The First Interview, Intro Call

Part of my job as an early team member is to continue to set the tone, the pace, and the organizational culture in which our (growing) team operates.

Optimizing operational workflows are fun but they simply don’t work if you have the wrong people on the team. Ergo, it’s imperative that we, first, get the right people on the proverbial bus and the only way to do that is to hire well.

And the first signal that you’ll really have is from the Intro Call — the first, real touchpoint with a potential new member of the team.

But what is the “introductory” call, really? And more importantly, how can we make sure that we are maximizing our time with a candidate (and vice versa)?

Here are a few thoughts…

Here… we… go!

So… What’s an “Introductory Call”?

That’s pretty simple as there are two primary objectives:

The intro call is an opportunity for you to share the story of your company and to learn more about the candidate.

Optimally, it should be between 30 to 45 minutes in length but it’s worth noting that I always block out time to go up to an hour; usually I have enough information in this first call within the first 45.

So… What are some topics to chat about?

Also a great question! Here, you’ll want to be begin to develop your own process and method, but, these are some more common topics that can be easily chatted through and discussed:

  1. A succinct (hit the “high notes”) story of how the company came to be and how the product direction evolved. This shouldn’t take more than a minute or two.
  2. Why you joined the company and what is most exciting about the opportunity.
  3. The biggest needs and challenges that the team is currently facing (and how they might be able to help).
  4. What the candidate is looking for in their next role and/or why they left their last role.
  5. Talk about historical projects that they’ve worked on and why these were of interest.

I don’t believe in throwing anyone any of those so-called “curve balls” or any tricky and/or mind-bending questions that try to test someone “intellectual horsepower” — I have found that most of these do not actually give me any better idea of who they are in this firstintroductory call so I ignore all of those entirely.

Besides, no one likes answering “trick questions”!

The hot seats!

A few other topics that I do not bring up:

  1. I’m not asking deeply “technical” questions and/or specific questions deep-diving into their role or previous projects. As an example, for technical roles, I don’t give folks any coding exercises or anything that might test for this — those questions come much later in the process.
  2. I stay far away from politics and religion / spirituality, but I allow us to move into this direction if the candidate brings it up. I also don’t talk about family dynamics (i.e. are they married, pregnant, gf/bf, etc.) and I don’t press on geographic location, although it’s always fun to know where they are calling-in from.
  3. I don’t talk (previous) salary or money and/or compensation.
  4. I don’t talk about “gaps” in their resume or work history as this isn’t really something that matters to me (nor should it).

Finally, I always make sure to end the conversation with two things:

  1. The “next step” which is a decision to move forward or stop the process (candidate review). I let them know that I’ll make this decision in the next 24 hours and will let them know via email by the end of the next business day.
  2. Provide space and time to answer any additional questions, either with the time remaining or via email. This may elongate the response time in #1, but, that’s fine as I want to be super-respectful of answering as many first-line questions as possible.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to build a cadence, a rhythm, and an interview “style” that really suits you! It takes practice, like most things, which is why I interview candidates every single week regardless of whether I’m looking to fill a role or not!

Good luck! I’d love to know how you do these as well!

[Originally published on Indie Hackers.]