Interviewing is difficult. Technical vetting is even more difficult. You only have an hour to determine if the person knows his/her salt.
I’ve been doing a lot of these lately, and I seem to be getting slightly better at them. In my worry to make sure we don’t hire the wrong people, I eventually settled with this as a way to break the ice and start talking difficult problems. I call it the mind map method of technical vetting, or the Mind map approach to interviewing.
Basically, you only have an hour or two to completely technically vet someone on what may be 20 years of experience. Even if you yourself are very smart, there’s simply not enough bandwidth in the world to guarantee a level of competency. And certifications are usually no help, because none of the stuff in there tends to relate to real world experience for your particular type of position.
The other problem is that the candidate is likely to be nervous at their best and sometimes plain scared out of their wits – even if they’re the perfect candidate. Not exactly conducive to your best thought processes. You don’t want to skip someone just because they’re nervous or the shy type.
So what to do? A little workshop with a mind map.
I thought about this originally when I interviewed a now-coworker. So he helped me test-drive it. Maybe part of the success is that it worked the first time I tried it? Anyway, I’ve been using it for a little while now on the technical vettings and it seems to have worked so far.