Home > Hiring, Software Engineering > Why the first phone interview with the hiring manager is the most important one

Why the first phone interview with the hiring manager is the most important one

I wanted to share my advice with all great engineers who are seeking a rare opportunity.   Lets begin.

You noticed that Company A is looking for a Principal Software Engineer.   The job description is perfect and the company seems like a great place to work.

You applied.  The internal recruiter called you immediately.  Good news – your resume generated interest.   More good news!  The hiring manager scheduled a phone interview with you.

Your primary objective:  make the phone interview the most convincing discussion where future in-person interviews will be only a confirmation that you are the right person for this position (not a candidate – more on that later in the closing argument).

First – take the phone interview very seriously.  Prepare, prepare, prepare.

– Create time and environment where you can be 100% focused on the discussion.   Standing outside on a busy street while trucks are passing by is not a good idea.

– Ensure that your phone works.  Taking the call in a building where your mobile phone is guaranteed to have very poor reception is not advisable.

–  Research the company.   Read the last annual and quarterly reports (if the company is public).    Research competition, business milestones (acquisitions, divestitures), product lines, revenue by product line.  Is the company growing?  Is the growth slowing down?   Which products may not be competitive?  Which product YOU may working on and what kind of problems YOU may be asked to solve?  Would you rather work on a product which generates 10% or 80% of the company’s revenue?

– Do not be late if you have been provided with a conference call number and a specific time to dial in.   My suggestion:  dial 2 minutes before and wait for the hiring manager to join.  As a hiring manager, I dial in 3 minutes early and try to learn whether the candidate is prompt.

The hiring manager is looking for 3 things, although not every hiring manager will clearly explain these 3 things to you or even ask questions in a manner indicative of these 3 things.

These 3 things are nevertheless essential for you to prove beyond any doubt that you are the right person for the Principal Software Engineer position.

1.  Are you a methodical problem solver capable of dealing very complex problems?

2.  Are you a master of your craft (technology) and do you believe that your code speaks for yourself?  Hint:   if asked to participate in an unscheduled code review, do you welcome it or run aware from it?

3.  Are you good enough to lead by example and teach others by example?  Will you fit in the team?

Even if the hiring manager does not ask you about the last particularly difficult problem you solved, volunteer to discuss it in a manner relevant to the business of the company you are hiring.

Talk about technology like you designed and built it.   Go deep.  Discuss advantages and disadvantages of solution approaches you proposed recently. Share why you made a certain decision.  Defend it.  Your ability to make balanced decisions in an imperfect environment is what the hiring manager is looking for.

Get excited about sharing knowledge and replicating excellence.   The right hiring manager will look for more than just your technical depth.  He / she will also look for your ability as a Principal Software Engineer to lead by example and help grow the team by sharing knowledge.

The next in-person interview will be just a confirmation that you are the right person for this position.   Stop being a candidate.   Be the very best in what you do and share it with passion for delighting the customer because the customer is using a software product you built – AND signed your name on it.

If you follow these suggestions and get the job you want, drop me a line.   I will be glad to hear from you.



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