I have been doing a bunch of interviews lately. My second one this week (thanks recruiting!) was tonight and it didn’t go as well as it should have.
Here’s my typical interview strategy for when I am interviewing Business Analysts for ThoughtWorks and some tips to help you if I ever get picked to interview you.
1. Show Up On Time And Be Ready
I know that you are busy, but this isn’t college. You’re such a hot shot Analyst that you could land a job anywhere, right? Well, first you are going to have to show me that you want _this_ job. Our recruiting department sends out a confirmation to you usually 3 days in advance of my call. I also get a confirmation sent to me. If I can’t reach you on the phone number you give on the day of the call, I’ll usually try again about 15 minutes later. If I can’t reach you, I’ll send a note back to recruiting to reschedule the call. However, if I reach you and you are not ready to take my call and don’t have a good explanation (I’ll understand if the house is on fire or something), that’s an automatic *No Hire*. My reasoning for this is simple: it takes nearly an hour to do an interview with you and you know about it in advance, so you should have that time blocked off. If you don’t treat that time as important, it means you won’t treat our clients that way.
Do your homework on ThoughtWorks. Find out how we like to work; our company culture. Read our website, learn about agile, visit some blogs, talk to us at conferences. I’m going to ask you some questions about what you know about the company, so show me that you did a little bit of work and I’ll be happy.
On the flip side, I do almost no preparation for my interview with you. All I know is your name, phone number, and what position we are hiring you for (that determines my questions, more on that later). I get all of your information like your resume and notes from other interviews you’ve had with us, but I don’t look at a single bit of it before the interview. This is by design. I don’t want to know anything about you that will influence my decision to hire you.
3. The Interview
I have a pretty consistent interviewing style that helps me be more objective about your skills. ThoughtWorks has a set of questions that they like me to ask and I also mix in some of my own. Here’s how the interview typically goes:
- Ice Breaker
- ThoughtWorks Questions
- Domain Question From Your Most Recent Position
- Random Domain Question
- Questions For Me
- Wrap Up
I start off by letting you know how the interview is going to go. I care more about your thinking process than you getting everything 100% right on my questions. By this time, I still haven’t looked at anything about you.
The ThoughtWorks questions are mostly softball questions so that I can go over some logistical things about the job. Are you alright with lots (and lots) of travel? Have you worked with Agile professionally? Why do you want to be a BA? There are a bunch of questions, but they give me an idea of what to ask you further. I’ll go into something in detail if I get the sense that you are stretching the truth. While you are answering my questions, I’ll pop open your resume and look at your most recent job and title.
Domain Question From Your Most Recent Position
By now, you should be warmed up and I have a good sense of what I am going to ask you. From your most recent position, I’ll ask you something about the business domain. This way, I get a sense of how well you can understand what a business does. If you’re a TWU candidate, meaning you are just out of college, this question changes to ask about some of your classes. I’m looking for a deep understanding of what you are talking about. I’ll dive into small details to make sure you really know your stuff.
I may also ask you about some things you have done for your previous job (or school). Special projects, clubs, whatever. I want to see that you haven’t simply gone to work or school and taken the minimum to get by. It’s for your own good because you’ll get burned out quickly at ThoughtWorks if you aren’t into the work.
Random Domain Question
This is my favorite part of the interview. I’ll ask you about a domain that has nothing to do with business and run through a few exercises with you to see how well you can understand what I am talking about. It’s always something off the wall and will have nothing to do with what you have done before, but that is the point. I’m looking to see how well you can adapt to a new situation and think on your feet. I’ll play customer roles and ask you to elicit questions about things I want to do. I’ll try to trip you up and see how you recover. This way, I can get an idea of how you will do with our clients.
Questions For Me
This is the part of the interview where you get to ask me anything you want about ThoughtWorks. Some people trip up here because they think the interview is over. If you are really serious, you will have some questions about how we do our work, what our people are like to work with, etc. I also get to sell you a little bit on what it’s like to work here.
The whole process takes 45 minutes to an hour. I let you know about the next phase in the interview process and that our recruiting department will be getting back to you within a week or so. After that, I hang up and write the last of my notes about you and read them over again. I make them readable by someone other than myself and then I make a decision about whether or not to pass or pursue.
4. Pass Or Pursue?
After the interview, I have a pretty good idea of how I am going to recommend you. I ask myself lots of questions like: Is this person smart and do they get things done? Would I want to work with them? If the answer is no, it’s a pass. If I wouldn’t work with you, then I wouldn’t expect anyone else at ThoughtWorks to. If I feel like you aren’t smart enough to walk into a client and immediately start to figure out what is going on, that’s also a pass. If I have a good feeling about you, I’ll mark you as a pursue and send you on up the chain for our intense face-to-face interview process.
I hope this was helpful to future candidates. I’m looking for aptitude and attitude in the way that you present yourself to me. If you’ve got both, you’ll have no problem being a ThoughtWorker. Good luck.
UPDATE: If you are looking for a referral, please email me at jhoms at thoughtworks dot com and I’ll point you to the right people.