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Less interviews, more JoI

We're always looking for amazing, talented people, with a passion for software excellence — and we realised that the traditional tech interview process was getting in the way. So, my job over the past few months has been to work with our recruiters around the world to re-imagine our hiring process.

The foundations 

Before we started, we decided on one thing. We agreed on a prime directive — that interviewing should be full of joy. For us, and our candidates. Months of creative workshops followed, going wild with the ideation process, and then, after a set of experiments, we rolled out what we call JoI – Joy of Interviewing.

Gaya at awayday

We wanted to move away from slow-moving, inconsistent, multi-stepped paths; from interviews that felt like a mental arm wrestle; from tests and homework and lots of opinions. Really, all we need to do is work out if people have the qualities and skills we need, and if they genuinely want to be here. The fastest way to do that is to work together.

Instead of just fixing the process, we fixed the outcomes. We know the type of people and the type of skills we need. Different situations will call for different ways of uncovering this. Hurrah! Eureka, no more box-ticking.

What are we looking for?

We created a baseline of attributes, by role and grade, which are aligned with our capability model (how we develop our people’s skills). These attributes are essential, they allow us to hire for exactly the right people we need for our business and projects, and we can set these people up for success. Yet they still give us room to hire for potential in a systematic way.

Nobody has time to burn, so we wanted to make our approach faster, and more flexible (note, this does mean it can be intense). We also wanted to make sure that there’s a learning opportunity for everyone involved (us as well as you) and so we focused on 
We don’t have a standard process like most companies anymore, because instead of changing the top layer, the process, we’ve changed the foundation. We aren’t ticking boxes based on opinions; we’re seeking out a set of attributes. It’s a very candidate focused way to look at it.

What is an attribute?

Attributes are qualities, skills, and characteristics. They include things like learning ability, influence and persuasion, and collaboration skills. For a senior developer, for example, we would be looking for: “embraces evolutionary design” and “domain modelling”.

How do we test for attributes?

We’ve moved from an average of eight steps to three. There’s not a standard global process, but a typical journey for a developer would include an initial chat with a recruiter, a live pairing exercise (often virtually, but you’ll be working with a Thoughtworker to solve a problem together), then some office interviews.

Each person you meet will be working with you, seeking evidence of the attributes we need for the role. That comes from discussion and when you show us how you work.

TWer in Singapore

Advice for candidates

First of all, don’t waste time on a flashy CV. We don’t need it; we know you’re busy. Your LinkedIn (or equivalent) profile, as long as it’s up to date, is perfect. And just the facts are fine. Telling people you’re a team player or a decisive leader or a dynamic thinker doesn’t convince anyone, we want to see for ourselves!

When we book in a recruiter chat, it’s just that. Come as you are, it’s only a chat, we’re trying to get to know if we’re suitable for you, and you’re suitable for us. Nothing to prepare here. All you need is a quiet space where you can talk openly about your current project.  

When you come in for interviews, we are looking at three main things:
  • Knowing your stuff
  • Thoughtworks culture and alignment
  • Experience and credibility.
There’s some detail underneath each of these sections, for example, as a part of 'culture' (although it’s relevant to all three) we are looking for learnability & collaboration. By learnability we mean:
  • Self-reflective, hungry to improve, interest in driving their own learning, applies theoretical knowledge to practice
  • We’ll be trying to get you to tell us detailed examples of you in these situations.
And what we want to see in terms of collaboration is:
  • Working well in teams, receiving and giving feedback, expresses opinions and disagreements respectfully, humble and open, willingness to co-create and compromise.

Not just tech 

We’ll also have a specific conversation about social impact. Our people love doing these interviews because it allows us to get to know you better and understand how you think about inclusivity, the impact of tech on society, and talk about how you see the world and technology when looking through other people’s eyes.  

The kinds of things we might talk about include:
  • Social justice topics that you’re interested in
  • Bias and historically marginalised people in the tech workforce
  • The unintended social consequences of technology.
Most people come away from the conversation feeling really energised and excited because it's a chance to explore and discuss issues they’re passionate about.

So, these are the main three things we will want to dig into – what you know, Thoughtworks culture and alignment, and your experience and credibility. Let us see who you are as a person along the way, and our job is done.

Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.

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