The Boring Letter
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The Boring Letter

Job Interviews seem like Arranged Marriage — How do you get it right?

Every month, I pick a question from readers and answer it as honestly and helpfully as I can. Last month, a reader asked me

How do you hire a good engineer, or a great marketer off a 30 minute interview? Doesn’t that sometimes feel like an arranged marriage?

Image from AIB

Our team at Pathao has grown from 50 to 500 people, in less than 2 years. On average, we were hiring more than 15 people/month. These folks went into tech, operations, marketing, support and other departments. To keep our ears to the ground, we, the leadership team took most of these interviews ourselves — which has helped me understand the recruitment and hiring process a lot better.

A lot of work leads up to the actual interview. I’ll cover some of that towards the end of this essay and more in a separate one.

Here’s how to make it less of an arranged marriage.

You DON’T judge in 30 minutes.

You may physically meet for 30 minutes.

But you make an impression based on several data points.

Each data point is another stroke of paint. It helps you paint a better picture.

I’ve got this down to a process. Now, I’m not saying this is the best process, but it’s what has yielded good results for me.

Here’s how I do it.

  • Step 1. Sourcing. This could be through personal referrals, crawled from LinkedIn, or job applications sent to us.
  • Step 2. Screening. From here, we make a short(er) list — which matches the job roles, minimum requirements, experience, among other things.
  • Step 3. Next, we call these folks. This a good opportunity to get some level 1 understanding of the people we’re talking to. We’re able to understand their current situations and a bit about how they got there. It’s also possible to get a brief idea of their verbal communication skills and thought process.
  • Step 4. An work sample. We usually ask interviewees to complete a work sample related to the role we’re considering them for. This is something they work on, submit within a deadline and then present during their on-campus interview. The assignment is generally well received.~90% of candidates for our Product team have said they enjoyed working on the assignment. “Super-interesting” “Made me think!” “Not boring” — some of the comments we received. (For Engineering candidates, the assessment happens on-campus!)
  • Step 5. And then, we meet. This is the most exciting part of the process. Candidates who’ve made it thus far are generally above a certain bar. At the on-campus interview, we screen for three things. Cultural fit. Problem solving ability. Domain knowledge.
  • A decision is made internally. Or another followup interview is scheduled to better judge person-job fit. The next round is usually with a different set of interviewers.
Deciding on a Thumbs Up and Down
  • We let the candidates know. If we want them on-board, this is the part where we figure out compensation and joining details. If it’s not a fit — we communicate that as well.

Most interviewers (including me for a long time) either talk too much or too little, ask level 1 questions and have never been trained in the interview process — even though it’s one of the most important things you’ll do in your career. Like all things, it takes effort and practice to get better at it.

An interview is about understanding where a candidate has been, what their goals are and what drives them. It’s about sharing where the company is and where we’re headed. Then, it’s about finding synergy between the two.

In this essay, I’ve narrated a broad view of what my interview process is like. However, a LOT of work leads up to the actual interview.

IF you’re interested, I’ll try to cover some more on this on an upcoming essay. Lemme know in the comments!

Thanks Sifat Hasan for proofreading this!

We started Pathao in 2015 with 4 people. Today, the Pathao app has been installed 2 million times, several thousand people depend on it for their income and even more people for their daily commutes. Across Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet. Be it a ride, food or a parcel. I am now sharing some of the lessons I’ve learned on this journey. I share these not to inspire or stroke my own ego — rather to highlight some hard things about building a technology company in Bangladesh.

I look beyond the glamor and share real experiences we’ve had while building this company from nothing. I will be sharing these on this newsletter every week.

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Ahmed Fahad

Ahmed Fahad

Founding team / VP of Product @ Pathao (; Global Shaper @ World Economic Forum. (