How to Conduct Empathy Interviews?

Culture of Innovation Feb 28, 2020

I have done a lot of interviews for my software company and I wanted to share my experience on how about I go interviewing with an empathetic mindset. Before that, let's understand what exactly is an Empathy Interview?

What is an Empathy Interview?

An Empathy Interview is way to understand the feelings and experiences of others. It should feel like an open ended conversation rather than a formal meeting.

How to Conduct an Empathy Interview?
STEP 1: Meet and greet (1-2 minute):
Mindset: Whenever someone interviews with us, I understand that they are taking time out of their schedule and I genuinely feel thankful about it. I also treat them as if I would treat my guest or would like to be treated when someone invites me. Remember, interviewing can often be nervous experience which does not bring the best of the candidate. As an interviewer, my job is to bring the best of the candidate.

How I go about it:

  • Ask if they need a break or need water or drink or use rest room.
  • I share about myself - who I am, my experience and what I am currently doing here at JTC.
  • I tell them how much time I am going to take and how we will spend it, so they know what to expect. As an example: We will spend 60 minutes. First 15 minutes, I want to give you a chance to ask me questions so you can know more about us and next 45 minutes, we will spend solving a technical problem.

STEP 2: Give a Chance to Candidate to Ask Me Questions (5-15 minutes):

Mindset: My goal is to genuinely share transparently as much as I can about us, our values, our expectation from the candidate, our projects and work we do. The goal is to remove any mismatch of expectations when they join us.

How I go about it:

  • I tell them to drive this section of interview and ask me questions. Kind of role reversal - I answer questions and s/he poses questions.
  • Sometimes, when they don’t have any question (many don’t), I try to lead the conversation by asking them:

(1) Tell me what’s your ideal work environment looks like
(2) What are you looking for
(3) Help me visualise their day to day responsibility and I tend to add how day here looks like so they can understand (4) Ask them about their manager and have them tell me one thing they respected and one thing they could have improved

STEP 3: Technical Interview (45-50 minutes):

Mindset: I approach this as someone who is hungry for knowledge. My goal is to genuinely help them and give positive reinforcements.

How I go about it:

  • I give them framework on how I would like them to approach it. This is my framework:
    (1) Approach
    (2) Verification (test cases)
    (3) Performance (time, space complexity in O(f(n)))
    (4) Coding.
  • Once they are clear on the framework, I tell them the problem and expected output and then let them work through approach, verification and performance. I let them get to me once they have done these. I tell them explicitly to hold to coding until these are done and s/he and I agree upon.
  • When they come back, I ask questions and often summarise explantation in my own words. This often leads the person to further explain it.
  • There are things that people just don’t know like time, space complexity. I often try to work it out with them. This helps me to see how they think through. This way they also learn during their interview which creates an ever lasting positive impact on him/her.
  • Sometimes candidate may not be able to perform till the end. My goal is to still make them comfortable so they do not feel bad about themselves and I acknowledge that and recognise the things they have been able to achieve in the interview.

Remember, you need to be 100% authentic during these conversations and you are genuinely trying to make the person comfortable. This is hard, took me a while and I am still learning it as well.

What’s the biggest thing you’re struggling with right now that we as a technology consulting company can help you with? Feel free to reach out to us at We hope our assistance will help!


Jaikishan Jalan

12+ years of experience building native apps, websites, backend @microsoft, @google, @startups. ISU PhD dropout, IIT Dhanbad Alum

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