Look for something ridiculous? Not that long ago I used to think that the best interview questions were one where the candidate could answer the question in many different but accurate ways, rather than just one perfect way. Which, at the time, would have weeded out many incompetent colleagues, consultants, and managers. It seemed fool-proof!
Fast forward to today, after much more experienced in interviewing and matured in my expectations of nervous people. These people are just people – they just mostly suck. Like, foundationally terrible candidates, four out of every five. The cure is that while they may not perform like you expect, they may show other signs – much like how I thought the ability to Open Notepad was a single testament to skill – there is one great trait to look for: Passionate Interest! No matter the questions you ask a candidate if they get excited, geeky, inspired, passionate about the answer, then you’ve got something special.
My argument here is that one who would answer the questions the way you’d ideally-expect versus someone who may underperform, yet still be a contender, will still be equally expressive in a positively geeky way. While the true underperformers will break down in many obvious ways, the common denominator between them will undoubtedly be their disdain for coming to a solution; An eagerness to say something, rather than feeling something. These are the simple clues to look for. Look for something ridiculous and genuine. These are the people who will be there to bounce ridiculous ideas off of and fuel the team.
Nobody wants to work on a team where people only share details when you ask for them. I want to work on teams where people share information because they think it will be helpful even though you didn’t ask for it.