I’ve been at my current job at Facebook for about a year. After somebody has been with the company for 9 months, they typically start participating in the interview process for their respective team.
For the last 3 months, I’ve been speaking to candidates from across the world, trying to determine if they’d be a good fit for our content strategy team. As somebody who was hunting for his first job not too long ago, sitting on the other side of the table has been a strange adjustment.
There are so many things that I see clearly now that I wish I had known back when I was job searching. Sometimes, in the middle of an interview, it takes every ounce of effort I have to not give the candidate a helpful hint or nudge them in the correct direction.
While there are a lot of things I look at when interviewing folks, these are my personal top three.
1. Do You Pass The Airplane Test?
The airplane test is pretty simple: If I had to sit next to you on a very long flight, would I be happy, neutral, or annoyed?
Yes, it sounds shallow. When a (pre-Facebook) coworker first explained it to me, I was a bit taken aback. Weren’t we supposed to hire people based solely on their skills and ability? Well, kind of.
The issue is there are a lot of qualified people out there, and when you put a handful of them next to each other, as you would in a final round interview, their skills start to look very similar.
Often, the only things left to distinguish people are soft skills. Are they conversational and approachable? Do they take feedback and critique well? Do they seem collaborative? These are hard questions to answer, and it’s important to be aware of potential biases when making a judgement call.
At Facebook, no one person can make a hire or no-hire call—it’s always decided by committee. That way, if somebody gave biased feedback (consciously or unconsciously), we’re able to calibrate it against what the rest of the committee says.
2. How Well Do You Know Your Work?
This one is especially important for creative positions, but I think it also holds true for other types of jobs. When you walk me through your portfolio, I’m looking to see how well you remember your past projects, and to what degree of detail.
Why? As a creative, intentionality is essential. Why did you write the sentence this way? If you chose one color for a screen when another could have worked just as well, what motivated that choice?
If the answer to these questions is “I just felt like it,” “Ummm,” “I don’t remember,” “It just sounded better,” etc., these are red flags. They not only show that you’re making choices on whims, but also that you may not have been involved enough in the work to know its intricate details.
An analogous version for a non-creative job: If you claim that you “led” a major project at work, I’m looking for you to explain it clearly, in detail, and without major stumbling. Gaps or a lack of detail may make me wonder how actively you “led” that work.
3. Are You Passionate And Enthusiastic?
Interviewing is hard and exhausting. Despite that, your interviewers want to see that the prospect of working at their company excites you. If you’re aloof, dozing, or not engaged during the interview, these are warning signs that you might not be passionate about the job.
I used to think this advice was silly. It’s a job, after all. How reasonably excited could you expect a person to be about a thing they need to do to support themselves?
While you don’t need to be bouncing off the walls with sheer joy during the interview, letting your passion shine through is important.
That’s because people who aren’t passionate about what they’re doing tend to not be the best folks to work with. They’re the first to leave work half-finished or poorly executed, and they’re unhappy the entire time they’re doing it. Nobody wants to hire somebody like that (see airplane test), which is why we’re paying attention to it during an interview.
Job-hunters, what questions do you have about what job interviewers look for? Sign up or log in with your Salt account to post in the comments, and I’ll answer them!