sort of experience they’ve had in the past they can bring and bring to bear on that project team to actually help you achieve what you are setting out for?

In a technical interview, you’re actually looking for specific competencies, perhaps you need a COBOL developer, C++, Java developer. Maybe you need a particular masonry or a cameraman or a grip for working on a video shoot. Assembling the questions here are going to help you understand what that person can do and what they can’t do, specifically related to the task that they’re going to be having on that project team.

The next style of interview that I like to use is a behavioral-type interview. In a behavior interview, what you’re trying to find out is a little bit more about what makes that candidate work. What sort of things have they done in the past and how have they reacted to situations in the past, can give you an indication of how they’re going to react in a situation on your project team.

You might ask questions like, “What was the most creative thing that you think you’ve done?”, or ” Name the most influential person or event in your life.”, or, “In your last project team or role, what did your manager say that you needed to work on most, and what did you do about that?”

In the behavioral interview, what you’re trying to do is, once again, is trying to find out what makes that candidate tick, what really what makes them the most, the best possible person for your project team and working with the other team members.

Lastly, reference checking. Now look, in technical or behavioral interviews, anyone can put on a good show. Anyone can give you a sales job. You’ve got to make sure that you check your references. Get both the good and, perhaps, not so good references from your candidate. Give that person a ring and go through your series of 10 or 12 questions to better understand, once again, how that candidate performed on the job, what they liked about them, if they’d have them back, why or why not.

There’s a whole list of questions that you can go through and ask your references, but it is important that you do that reference check. Today’s on-line world, everyone is doing a lot of self-promotion. Their LinkedIn profile, their Facebook profile, they’re really, really talking all about what they can do for you. You’ve got to cut through all that noise and get to the nitty-gritty about what that person can or can’t do on your project team.

I do two of each of these. And I also don’t do them all myself. Make sure that you have another project team member go through and do a technical interview and a behavioral interview and a reference check for you. You might have your technical specialist or your solutions architect conduct the technical interview. You, yourself, might do one behavioral interview and have another team member, perhaps a colleague, or peer, do a behavioral interview with that candidate. In your reference checking, well, make sure that you do at least one of those yourself.

Now, the typical flow of the interview is basic. Before you get started, you really need to know what you need on that project team. Get your job description done. Workshop that job description with the other project team members. Make sure before you call in and put that ad up on the Internet, that you actually know what you’re looking for. Then, write the ad in a way that you can attract the most candidates or, better, try to ask around if some of your colleagues or peers knows somebody who has a particular skill set that you need on that particular project team.

Now the flow of the interview is basic and it can chop and change throughout, but here are the building blocks of that interview process: First off is the introduction. You really want to warm up the candidate. A lot of people, believe it or not, when they come to a particular job interview are very nervous, even more nervous than you are doing the interview. Warm them up. Ask them about their family. Ask them about what they did on the weekend. Start getting them to relax and when they start relaxing, then they’ll really show you who they really are.

Next off, once you go through the introduction, make sure you are inquiring about the specific skills that they can bring to the project team. Go through their list of certifications. Go through the experience that they’ve had around that particular skill that you’re looking for. Find out more about what they did on the other projects or other roles they’ve had using those skills.

Learn a little bit more about their experience. Take the time to have them tell you stories about what they did on the last job and how that may help them on this job. Go through the list of qualifications. These might be certifications, now certifications don’t necessarily indicate how good a particular resource is against their competitor, however, it does give you an indication that they are committed to learning more about that specific skill set.

If they’re committed to ongoing training, you know you’ve got a person who really, really wants to invest personally in achieving the best possible outcome and giving you a high-quality product. So qualifications, just making sure they have some in the skill set that you’re looking for can give you a good indication on how committed that person is to delivering a quality product.

Next, KPI’s. Make sure you convey to them what you are expecting from their performance on the project team and how you’re going to measure that performance. Make sure they get a clear understanding about that from you and see their reaction to it.

If people don’t like to be measured and monitored, you don’t want that person on the project team because what they’ll end up doing is working in a silo and not collaborating and not being a team member and not participating in the project team in a way that is best functional for the whole team. They’ll be performing as an individual. So make sure you talk to them about how you’re going to measure and monitor them and what you’re expecting from them in terms of their work habits.

Last, work. So around the work habit, work environment, you need to communicate that they’re going to be on a big project team and an open office, or, hey, they’re going to be on-site with one or two other project team members with the client. Make sure you communicate what that work environment is and get their reaction to that work environment, see how they feel about it.

Next one is you go and talk about salary or their hourly rate, if it’s a contractor. Make sure that you communicate that up front so you set their expectation. The worst thing you want is to hire somebody on and them come to you the next week and say, “Look, I’m really not thinking it’s working out. It’s not enough money for me. It’s not meeting my basic needs.” Be very open and honest about the dollars. It’s not a scary topic. Just lay it on the line and say what it is.

Any special conditions that they might have to do on the job are important to communicate at that time. If there’s travel involved or if there’s a particularly thorny client that needs a little bit more hand-holding, you need to make sure that you communicate what the special conditions are so that, once again, when they go into the role, they know exactly what they’re getting into.

And, lastly, always leave room for their questions. The type of questions that they ask will give you an indication of the quality and the thoughtfulness that that person has and what they can bring to bear on that project team.

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