"No Excuses Interviewing"
volume 1 number 4
When a CEO talks about the quality of interviewing in his company we listen. Business Week made this easy with a recent cover story on T.J. Rodgers, CEO of Cypress Semiconductor as "Bad Boy of Silicon Valley."
According to the article, "his hiring process is a strict regimen requiring at least 10 interviews, including one called the 'pack of wolves' session, in which several people ask the candidates technical questions that they are unlikely to be able to answer just to see how they handle pressure."
We did some research on Rodgers and found a Harvard Business Review article ("No Excuses Management," July-August '90). Here are some key ideas from Rodgers that relate to interviewing and hiring:
1. Use the big guns. If you want job prospects to know that you are serious, get your high-ranking executives involved in the interview process. At Cypress, all candidates for exempt positions interview with two vice presidents. Rodgers interviews anyone reporting to vice presidents or important individual contributors who report to managers.
2. Make interviews tough and technically demanding - even for people you know you want. Cypress candidates receive a form that lists the required technical skills, with whom they'll be interviewing, and the technical questions they will be asked. This focuses the interview and alerts the candidates to how rigorous the sessions will be.
3. Interviews should lead to detailed assessments of strengths and weaknesses, not vague impressions. We believe that if you do not find any weaknesses in a candidate, you probably have not probed sufficiently. Before Rodgers interviews a managerial candidate, the hiring vice president writes an interview strategy. This strategy highlights the specific strengths and weaknesses, particular concerns expressed about the job or the company, and other critical issues.
4. Check for cultural fit. Most companies claim to do this, but few are very systematic. At Cypress, work attitudes and career goals are probed through a questionnaire that requires brief but direct answers to open-ended questions. In our seminars, participants define their organizational culture prior to developing a Job/Candidate Profile for a particular position.
If you hire the best, you become the best. During an economically lean time, it is crucial to be very systematic and objective in your assessment of candidates you hire, reassign or promote. We expect more CEOs to focus on this in the future.