Interview with a Recruiter

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Caralie Chrisco is a former talent manager turned technical recruiter for Flatiron School. She founded The Artistic Pursuit, which offers practical resources for artists in NYC.

The interview process can be something of a black box for many developers, especially juniors. What questions will I be asked? Aside from my technical skills, what are recruiters really looking for in a candidate?

It can be a scary, stressful and oftentimes frustrating process. Let's demystify the interview a bit by peeking behind the curtain with Flatiron's own technical recruiter. We talked with Caralie about what impresses her, what scares her off and what the purpose of that "phone screen" call really is.

I've sent a few candidates your way in the past few months, and even those friends of mine who are really experienced devs (I'm talking like 15 years of coding) will nervously reach out to me before talking to you on the phone. They want to know what the purpose of the call is, if they need their computers. They're already stressed out before even getting in the door for the interview! So, what is the point of that first phone call?

The first phone call is not a test! For me, the initial call is as much me pitching to you as it is me learning about you.

I'm going to ask about your background and try to find out where your interests lie. I want to know if there is a particular role or position that you would be a good fit for and find especially fulfilling. I can and do go over your resume beforehand but I prefer to have a dialogue with you. This call is for us to get to know each other. You should have questions for me--this is your chance to start finding out if Flatiron is the right fit for you. So its not a pop quiz, its more of an information session.

During that first phone call, what are some questions candidates have asked that have really impressed you?

I really like getting educated questions specifically about our company. Even better if you're asking questions that are too complex for me to answer at this stage, like specific questions about how the engineering team works, what our culture is like, what projects we're working on. It just shows that you've done your research.

When candidates ask me: "What do you like about working at The Flatiron School", that really stands out. Questions like this are more personal and really show your interest.

What kind of candidates stand out to you? What are you looking for in a candidate that you speak with?

In my initial conversations with someone, I'm not assessing your technical skills. I'm looking for the humanity in the person. Im getting to know them and their background, my learning what they're interested in, what they're passionate about, what they're looking for and what they struggle with. Learning these things is what helps me determine if they would be a good fit for our team.

What makes a "good fit"? Someone who is excited to share what they've learned and excited to learn from others. Someone is ready to talk about what matters to them.

I always love hearing about what candidates are passionate about, within and beyond the tech world. It really stands out to me if someone is involved in the wider tech community or uses their tech skills and experience to further their interests in other ways.

What are some red flags you've come across when talking with a candidate? What would tell you that someone isn't a good fit for your team?

It's always disconcerting to me when someone doesn't have any questions for me. It makes me feel like either you are not really interested in working with us or that you are not confident enough to voice your own interests and needs. Always ask questions!

I would also say that someone who isn't comfortable talking about challenges they've faced or what they've struggled with in previous positions and learning efforts might not be the right fit. Our team really values learning and its tought to learn if you can't admit what you don't know.

Lastly, and this can be different for different companies, someone who isn't interested in working closely with others, who would just prefer to solve problems independently. That could be the right fit for other environments, but its not how we work.

Any success stories? Candidates that you had good experiences with that got an offer and really flourished?

Its hard to pinpoint specific people like that, but I would say that we have a lot of success with referrals--candidates who are recommended or connected to me by current team members. Referrals mean so much--use your network! And if you think you don't have a network, build one!

Any last words of advice?

A lot of people forget that the interview process is a two-way street. I'm here to provide value to you as you figure out whether you want to work here. And I'm here to convince you that you do want to work here! Your skills and experience are valuable so don't sell yourself short and use the interview process to get to know us and our company.