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Episode 18: Why Hiring is Broken with Aline Lerner of interviewing.io

September 19, 2019
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Gretchen DeKnikker: Welcome to the Girl Geek X podcast, connecting you with insights from women in tech. This is Gretchen. I’ve been working in tech for over 20 years.

Rachel Jones: This is Rachel, the producer of this podcast. And along with Angie and Sukrutha, who are out this week, we’re the team behind Girl Geek X. This podcast brings you the best of Girl Geek X events, dinners, and conferences where we’ve been elevating women in tech for over ten years.

Gretchen DeKnikker: Today we’ve got a really special episode. We’re doing our first interview on this podcast with Aline Lerner, founder and CEO of interviewing.io. You might remember Aline from our Elevate 2018 Virtual Conference where her presentation on interviewing was the top rated session of the day.

Gretchen DeKnikker: Today we’re going into the data she’s compiled on why diversity quotas suck, imposter syndrome, and the dirty secrets of recruiting departments, and so much more. Welcome, Aline.

Aline Lerner: Hi, that’s a great intro. Thrilled to be here.

Gretchen DeKnikker: Awesome.

Rachel Jones: So you have a lot of expertise in hiring and interviewing as the founder of interviewing.io.

Aline Lerner: Aptly named.

Rachel Jones: Could you tell us a little bit about that?

Aline Lerner: Maybe actually I’ll tell you a bit about my background and then the company. So, I was a software engineer for about five years. I cooked professionally before that, which gave me a bad attitude and a lot of skepticism about things. Which served me both served me well later in life. And then I fell into recruiting kind of by accident, I think, as many people do.

Aline Lerner: One of the things that always frustrated me, both when I was an engineer and then later when I was a recruiter, was that one, there just wasn’t very much hiring data that was being used practically to make hiring decisions. And one very specific instance of that is how much we tend to rely on resumes despite the fact that the data shows that they don’t carry very much predictive signal at all about whether somebody is going to be good at their job.

Aline Lerner: So, I started interviewing.io to help make hiring more fair, and sort of make it more efficient in the process as well. And ultimately try to level the playing field in tech a little bit and give access to, opportunity to, people that are good but might not look so good on paper.

Aline Lerner: And in the process, by virtue of what we do, which I hope I’ll be able to get into a bit more, we collect a ton of data about technical interviewing and hiring. On our platform we regularly conduct technical interviews. I think at this point we have close to 50,000 that have happened. And we have all the audio, and all the feedback, and all the code people write and whether it runs, and stuff people draw.

Aline Lerner: And then of course we see where our candidates end up and how they’re doing there. That allows us to draw some really interesting conclusions both about recruiting and interviewing. And then also ultimately about hiring and outcomes as well.

Gretchen DeKnikker: So, for the people who are like, “Oh my God, that sounds amazing,” so, there’s kind of two parts to the platform, right? The, the folks who can do practice, and then clients of yours that are companies that actually use the platform to conduct their interviews.

Aline Lerner: That’s exactly right. The platform comes in several parts. Ultimately what we do is we’re a marketplace where companies can hire software engineers, but the mechanism for doing that sounds at first a little convoluted and weird, but it’s also our secret sauce. On our platform, if you’re a software engineer you can sign up and once you sign up you can actually book live anonymous mock interviews with engineers from companies like Google, and Facebook, and Microsoft, and Amazon, and Dropbox, and a bunch of other logos that make us really happy.

Aline Lerner: These interviews are completely free. So basically you grab a time slot and then when you show up at go time, there’s a senior engineer on the other end who meets you in a collaborative coding environment and just starts running you through a prototypical technical interview and gives you feedback at the end.

Aline Lerner: Of course we use this feedback. I’ll talk about how we use that feedback in a moment, but it’s really cool because for our candidates, interview practice is now completely de-risked. Rather than having to go and apply at a bunch of companies where you don’t want to work to sort of warm up before you get going [crosstalk 00:04:20]-

Gretchen DeKnikker: For those companies, too, right?

Aline Lerner: I guess sometimes it might be good for them because you might be pleasantly surprised. A lot of hiring is just interpersonal chemistry and you never know going in, but by and large it’s probably not the best use of either party’s time. It’s like dating, you want to go on some shitty dates if you’re just getting back out there to sort of break the seal before you go with the people you actually want to go with. Not to be cynical about dating.

Gretchen DeKnikker: Oh, we can do that. We can do follow up podcast on [crosstalk 00:04:51]-

Aline Lerner: I have a lot to say. So, we tried to give people something they couldn’t get anywhere else, which was this really high fidelity interview practice that’s very realistic. And the nice thing is we can use data from these interviews and how they turn out to surface people that are good in a way that we think is much more reliable and much more fair than how they look on paper. So, once you’re a top performer, you unlock what we call our jobs portal. And there you just see all the companies we work with, and we work with around a hundred, and you can say, “Oh I want an interview with Twitter tomorrow. I want an interview with Snap tomorrow. I want an interview with Microsoft tomorrow.”

Aline Lerner: You just click a button and you book a real technical interview with an engineer who works at that company. You don’t have to apply, you don’t have to talk to recruiters, you don’t have to try to find a friend who works there that’ll slip your resume on top of the pile.

Aline Lerner: You just press a button and then it’s still anonymous is the best part. You interview at one of these top companies, at the end, if things feel good, you can unmask and then they’ll shoot you straight to the onsite. The last thing I’ll say, because I’ve talked for quite awhile now is the really, really cool thing, the thing I’m most proud of is about 40% of the hires that we’ve made in the last three years, that’s how long we’ve been doing hiring, are people that don’t look good on paper at all.

Gretchen DeKnikker: Can you talk a little bit more about that?

Aline Lerner: So, by that we mean when we think about diversity at interviewing.io, for us it’s bigger than race and gender. Though, of course, those are both very important things. But for us, when we say nontraditional candidates, we mean primarily whether you look good on paper. So, did you go to one of a few schools? Or have you had the opportunity to work at one of the few sort of top companies that recruiters value when they decide whom to spam?

Aline Lerner: On our platform something like, I think we have 25% women, which is a little better than the pool at large, which we’re very happy about. I think 7% people of color, a number we’d to increase, but overall we have 40% of people who maybe dropped out of high school. Went to community college. Were a late stage career changer. Maybe they ended up going to a bootcamp, and then working in industry for a few years and sort of having to go through the school of hard knocks.

Gretchen DeKnikker: We focus on a narrow set of schools. You’ve done posts about this, the top five elite schools, you went to MIT, I went to Berkeley, these top schools.

Aline Lerner: We’re so great.

Gretchen DeKnikker: We’re so amazing.

Aline Lerner: We’re so amazing. These are top, top schools and top programs, and hiring from those same sources, when there’s a complaint about there’s a lack of diversity. It’s like, well maybe if you stopped fishing in the same pond that fishes in the same pond.

Rachel Jones: One thing that I think, Gretchen, you said on the episode that we did about bias and hiring was how companies are kind of off-sourcing the work of deciding who’s good onto these schools, and onto these other companies and just assuming, “Oh, they passed Stanford’s check. So that means they’re a great fit here.” But yeah, I think a lot of the data that you’ve uncovered shows that it’s not always a good fit. Just going by this kind of automatic check.

Aline Lerner: And there have been so many times when a candidate has applied to a company, gone in through the front door, they got rejected before they ever got to interview because of how their resume looks. Then they get on our platform, they crush it in practice. They book with this very same company, do really well in the interview, go on site, get an offer, and then the company looks in their ATS, their applicant tracking system, and they’re like, “Wait, shit. This candidate applied six months ago and we rejected them and now we made them an offer.”

Aline Lerner: We’ve actually had to update our contracts with our customers to say … Normally when you’re a recruiter, there’s this language in the contract that says if you’re already aware of this candidate from a different source, if you hire them, then you don’t pay us anything. We’ve had to update it to say if you’ve already interviewed this person and you rejected them, then you don’t owe us anything. That’s your candidate. If you rejected them based on their resume, and then we surface them, we actually added a lot of value and we hope we’ve forced a bit of an existential crisis in your hiring.

Rachel Jones: And you should definitely still pay us.

Aline Lerner: Please give us money because we think we did something good.

Gretchen DeKnikker: So part of, I think what I understood what you were doing is you almost … Not even almost. You end run the talent acquisition team, right?

Aline Lerner: It’s different at every company. I think that a great recruiter is worth their weight in gold because they can figure out what candidates want, they can shepherd them through the process. They can make sure that people have a great experience, they can help close, they can inform salaries. This is stuff that that is a very sophisticated thing and it takes a very specific set of skills. Right now, recruiting departments are spending a lot of their time and resources sourcing and doing all sorts of top of funnel things that don’t make a lot of sense.

Aline Lerner: Recruiters, in my opinion, should not be vetting candidates because they simply do not have the domain expertise to do it.

Gretchen DeKnikker: Well, they’re looking for people just like the people you already have.

Aline Lerner: That too.

Gretchen DeKnikker: They don’t take risks.

Aline Lerner: They’re not incentivized to take risks. They’re actually disincentivised to take risks.

Gretchen DeKnikker: Exactly.

Aline Lerner: We believe in sort of this brave new world where we, if you look at a job search, there are parts of it that are additive, there are parts of it that are neutral, and then there are parts of it that are shitty, and unpleasant and useless.

Aline Lerner: And we think that our goal is to amplify the additive stuff, automate away the neutral stuff and take away the shitty stuff. Right now in a hiring process, at the very beginning, once you’re in the process, you’re going to talk to a recruiter. We think that that call isn’t always the best use of either party’s time. Because, one, in a good funnel, maybe 25% of people will make it past the tech screen, but the tech screen comes after the recruiter call.

Aline Lerner: So, you’re selling like crazy to a bunch of people when three out of those four people will never make it through the funnel. Terrible use of recruiting time. And recruiters are not as good at selling. Unless they’re superb, they can not be as good at selling as an engineer, because when you’re talking to a peer you can be like, “Hey, what’s coming up on the roadmap? Why are you here? What projects got you excited? What’s your day to day like?”

Aline Lerner: You can’t do that with a recruiter. What we would love is to have that conversation happen later. And what we would love is to have vetting at the top of the funnel, not be made at the whim of some proxies like where people went to school, but actually based on what people can do and that is not something a recruiter can do either.

Gretchen DeKnikker: And everyone has their own shorthand. When I was a founder and we were hiring, I didn’t want people who had gone to top schools, and I didn’t want people who had worked at big companies with brand names because I felt this wasn’t going to be the perfect environment for them. Is that 100% true? No, but everyone takes their own shortcuts.

Aline Lerner: You have to, yeah. I think that data has the power to sort of free us from having to make decisions based on proxies like that. Although your heuristic is much better than I think most. The crazy thing too … I was going to mention this earlier, just about sort of putting that, that final nail in the university hiring coffin as it were … We were looking to see, speaking to biases and stuff, whether where you went to school could actually predict how you’d perform in interviews.

Aline Lerner: This is pseudoscience. It’s my blog. It’s not an academic paper. That’s the beauty of–

Gretchen DeKnikker: It reads very academically though.

Rachel Jones: [crosstalk 00:12:48]

Gretchen DeKnikker: Yeah, she fronts in the best ways.

Aline Lerner: The best thing about having a blog is there’s no peer review. It’s just your friends and your employees. They’re like, “You’re too long winded,” and whatever. But you can say whatever … Of course the stuff we say we think is true.

Aline Lerner: So, we basically took all our students and we sorted them into one of a few categories. There were people that went to elite schools, the MITs, and the Stanfords and the Cal Techs and so on and so forth. And Berkeleys. Then they were top state schools, and then I think we went by US News and World Report and ended up with basically four tiers.

Aline Lerner: I hope I’m remembering this right. I might be misremembering a tiny bit, but the idea was that there was no difference in interview performance between the first three tiers at all. And the fourth tier, I think it was a tiny bit worse, but it wasn’t even that big of a deal. And now of course one of the big … I posted this on Hacker News, and whenever you post anything on Hacker News, people come out of the woodwork and are kind enough to identify all sorts of shortcomings with your work.

Rachel Jones: So generous.

Gretchen DeKnikker: I would like to donate my time.

Aline Lerner: Yes. They deigned to do that. I’m very grateful. Because this was actually a really valid criticism. It’s like, well, there’s some selection bias here. Because the students that are taking their time to do practice interviews are super motivated. So, they’re the ones that chose to do all this stuff, and are more proactive and they’re more career minded or whatever. And that’s probably true. But even with that, it’s still insane to me that there was no difference in performance between the MITs, and the UC Santa Barbaras, which, I’m not trying to put UCSB on blast, it’s a great school. I just think hiring managers are generally less stoked about it than MIT. But that’s not actually the case in our data.

Gretchen DeKnikker: Okay. So, you have said that diversity quotas suck.

Aline Lerner: Yes. Yes I have.

Gretchen DeKnikker: One the one hand you can make a case that if people aren’t incented, meaning your bonus, your promotion, your whatever is not tied to some sort of metric … Right now diversity quotas to me look like, “Oh oops, we tried. Oh we interviewed, whatever.” But no one’s literally changing the way that they’re looking at hiring, sort of filters then everything that they’re personally bringing to it to change the ratio. So, if you don’t have quotas, then what do you do?

Aline Lerner: It’s a hard question. I don’t know that I’ve necessarily figured it out. I think there should be some metric. I think my biggest qualm with diversity quotas is that it feels like a very sort of lazy kind of low hanging fruit metric. I’ll try to think of a sort of controversial, inflammatory example.

Aline Lerner: Let’s say we have a world … And this is kind of one of those biblical choices, you have to choose one or the other. Like, would you rather. I don’t think it’s morally right for us to be in a would you rather situation where you’re deciding between a white male high school dropout and a white female student from MIT or something. They both actually bring a lot to the table in different ways.

Aline Lerner: If we’re going to talk about lived experience and diversity of thought, then we should mean it. And if we’re going to talk about nontraditional candidates, I would argue, you know, I’m a white female from MIT. I’ve had a much easier life than the guy that dropped out of high school. But I don’t even think it’s our place to make that choice. I want a hiring process where both of those people are welcome, and where they’re judged on their merits. That’s my view.

Aline Lerner: And I think if you create a quota that’s based around race or gender, people like me will always win, at least when it comes to if you’re choosing between two–

Gretchen DeKnikker: Because you’re a woman.

Aline Lerner: Because I’m a woman. And it feels like shit. I can’t tell you how many times people have asked me, “Do you think you got into MIT because you’re a girl?” And the fact is, I don’t know. I don’t know. It’s very possible that I did. I had friends in high school that I thought were much more qualified than me, and then they didn’t get in and I got in. And I’m very grateful I got in. It’s made my life a lot easier.

Aline Lerner: I met my co founder there. But it sucks. Now I’m walking around being like, “Does that …” And that’s not even a real problem. “Oh, I don’t know why I got into the best engineering school,” whatever. But it still feels shit. And this idea of people around me in college wondering, “Is she here because she’s smart, or is she here …” So, that is my view on this. And I just hate this idea that people who deserve good things are going to be questioned. I just don’t want people to have that experience.

Gretchen DeKnikker: Yeah. And the cognitive diversity, as people talk about it and they say gender, ethnicity, race are going to bring it, but what they’re always talking about is cognitive diversity. And so if everybody’s gone to the same school, even if there are different races and different genders, especially top tier schools, they are little machines that teach you all to think the same and tell you you’re special.

Rachel Jones: I actually just read an article that was really similar to this. It was a black engineer saying that a lot of the times the black people that you see hired to these top companies, they all still kind of embody this kind of white style of being in the workspace. So, even as you’re filling a quota, you don’t have to challenge your processes or challenge the reasons why you weren’t diverse in the past. You can just have this number [crosstalk 00:18:53]-

Aline Lerner: Well, I think for companies it’s this ideal cop out. It’s like, let’s get all the women and URMs from Harvard. Woo. It’s like, well are you actually doing something meaningful there? I don’t know. It’s probably better than not doing it, but it’s not enough.

Gretchen DeKnikker: Right. Yeah. I think maybe in interviewing.io version 7,000 you can have a test for cognitive diversity. Actually there is, we’ve talked about on a previous podcast the Basadur Profile, I feel like … but I don’t know if you could put that in, but it’s how you problem solve, and just sort of figuring out for your team where people fit in. It’s B-A-S-A-D-U-R if anyone ever wants to look it up. But I found that one is great, but I always just use it when the team’s already there. Just to figure out where we’re going to have conflict and things like that.

Gretchen DeKnikker: So, because we have a predominantly female audience, you talked a little bit on your Elevate session about how men and women suffer equally from imposter syndrome. But then you had a blog post where you went on and talked about how women participate in the interview process a little bit differently. Can you give us a little more [crosstalk 00:20:16]-

Aline Lerner: Yeah. So, we did this experiment a few years ago where … we actually have a few patents on a real time voice modulation where we can make women sound like men and men sound like women. And we can make everybody also sound androgynous, which we stopped doing cause it creeped everybody out. This uncanny valley, apparently. Interviewers don’t like it. I don’t know.

Aline Lerner: But we did an experiment where we made women sound like men and men like sound women. And we tried to see what that did to their interview outcomes. One of the things that was really surprising is that making women sound like men did not actually make their scores better, and making men sound like women did not make their scores worse. So, that made us feel good. We’re like, we have a platform where people are not jerks.

Aline Lerner: But I looked at the average scores and median scores for women and men. And women were doing worse in technical interviews. That was just clear. Like, shit, okay, what’s going on here? And what was really surprising is why it happened. I’m like, well, fuck, maybe women are just worse at being engineers. If that is what the math says–

Gretchen DeKnikker: Oh no, James Damore is actually right.

Aline Lerner: If that’s what the math says … I just want to know what the truth is. I’m not tied to any … I want to understand. So, that was a hypothesis that we were entertaining. But I’m like, if I’m going to publish that, I have to be sure.

Gretchen DeKnikker: [crosstalk 00:21:54] be a lot of very helpful people [crosstalk 00:21:56] to give you feedback.

Aline Lerner: Before I published that post I dug into the data a bit more. And what was really interesting is that women were quitting after a bad performance seven times as often as men. They do their first interview on the platform. It wouldn’t go well and then they would never come back. That was skewing the numbers.

Aline Lerner: So, I said, “All right, why don’t we remove the cases where people quit after their first interview in both men and women and see what that does to the averages.” And then of course the difference went away entirely.

Aline Lerner: Both men and women feel they don’t know what they’re doing equally. It’s a source of consternation to both genders, but men just plow forward more often and women go into this ball of self-loathing, I think, and don’t persevere. That’s a blanket statement. Many do, but more often they tend to give up.

Aline Lerner: That’s something that we’ve worked hard to address. There are probably more treatments we can do on the platform. But one thing we’ve started doing is emailing people after their first interview and being, like, “Hey, congrats. You got that out of the way. Something like a third of our top performers mess up their first interview. So, you’re in great company, no big deal. Just go again.”

Aline Lerner: That’s actually helped with with retention quite a bit. And there are other things that we have in the works as well. But that’s just an important thing for people to know. Technical interviews are so arbitrary. People’s performance vary so wildly from one to the other for both genders. It’s just a shame that women peace out after one when that interview may not actually mean anything.

Gretchen DeKnikker: Well, and then you went in a little bit on the Dunning Kruger effect, and people not being able to evaluate how well they did or didn’t do. Is there a gender difference there?

Aline Lerner: In overestimating performance? That’s a great question. I don’t know. I should look that up.

Gretchen DeKnikker: That’s the quote of, like, “God, give me the confidence of a mediocre white man.” I play that in my head sometimes when I’m like, “If you were just an average white guy, you would totally go do this.” So, just stop doubting. And yeah, what’s the worst that’s going to happen?

Gretchen DeKnikker: So, we have a lot of women in our community that ask questions pretty frequently at Girl Geek dinners about, you know, “I went to a bootcamp,” and sort of the doubts around that, and, “What advice do you have?”

Aline Lerner: Yeah, so what I would say is, one, just accept the fact it’s going to be really, really hard. It’s going to take months and months. And it’s going to be hard work. But if you persevere, it will work out. You just have to sort of make peace with the fact that there’s nothing wrong with you, and it’s hard for everybody, and you just have to hustle.

Aline Lerner: There are two things that I think are valuable. One is don’t apply through traditional channels when you approach companies. Because companies are saturated with bootcamp applicants. Every bootcamp student is on AngelList matching with every company. It’s not in your interest to sort of be a part of this giant pile of resumes.

Aline Lerner: And if this is your first exposure to programming, chances are your resume doesn’t have very much on it. It probably just has a few projects that you did while you were in the bootcamp. So, what you can do instead is approach engineers or hiring managers who work at those companies directly and be like, “Hey, I read this blog post that you wrote,” or, “Hey, I saw this thing that your company just put out. I have questions about it.” And just ask for advice, and establish yourself as somebody that actually cares about the thing. You’re not just trying to network, have some very specific call to action that you want to discuss.

Aline Lerner: You’d be surprised by how willing people are to help. But because you came through a non-traditional channel, the burden is on you to have to hustle, and it sucks. That’s the reality. But if you do it, it’ll be okay. But you can’t just do the same thing that everybody else does and expect that it’s going to work because the odds are just not in your favor.

Gretchen DeKnikker: So, we have a lot of senior candidates and obviously engineering hiring managers. Do you have anything in the data on the interviewer side?

Aline Lerner: Yes we do. On our platform, whenever a technical interview takes place, whether it’s a practice interview, or whether it’s a real interview with a real company, the feedback after the interview is symmetric. So, that means that not only is your interviewer rating your performance as a candidate, like your coding ability, and your communication skills and so on, the candidate is also rating the interviewer on things like, “Would I want to work with this person? How good were the questions? How excited would I be to work with them? How good was this person at sort of shepherding me through the question and giving me the right amount of hints while not taking away my ability to solve the problem by just giving me the answer?”

Aline Lerner: What we’ve seen is that the best interviewers and the best interview questions are collaborative. The best experience that people have is when you take away this pseudo adversarial relationship between interviewer and interviewee and it becomes a, “Hey, can we be smart together and solve a problem?”

Aline Lerner: That takes a lot more effort as an interviewer to set up both that environment and to craft the kinds of questions where collaboration becomes easy. If you just ask somebody to write this function, that’s not very collaborative. But if you start changing up constraints and you’re like, “Hey, now that we wrote this function, we ran into this weird thing at work the other day where under certain conditions this thing didn’t work. Let me tell you about that and what would you do differently? And here’s what we did and here’s what, here’s what I tried.”

Aline Lerner: And then it just becomes fun, right? It also becomes a much better selling vehicle because you can give people some insight into the kind of work you’re doing. If it’s interesting, it’s going to stick in their heads. Then after they leave the interview, they’ll be like, “Huh. What would I have done? What if we tried this? What if we had tried that?” Then you’re in there like a little parasite. That’s really what you want, I think.

Gretchen DeKnikker: Right. You’ve won them over.

Aline Lerner: You’ve won them over.

Gretchen DeKnikker: Yeah. No, I love things that. I’ve been off and on looking for a job for three years. I love going in and I get so excited when we can problem solve something together.

Aline Lerner: That’s the best part. It gives you a, “Is this fun for me? Do I want to problem solve with this person for the next 2.7 years of my …” Whatever that average is.

Aline Lerner: The other thing I’ll suggest if you’re an interviewer or a hiring manager, it’s really hard to come up with interview questions. But one weird trick for coming up with those is if you start some shared doc on your team where every time you do something at work that’s interesting or unexpected, you don’t have to write a question about it. But just jot a little note being like, “Hey, I had fun solving this, this was a little a departure from my day-to-day and this is something memorable.”

Aline Lerner: And then you can go back and look at that doc later and turn those moments into questions. And you’ll just have all these seeds for question ideas that you can expand on. And then make it so it’s something that somebody can do in 45 minutes and strip away everything but the essentials. But at least then it’s real.

Rachel Jones: Yeah. So, interviewing.io is specifically for engineering hires.

Aline Lerner: That’s right.

Rachel Jones: And with technical interviews, it’s easy to kind of strip things back and get to an objective space. But how could you apply kind of what you’ve learned from that platform to places that don’t have a more objective measure when they’re doing these interviews?

Aline Lerner: Yeah, it’s tough. It’s really, really tough actually. I think there were two criteria for whether something interviewing.io would work in a given vertical. And one is, is there a huge shortage of labor? Because if there isn’t, then why the hell would companies interview people anonymously? That’s insane. They’re doing it because they’re desperate.

Aline Lerner: But then the second one is can you make a value judgment about whether a person knows what they’re doing based on very limited data and what they’re doing in front of you? In some cases that may not be the right thing. I don’t really know how to interview salespeople. Gretchen, you probably know much better than I do.

Aline Lerner: But, my impression is that one of the best indicators of future performance is past performance. So, did you exceed your quotas? If you didn’t, why not? That may be more effective than, “Sell me this pen.”

Gretchen DeKnikker: Yeah.

Gretchen DeKnikker: Salespeople, their environment is everything. You have to really understand the environment that they’re in and how it differs from the environment that you’re going to bring them into. And figuring out how to ask those kinds of questions too, of what motivates this person? Because, salespeople, motivation is everything.

Aline Lerner: It’s everything, right?

Gretchen DeKnikker: Yeah. That guy who’s going to get to the end of the day and got 40 nos, and then the guy next to him gets to ring the bell, and they’re like, “I wasn’t going to make any more calls today, but …” Because they’re in that hyper competitive thing, if it’s competitiveness that makes them make that last call, then if you don’t have a big team … You know what I mean? If you’re not structured in a way where they can get that motivation, then you’re going to be really missing … and you’re going to be doing them a disservice if you brought in someone.

Aline Lerner: Yeah. So, I think in some cases having a perfectly objective scenario based in the moment interview is not going to give you a full picture, and may also do the people a disservice because if you’ve accomplished a lot of stuff in your career, that should probably be part of your story.

Aline Lerner: But, I think that there is opportunity to do more of that with … There are a lot of cases where you can just give people scenarios. I mean that’s really what coding interviews are, right? It’s like, “What would you do in this situation?”

Gretchen DeKnikker: It’s like business school with code, just a case study and a case study.

Aline Lerner: So, management consulting, I think also in particular lends itself well to this approach.

Gretchen DeKnikker: Oh, definitely.

Aline Lerner: I don’t know whether there’s a shortage of management consultants, though. Maybe not.

Gretchen DeKnikker: Business schools are minting more every day.

Aline Lerner: More every day. People often ask about product management also, whether that’s a good one. I think scenarios there are good, but again, there is not nearly as much of a shortage of product managers. So, companies don’t have to resort to very bizarre strategies like using interviewing.io.

Gretchen DeKnikker: Unless they would like to diversify.

Aline Lerner: Or, I mean, the best thing about … It’s so much cheaper for companies and so much faster. Because it’s not just about diversity. It’s like, these people are better. So, you have to interview fewer of them, and we take away all this top of funnel stuff so you can get to a higher … We just went live with this huge tech company in LA, they went live two weeks ago. They just made their first offer to a–

Gretchen DeKnikker: Wow.

Aline Lerner: That’s crazy. And that’s what people are doing, and it’s because it’s more efficient. And then you trick people into also doing the right thing.

Gretchen DeKnikker: It’s hard creating a category. But then once people get a little taste of it, then you kind of have this tailwind. I think your tailwind is coming, Aline.

Aline Lerner: Let’s hope.

Gretchen DeKnikker: Well, this has been amazing. Thank you for being … You made it so easy on us. Our very first interview, we’re like, “Oh, I hope we get …” Especially without Angie and Sukrutha, who we miss very much today. But this was great.

Rachel Jones: Yeah, this was wonderful. Thank you so much.

Aline Lerner: Thank you guys. Thank you for asking some hard questions. I feel like I worked for it. Really, thank you so much for having me. This is the stuff, this is the stuff that makes people use our products, so I’m so grateful to you both.

Gretchen DeKnikker: Thanks for listening to this episode of the Girl Geek X podcast. Please rate and review us on your favorite podcasting app. We’ll be back soon with more advice from women in tech.

Rachel Jones: This podcast is produced by me, Rachel Jones, with event recording by Eric Brown and music by Diana Chow. To learn more about Girl Geek X or buy tickets to our next dinner, visit girlgeek.io where you can also find videos and transcripts from all our events.