Multiple interview assignments?

Ely Lenik
Ely Lenik Member Posts: 7 Contributor
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edited December 2021 in CS Org Conversations
Hi Everyone, 

I'm helping a mentee through the hiring process for an entry level CSM position and am perplexed and frankly insulted by the hiring practices at this company.  In general I am pretty against take home assignments unless they are either generic topics looking to gain insight into thought process or given with a significant amounts actual data about the company and backstory to the assignment. In my mind the goal of an assignment is either to gain understanding on intelligence capacity or experience with customer success, not industry or product experience about your company. 

In this case the first assignment was neither, it was (loosely) "based on our product what would you do for a renewal call."  I find assignments like this to be insulting to the interviewee and really tells you nothing about the person.  You are hiring this person and will give them the ingredients and training they will need to accomplish their job, don't ask them to build a CS playbook from scratch knowing little to nothing about your environment or industry in their spare time.

She finished that round but has now been given a more intense version of the same assignment which includes logging into a demo account for her to sort out and multiple scenarios based around the same questions before.    The scenarios also have multiple parts that includes using their product like an end user and then playing the part of the CSM but there may be a huge gap in time for the process to even work!

My gut feeling is that this lazy interviewing tactic is a huge red flag for toxic leadership but maybe I'm off.  This is a mid-size company with a decent valuation, this is not a Google size deal.   

I'm inclined to tell her to pass but would love to hear your thoughts.


  • Steffany Winkelmann
    Steffany Winkelmann Member Posts: 3 Navigator
    edited December 2021
    Hi! First time poster, here. If I were in her position, I would refuse to interview further. I find these types of assignments insulting to the interviewer. The company is requiring a lot of personal time to be used in order to demonstrate whether or not they possess a specific hard skill/skillset. In my experience, my best hires have all had specific personality traits which cannot be demonstrated through rigorous homework assignments. A great interviewer knows how to ask the questions that illicit thoughtful responses that get to the core of who the person is. I want my CSMs to have a passion for teaching, are driven to push their clients to reach their [the client's] goals, and are enthusiastic about coming to work and making a difference. You can teach hard skills. It's very difficult to teach soft skills, and if a CSM is lacking that, your team won't be successful. I would push her to search for a company that values emotional intelligence over know-how processes. 

    [Note: industry knowledge and process knowledge never hurts, so I don't want to exclude that. My point is that the most successful CS teams value the person's abilities to connect more than the skillsets to follow processes.]
  • Ed Powers
    Ed Powers Member Posts: 180 Expert
    Photogenic 5 Insightfuls First Anniversary 5 Likes
    edited December 2021
    Seems a little over the top, @Ely Lenik especially for an entry-level, individual contributor role. It's not a bad idea, however, for screening to include work sample tests or simulations to evaluate how candidates would approach certain tasks. In fact, a 1999 study by Frank Schmidt from University of Iowa and John Hunter at Michigan State found that as a supplement to raw general intelligence, work sample tests increased predictive validity of actual work performance by about 24%. The problem here (as you note) is that the simulation seems too company-specific for a job applicant, even an experienced one, to know in an interview. A better way might be to give a scenario to see how they would approach common challenges, for example, "Describe how you would conduct a renewal call given the following circumstances: ..." Being able to analyze a situation, put together a reasonable plan, and communicate it effectively can tell a lot about a candidate when it's down to making a decision among a few, well-qualified candidates. If the IQ and EQ are there, the rest can be trained.
  • Bri Adams
    Bri Adams Member Posts: 16 Thought Leader
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    edited December 2021
    Hi Ely,

    I really appreciate your question because this is something I'm struggling with as an interviewer right now on the other side. We have open CSM roles for our technical CSMs, but our philosophy has always been that we're willing to hire anyone with the right attitude and mindset who is eager to learn - as we feel like we can teach the technical skills necessary.

    We're learning this may not be the case, though, and have started really doubling down with our interviewees that this is a highly technical position - you will have to answer complex questions live on the phone with your customers, you will do a basic level troubleshooting before passing over to Support, you will have to train and onboard and provide best practices and know the software like the back of your hand. We're having very excited candidates come through the door, and then once hired, some feel the technical requirements are too much. Our software is also really comprehensive, but so far 100% of candidates have told me "I'm eager to learn and I pick complex things up very quickly" which is not always the case, it's just what people think is the "right answer" to a line of questioning about your learning style and comfort level with complex softwares.

    We're actively discussing adding a more heavy technical assessment to our interview process as a way to allow candidates to self select out of the role and interview process who aren't excited about this part of the job. We can't find another accurate way to demonstrate that these are the exact questions you should expect to receive from your customers, and as the technical CSM, you would own the answers.

    We've all been through a lengthy hiring process that felt unnecessary, but I can promise you it's not always because of laziness as you mention, but because we as the interviewer want to make it as clear as possible what the role may entail. Ultimately, if someone looks at our practical and thinks the role isn't for them, that's great for both sides to know. We may miss out on some strong candidates, but we want to be as honest as possible about what the role entails so our team can be as happy as possible in the role. I can also say our leadership is fantastic and so is our culture, so for us, at least, our interview process isn't a sign of a toxic leadership.

    Anxious and eager to hear other thoughts on the topic! Thanks for your post,

    Bri Adams

    Director of Customer Success, Commercial

  • Ely Lenik
    Ely Lenik Member Posts: 7 Contributor
    Photogenic First Anniversary Name Dropper First Comment
    edited December 2021
    Thanks so much for your thoughts.  She wants to continue so we're going to give the assignment a final review for her call this week.  Just to clarify my discontent with it, I'm not against assignments in general.  I just feel that they should be done with real thought into knowing what you are looking to understand about the candidate as opposed to a simple "if you had this job, I want to know now that you will be an expert in it" when really that's impossible to gather.

    @Bri Adams my understanding is that this is not a very complex product to learn and the questions certainly don't work to ascertain her technical abilities.  I can understand a "technical savviness" test of some sort when your product is complex and will need comfortability with software like that.