The golden rule of interviewing is: make yourself easy to hire.

Like many organizations at the moment, we’re hiring. As I’m interviewing people, I’m struck by how hard some folks make it for me to give them a “yes.”

Candidates tend to murmur things like, “we decided to move to Kubernetes” or “the team built a release pipeline.” Bromides like these make me wonder – what exactly did you (the candidate) do?

[Often in an interview, a candidate’s] answers are about “we”, “us”, and “the team.” The interviewer walks away having little idea what the candidate’s actual impact was and might conclude that the candidate did little

– Gale Laakmann McDowell, Cracking the Coding Interview

When you’re humble, you’re hard to hire

Being humble is an admirable trait. When candidates succumb to words like “team” and “we” and “us,” it’s possible they’re just being humble. But it’s also reasonable to conclude that the word “I” is absent from their pat answers because they didn’t actually do anything.

I’m compelled to press candidates, “what was your role in that project?” I have many questions I’d love to ask, and I don’t relish using our short time together asking questions to clarify vagaries. You’re easier to hire when I know what you did.

Take the blame? Take the credit

If you’re not the kind of person who shifts blame when things go wrong, then why shift the blame when things have gone right? Writers and speakers use the passive voice to hide who’s responsible for an action. “Mistakes were made” rather than “I made a mistake.”

An easy trick to detect the passive voice in writing is to inject the phrase “by zombies” after the verb:

Like: “Mistakes were made by zombies.”

Or: “The ball was thrown by the boy by zombies.”

There must be a corollary rule for job interviews.

Just say I: the unaccountable zombie rule of interviewing

You’re making it hard to hire you if you’re talking about the unaccountable zombies you worked with: “We The unaccountable zombies I worked with decided it was more sensible to use boring technologies, so we the unaccountable zombies I worked with went with MySQL.”

Just as I’d have to stop the interview to inquire, “I’m sorry, did you say the team of unaccountable zombies you worked with?” I’d have to stop the interview to clarify, “who exactly is we?”

The not-so-secret secret of hiring is: I want to hire you. I’m interviewing you after all—you must be one singular human being!

If you agree, just say “I.”