After leading and assisting dozen of interviews for multiple tech positions, I started reflecting on what do we actually absorb in that time, sitting with a stranger, trying to figure if that person will fit and be competent for a specific job.

Undoubtedly, over my career, I've changed and updated the questions I throw at interviews. The lack of diploma or certification in the tech field has also impacted the kind of person companies should be after, and therefore the future skills people will need.

While I commuted last month, I started listening to Talking to Strangers, from Malcom Gladwell. I've only known the guy from his podcast, which I've only listened to bits from it.

I've ranked this book to the level of Sapiens, Homo Deus, Principals, and The 4-Hour Workweek. As Tylor Cowen puts it, this is a quake book.

So how do I relate tech interviews to this book?

There are several mistakes humans make when meeting strangers. The book presents multiple cases for when humans fail to detect the good and the bad. Ana Montes, the Queen of Cuba.  Bernie Madoff, the Ponzi scheme swindler. Or the misfortune from Sandra Bland. These are all cases, that for better or worse, humans have failed to identify what was happening on the other side.

How far should you go when leading an interview?

One of the biggest flaws from our minds is that we always default to true. Meaning, we always tend to think what our minds want to believe.

When leading an interview, our thoughts and conclusions will tend to match the person with the skills, past experience and/or education we read from resumes.

One good trick I like to execute is having at least two interviews where the interviewee is exposed to a different set of eyes. It's very important people working in the future with the person have a chance to speak and get to know him/her, in advance.

But even more important, is to have a set of eyes that can override your default to true. Mates like these are hard to find, they usually question the status quo of things and apparently have very little to lose.

In the book, this type of person is referred to as a holy fool - A person who will reveal the truth among the insanity. Certainly, I don't think interviews are insane, but you get my point. Search and couple with people having features from a holy fool, and you'll get better answers.

How to determine how genuine a person is?

Another great concept from the book is transparency. We intrinsically assume whatever someone shows on the outside, is the same someone is feeling on the inside.

Moreover, depending on our culture, context and values we'll follow certain patterns of emotions. In the west, happy is smile, sad is crying and fear are bulging eyes. Do we leave space in our minds, for other representations of these emotions? Are we flexible enough to accept different ways to show emotion?

Within an interview, the interviewee frequently answers with a degree of  nervousness. Our goal is to never assume what set of emotions are present at the time and to flourish and flow into a state where both parties achieve transparency.

In my field, there are indeed technical skills to match, but talking to a genuine human being can create an authentic bond in a professional relationship, where each side gets the best from each other.

How to determine if a person is a match for a position?

There's a strong chapter in the book, where the definition of coupling is explained, making reference to people with suicidal tendencies. In short words, most of the people who want to commit suicide live in a paradox while searching for methods to achieve this action.

How so? This action, among many other types, are attached to a set of constraints, context and unique events that lead to that decision. This is coupling. For the previous example, means that if a person fails to commit suicide with one method, that person is not likely to instantly find another method to achieve the same action. Because the context and constraints led the person to that particular and special situation.

An interview is quite significant to check related events and circumstances for why you're sitting that day and time with a person who seeks one job. Why is that person attending to your office and looking for a job opportunity? Does the evolution of events in his/her professional life lead to what you as a company are exploring? Do values and future goals align with both parties?

And lastly, how does that person react to coupling and different contexts or edge situations?


Let's not blind ourselves with only hard or soft skills. Or apparent emotions. Let's not force other people to match our values and assumptions, or seek authenticity where there's not. Let's be humble and open to a different set of beliefs. Let's not forget we're after all...only humans.