Better Interviews: People First Approach

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The Selection Process: One does not fit all

At Switch we like to conceive our selection process and its interviews from a broader perspective; the candidates who participate will go through different stages depending on the requirements of the project.

The main ones are: first interview with Human Resources, a technical instance, the possibility of a direct interview with the client when the project requires it, and application of psychological evaluation. 

A Design from a recruiting process from HR
Imagen de VIN JD en Pixabay

However, we love to have agile processes and adapt them to the needs of our clients, candidates and ourselves. Some stages can be added or removed depending on the case, to make everyone involved as happy as possible and the process can be as profitable to all as it might be. 

Our values, like fluid communication, honesty, closeness to customers, our people-first approach, among others  are also reflected in our processes. They act as a guide for the whole organization, so it’s important to have them embedded in this process as well, prioritizing them so that the experience of the candidate is an amazing one.

If you are interested in knowing more about our Talent Attraction and Selection process  you can check our website: How we work.

Interviews: Key Part of the Candidate Journey

At Switch, we are interested in working in an exceptional environment based on a positive culture.

We firmly believe it is important that through the selection process candidates can see for themselves that this is a reality for us. We do our best to convey a little bit of what a normal day on Switch might be like. 

A man taking notes on a job interview
Imagen de Robert Hundley en Pixabay

It is essential to let people know the benefits that Switch offers, but even more important is that the candidate can glimpse through their interactions with Switchers how the company and its future team is like.

For us, it’s always essential to work as a team, which extends to the selection process: the different actors must be aligned to evaluate the different factors that we take into account in a future collaborator. 

A puzzle
Imagen de Hebi B. en Pixabay

They go beyond the technical, it is also necessary to evaluate the cultural fit of the candidate and visualize how they would integrate with the team, technical fit with Switch and with the client, among others.

For example: Would the person be happy and able to grow with us? Do they have the necessary skills? Do they align with our values and goals?

We believe that the people in charge of each of those instances need to be the right one and be trained for it.

We believe that our leaders must be authentic, know how to communicate with their teams, know their importance within the company, and be driven by its values in order to empower the team. 

The same can be said to the mentorship system that we will introduce shortly in this article, since it is precisely our leaders who are going through this experience first, and the ones that are in charge of driving the changes that Switch wants and needs to apply. 

It is exactly for this reason that our technicians are the ones who carry out the technical interviews.

Our ideal technical interview

The new mentorship system (a little bit of a spoiler on this topic!)  was born to cover the need to align ourselves and train our team to carry out these interviews in the best possible way.

It is important that we act as a team and not from subjectivity. We are all part of Switch, and the candidate is a guest in our home or a future Switcher. He is getting to know the company through the first meetings with our employees. Training the team is not only a technical issue, but also soft skills matters. 

A draw of two people sitting in front of a table, one on each side, talking
Imagen de Tumisu en Pixabay

We trust in our people and we are confident that they all have the necessary technical skills to assess whether or not a candidate possesses the technical knowledge needed.

However, we want to go one step further and incorporate their perspective of future employees, how they see them integrating into Switch.

They are encouraged to transmit a little of their experiences, of what it is like to work with us, and take advantage of the fact that the candidate has an interview with a Switch referent so they can learn more about us first-hand.

Even more, when possible, the technical interview is carried out by their future leader, this way they can foresee how they would integrate into the team.

We like to have a long-term eyesight to assess how the person would feel about being part of our company, beyond the initial project they might start on, envisioning a possible career path within Switch and which challenges and opportunities we will be able to provide.

The Candidate Experience

Dou you remember when interviews were frustrating and you were not comfortable? Not anymore!

Nowadays many people continue to think (or act like) interviews are a privileged opportunity for the candidates, where we give them the chance to be part of us, without considering that they probably have several more offerings, mainly in IT area.

A Highway signage indictaing the flow from data, to information, to knowledge and finally learning
Imagen de Gerd Altmann en Pixabay 

By doing so, we are losing the opportunity as interviewers, to tell them what the company is about, and try to “sell” it so that the candidate sees the potential it offers and is genuinely interested in the opportunity. 

The New Interview approach: empathy and emotions are welcome

An interview is a great opportunity for both parties to get to know each other: company and candidate. 

Have you heard about “Employee Experience” and how to rethink its approach? For sure you did. 

As listed in the Harvard Business Review Magazine article, Rethinking Your Approach to the Employee Experience, some key points to consider are: connecting with employees’ lives outside work, ensuring autonomy, promoting personal growth, instilling shared purpose, providing holistic well-being offerings and helping people use them. 

This concept of ‘Employee Experience’  is analogous to the Candidate Experience. We want our candidates to feel comfortable during the selection process, and experience through it a little bit of what it would be like to work for Switch.

a representation of two heads with a  lot of relevant words in regards to emotions: receive, empathetic, engaged, loving,etc.
Imagen de John Hain en Pixabay 

On the other hand, it’s important that the interviewer can be empathic with the situation. 

It’s not a mystery that in interviews nerves and pressure sometimes can be against us. Stress can also be managed, even in our favor (and especially for the candidate). We want to help them to be able to do it. 

Emotional expressions are also expected for different vacancies, and in fact are necessary for daily interactions. 

Therefore, in addition to being empathetic, today it is necessary for our employees to know how to manage their emotions, and we want to be that place where they can be authentic and feel comfortable expressing themselves. To be that safe place where they will be accompanied, understood, and find support at all times, even if they are not yet a Switcher.

This is why we like to train interviewers who have the ability to read the situation and act accordingly, so that this interview is a talk between peers, relaxed, without pressure and sharing knowledge of both parties.

The Mentorship Program was born

It consists of a series of steps that are taken with the aim of effectively and practically transmitting the knowledge in the area of an expert in the subject, to someone who is just starting out or who never had adequate mentorship to optimize the process and add value to the organization and the candidates in question.

Hands with a tablet and many written words: Competence, skills, ability, training, growth, learning,etc
Imagen de Gerd Altmann en Pixabay

The foundation of this entire system is empathy when it comes to having an interview. We want our interviewers to put themselves in the place of the interviewee to generate an environment that is as stress-free as possible.

This way, much more relevant information is obtained from the candidate, and they also get a good experience with us as well and a bit of knowledge about what they did not know. We like to share knowledge!

The mentor seeks to give the mentee the tools they need, in a practical way and built by both parties and helping to cover setbacks (giving space for mistakes, and learning from them). 

How we do it

To achieve this, they are guided with a series of documents that help order and clarify the process, and helps to read and interpret signs or flags we must have in mind in the interviews.

They are accompanied during all these stages because some of our interviewers may lack experience (some others might have but would benefit either way from the experience) and to achieve the best possible quality feedback.

Once these instances are over, it’s time for the mentee to give feedback on the process and thus continue to grow and improve all aspects of it. The process is repeated over and over again until the mentee feels confident and is ready to become a mentor and help others grow.

Why this approach is needed 

Traditional teaching methods assume a strong theoretical foundation as a form of learning, however, certain research has shown that learning occurs by the 70-20-10 rule: 70% based on practical experience, 20% on opportunities to apply it and only 10% on theoretical teaching and training. 

70:20:10 written and a pen

That is why we changed the traditional approach to establish its strongest base in practice and work accordingly. 

Explaining the theoretical foundation, generating opportunities and putting our greatest effort into polishing skills during practice and having conversations with our employees to improve.

A fundamental part of this process comes from our corporate culture. We want Switch to be the best company for our employees, but also for future ones. 

Scrabble showing those words: Practice makes Perfect
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

This is the reason why this process includes aspects such as the comfort of all the participants during the interview and the collaboration between them. We try to help the candidate to understand concepts that they don’t know or even us learning from their experiences. 

Is this real? It is…

An example is a particular case of a person that was not a good fit:

The candidate did not have the necessary knowledge (this was noticed by the interviewer in the first few minutes) and for that reason it was decided to change the focus of the interview to do some small training. Guidance was offered regarding different paths that this person could follow and how to improve professionally in order to better prepare for the next one (whether it was with us or with another company).

The reason behind this is that we like our culture to be reflected in all official and unofficial instances, and this is how we want to show ourselves both inside and outside of Switch.

We take into account the cultural adjustment with the team and client that the person might be assigned.

We want to ensure their expectations are aligned with the possibilities we can provide and that the environment they are going to join is to their liking.

A win-win situation

More and more interviewers are trained to identify quality talent, with growth perspective within Switch and capable of taking a wider perspective; considering the person as a whole, as a future co-worker and not as a machine.

Participating in this mentorship process is a growth possibility for our technicians, they will learn skills that will be useful to them beyond this process and even their time working on Switch.

We started the process with 2 initial mentors, and as more people participate, we will have new mentors (the graduates). This system is self-sustaining and can work in the long term within Switch, with a teamwork perspective and polishing our skills together. We love that it’s a process where Switchers can support each other!

Promote teamwork: among Switchers we support each other and grow together. We foster a culture of collaboration where we all gain something from the participation in the selection process: the technicians hone their skills, Human Resources obtains trained interviewers, we manage to transmit a united forte, just as we like to work on a daily basis. And even the candidates manage to share a moment with specialized technicians who are always more than willing to answer their questions and provide them with guides on how they can continue to improve (even if that candidate might not end up being part of Switch)

This mentorship system is an opportunity to implement similar systems in other areas. And to take more steps in effective training (that is, training in which practice and theory are integrated).

Create long-term relationships by treating the candidate as a guest and offering the same treatment as the rest of our colleagues. We like that they take with them something positive from the interview and that the time invested is productive for both parties.

We like to think that by doing this type of interview, candidates will give good references from us and become Switch ambassadors or fans even if they will end up not being the perfect fit for the current vacancy.

Provide highly qualified and productive talent to our clients, aligned with our culture, but also with theirs.

A long term perspective

And since nothing comes without effort, of course we have also run into difficulties: the time we need to dedicate to make this work is very high (both mentor and mentee).

However, we consider time well invested and not wasted, is time that in the near future is going to pay off. So we are more than willing to invest in it.

We believe that this type of initiative cannot be applied to all organizations since, on our side, we promote an environment where constructive feedback is promoted daily, and likewise our employees are very receptive and open to suggestions and improvements.

Feedback written in a blackboard
Imagen de Gerd Altmann en Pixabay

We work promoting constant feedback between peers, leader to his team, team to his leader, and between areas. This year, in fact, in terms of training, we focused precisely on polishing those skills, to generate a culture where feedback is normal and even demanded by the team.

Thinking about our medium-term goals, we want all our technicians to be able to go through this mentorship and graduate from it.

 And as far as the long term is concerned, we want to continue growing as a great team in which we strengthen each other and identify new areas and opportunities for growth through shared experience.

Is it the panacea?

Of course is not. But for us, as it fits with our values, culture and vision, is a powerful tool

This method was born taking into account different sources of knowledge such as the university, independent courses and observing the way people learn; and we saw that learning through practice is always highlighted.

We understand that due to time issues, we can’t always (in each learning situation) have mentors 100% dedicated to each student. However, at Switch we consider that it is a necessary investment. Having these specialized mentors, assigned individually to each mentee, is the best way to ensure that knowledge is incorporated and applied properly.

What makes us unique is that these people are trained with dedication and their mentorship role ends when they get enough practical experience and the objectives are achieved (real and measurable objectives).

People interacting, talking to each other
Imagen de Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke en Pixabay 

We make follow ups and foster good relationships between us, in order to be the best versions of ourselves. Once the goal of the mentee is achieved, they end up being able to train the next interviewer candidate (be a mentor) and that’s where the cycle starts all over again. 

While mentors help each other to continue nutritious training from various angles, at the end of the day, the whole process becomes an extremely powerful collaborative tool.

Mentorship Program At First- Hand

As we always say, we prefer not talking about retention, but election.

Our people choose every day to continue working with us, and they don’t do it simply for the money, it is directly linked with emotions and how they apply to the relationship with the company. 

This relationship, our people and Switch,  evolves all the time. The important thing is to trust our people and know that companies make people grow, but more important, people make companies grow.

We are our people, and we want to grow together with them. By accompanying them with the mentorship program we can have a closer bond, which will allow us to keep in mind not only how they feel, but also our candidates, and to impact the way we make them feel.

Probably you would like to hear- first hand the mentor and mentee experience, and how it makes them feel, so we have decided to include Diego and Jota’s stories in regards to this program.

Why me? (Diego’s story, our first mentor)

At some point in my career at Switch I was asked to start helping on the recruitment process as a technical interviewer. 

Said process was not yet formalized and most things were up to whoever was assigned to the interview. As you might guess, that was a very bumpy road for me because I had no experience, no formal mentorship and almost no process to follow.

I never would have imagined all the skills and processes one would need to take a good interview! At least based on my standards and what I wanted to achieve.

My only thought was that I had the technical skills and that should be more than enough. What else would anybody want for a technical interview, right?

Really soon after that I was knocking on HR’s office for some guidance on soft skills, introduction speech, how to read someone’s body language and so much more, I clearly didn’t have what it takes to be a proper interviewer. 

Or did I? I clearly didn’t have the skills but now I knew a lot of things that were missing and I had a plan to improve all of them.

The first approach after that realization was to start creating with a coworker (that was also in charge of interviews) small documents with whatever we were doing so that at least we would be consistent between different interviews and wouldn’t forget important steps during that process.

That was an amazing tool to keep my speech interesting, consistent and fluid, to be able to detect whether I was boring the candidate or intriguing them.

It of course would also be beneficial on further improvements because now I had plenty of notes to analyze and get from them what was I doing and what was (and wasn’t) working for me and for the candidate.

I tend to base all my decisions on empathy and this was not the exception, I started thinking on my previous experience as interviewee and started taking notes on what sort of things made me feel comfortable or the opposite.

Based on that I created my first interview process and I was pretty confident that at least it was not a lousy one, I wouldn’t make people uncomfortable and I would get enough information to know if that person was able to fill whatever position we needed filled.

After a while more and more people started taking interviews and we were able to nourish from their experiences as well. 

But all changes tend to have a down side…

With the rise of interviewers and the lack of centralization regarding the process or the sources of knowledge we gathered up to that point,  we started going back to the old “everyone has its own process” and that was not a good thing to have in a growing company like Switch.

We thought it was time to improve the process but we wanted to do it right, we didn’t want to just tell everyone where the documents were and move on. 

So we thought that the best approach for this was to create a practical approach in which we could teach new interviewers while centralizing the process and sharing our experiences in an open way.

The word Mentor being written by a man in a blackboard
Imagen de Gerd Altmann en Pixabay 

So, to sum it all, I was picked as the first mentor and my goal is to teach how to take interviews and to help others become mentors so the cycle would go on and on.

This decision was based on my years of experience, my participation on most of the documents that we have available and the amount of positive feedback from my colleagues and even the people I interview on a daily basis.

Does it work? (story of our first mentee, Jota)

The experience has been, and continues to be, really enriching.

However, before this experience, I was already an interviewer, so being able to see which were the points to improve and working on them with a person who is accompanying me until I manage to strengthen them is something outstanding. 

Agraduated mentee, showing the diploma and graduation cap
Imagen de Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke en Pixabay

It helped me improve various aspects, including the structure of my interviews (managing time, not losing focus), and the notes collected (objectivity and content quality).

One of the company’s pillars is a relaxed atmosphere and to work comfortably. Being able to reflect this also in interviews is not an easy task. To have the guidance of a mentor contributes a lot.

Those interviews are enriching for everyone, not only us but also to the candidate. 

Knowing that we are not only acquiring information about the knowledge of applicants, but that we are also getting to know them, their way of thinking and acting is something very enriching. 

Interviews usually are instances of stress, so I try to transform the meeting into something relaxed that is enjoyed not only by me, but also by the candidates, as several have told me after finishing the interviews. 

Although today I already received the mentorship training, this does not mean that I can’t still continue asking questions to improve, quite the contrary, I still ask for advice from my mentor each time I need it. 

We created the process together, and feeling part of this was also something very motivating that encouraged me to continue working on it. 

The power, not only to receive feedback (to improve), but giving feedback to my mentor (as a mentee so that he can also improve), means everyone can contribute to the process.

Today I am moving on to a role more of a mentor than a mentee, but just to continue improving and making this experience one of the best in terms of interviews that I have faced.

I would sincerely invite all companies to make this change in their methodologies, knowing how to take advantage of the experience. Is very useful and enjoyable if the company culture accompanies it.

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