Interviewing is a balance of skill and process

Full Stack Creator - 022

Welcome to the twenty-second edition of Full Stack Creator. As always, thanks for your time and attention! Pour yourself a coffee/tea, you deserve it.

I have been doing a lot of interviewing lately. As of typing this, I have interviewed 12 people in the last 2.5 weeks. I have been interviewing people for my mini-doc series – The Gray Area of Remote Work. I also have 7+ more in the coming weeks. This is great, as it breeds diversity and potentially lots of valuable knowledge/experiences. The downside – I’m exhausted. I have learned a lot in a short time. Today, we will go into my learnings, process, and tools.

Luckily, I am a very organized person. I balance creativity and productivity fairly well. So if you don't fall into this camp, but have a need or want to interview people for a series, show, or blog, this might automate your process a bit.

Going into this series, I knew my list would be long. There are a ton of people in the remote industry that I hoped to get in touch with and even more that I learned about during the process, so I needed something to keep tabs on them all. I also knew that I needed something that would adapt to my needs and keep everything in one place. The tool I decided to use was none other than Notion. I have talked about Notion in the past and this is likely not the last time you'll hear about it either.

I have a project template I use whenever I start something large. I use it for this newsletter, for the documentary, and one other long-tail idea I have on the back burner.

In this project specifically, I have a page called participants. On this page, there is also a database called participants. Redundant, sure, but it works fine. This database has a ton of statuses and properties. The main view I use it in is the board view. If you don’t know what that is in Notion – it is a kanban board. The statuses are: no status, parent company, up next, contacted, in discussions, replied - yes, scheduled, interview completed, replied - no, ghosted, and sent final films. I know this seems like a lot, but there is so much research and communication that goes into each one of these, that the more glanceable the information is, the better.

In each entry in this database, what Notion calls pages, there are numerous properties that allow the true power of my process.

These properties are:

  • person/contact - this is linked to another database that I keep of people and companies. Here is an example of an entry.

  • company, role, email, location - all rollup properties, bringing this data from my people and business database

  • status - the statuses mentioned above

  • sent calendly link, pre interview checklist, Adobe Sign signed - all checkbox properties

  • contacted on - a date property, selected when I reach out to the participant for the first time

  • today - a very simple formula, pulling in the current date: now()

  • days since contacted - a simple formula calculating the time between today and the contacted on date: date between(prop("Contacted On"), prop("Today"), "days")

This combination of statuses and properties allows me to track all of the participants very efficiently.

The next key piece is having interview questions. This can be anywhere, but I like them on screen for me, right offside of the video call, so I don't have to look away from the participant for long. This is a template I have created in Notion. I spin up this template for every participant. It is a basic checklist, with sections, and toggles to expand more information as needed. The key to any interview is to hit your points, but let them diverge as necessary. This will allow the conversation to be more organic and potentially find more than you could have hoped for. This is why I like using the toggle feature – I keep them closed unless I need more prompts on that topic.

Considering I will have over 20 interviews completed in a little over a month, scheduling would be awful without Calendly. I normally have the free plan of Calendly, but I upped it for this series, as it has more features. Being able to set a specific schedule for the interviews, separate from my normal slots, and letting the participant choose is so powerful. Not only does it save hours in emails and scheduling, but it gives control and transparency to the participants.

As for the calls themselves, I am approaching these on a case-by-case basis. The call itself is in Zoom. I ask the participant to record the highest quality they can. This can be using a DSLR, their phone, an external webcam, or if needed, the built-in webcam. This means they can record right to their DSLR or phone, can record right into their computer, or I can help them record. If they are recording I do a fail-safe in Zoom. The quality is not great, but it is a worst-case scenario. If the participant is not able/comfortable recording, I use a tool called Welder. This tool has been recommended to me by one of the participants, and it has been a lifesaver. I have used it on 60%+ of the calls so far and it has been very dependable. The nice thing about Welder is that it provides me with the version of the recording on the participants' machine, not something that has been crazy compressed by the internet, with potential lag, dropped frames, and garbled audio. There is not even a need for a dedicated desktop app, so the barrier to entry is low.

Lastly, I do send some documentation to the participant. I provide them with a pre-interview checklist, which tells them how to record and some basic questions, without providing too much. I also send them a release form. This is very simple, nothing legally binding, but should cover me and the final pieces. I send this to the participants via Adobe Sign which works great! It allows me to indicate signature, request it, remind if needed, and it auto files it once signed. This is important in general for the recording of the participant, but also if they provide b-roll, which in my case they will be. This might seem like a tedious step, but it is needed.

As I mentioned earlier, this has been an accelerated learning process, but a valuable one. I have interviewed people in the past, but I have never handled all this scheduling, documentation, and interviewing by myself. I know I will learn even more in the coming weeks. If you would like for me to turn my Notion databases and pages into templates let me know by replying to this email or commenting below!

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