Krzysztof Witczak

What I was looking for in candidates in 2022

February 10, 2024

I did a lot of hiring back in 2022. Everybody did. It was without a doubt an employee market, certainly in Poland.

  • Many companies worked hard to shorten or simplify their recruitment processes so as not to annoy candidates, knowing it’s easy to lose them. Avoiding take-home coding tasks, reducing the number of steps to 1-2 conversations, and walking on eggshells.
  • Candidates come grossly unprepared for conversations, sometimes not even knowing the company name during the interview, skipping steps without notice, and asking for top salary after a failed technical check.

Times seem to change. Many of us have been victims of reductions, there are fewer opportunities on the market, looks like the employer market is back again (or at least the balance has shifted a bit). As a result, the 2022 approach won’t work anymore and we have to prepare better.

How to increase your chances?


Weird enough good attitude is harder to find than you think. It may mean many things:

  • A positive mindset, looking for the best in the situation, cheering others up, giving them hope and comfort.
  • Willingness to push or get the job done even when it’s hard.
  • High energy and initiative, being proactive.
  • A generally high moral standards and ”doing the right thing“.
  • And probably many other interpretations…

It depends on what the hiring manager is looking for right now (and sometimes they may not even know). However, the list of traits above is nearly always great to have.

Why is it important? If you hire wrong the consequences are tough:

  • Wrong attitude spreads across your team like poison, making the culture in your organization weaker.
  • It’s very difficult and time-consuming to coach attitude improvement, it’s often rooted in behaviours you trained yourself on since childhood.
  • In general working with people with a good attitude is easier for the team and management.

Increase your chances:

  • First, understand why this is important and if you don’t have an underlying issue related to attitude that you should work on. Self-awareness and correction plan is a great first step. Being honest about it during the interview shows you’re humble, honest and open to growth. At the same time, please don’t destroy your chances by being negative about yourself.
  • Be cautious not to give false signals that may be interpreted as a bad attitude. Common examples:

    • Complaining (past company, boss, approaches, situations, technology, approaches). Assess that things are not optimal but show your understanding and how things can turn for the better. Focus on improvement actions.
    • Being overly sensitive to you vs others, in terms of responsibilities and ownership. Be aware that senior roles have certain overlap and ambiguity baked in. Show you care to get the job done instead of being passive or waiting behind the “it’s not my job/role” argument.
    • In general, you have to show the bias for action.

Other soft skills

The list is long here and what is “right” or “wrong” may depend on a company, situation, or context. My most important ones & how to display them:

  • Good communication, which I define as precise and proactive - it’s being checked at every step of the interview.
  • Emotional intelligence, I’m checking if people are actively listening, if they are creating a connection, and how understanding they are. Examples:

    • You are interested.
    • You repeat the question to make sure you understand it correctly. You take extra care to check if they understand your answer.
    • You noticed that one of the interviewers wanted to ask a question but couldn’t “get in” to the conversation. When there is a bit of light, you invite this person to ask what was their question.
    • During behavioural questions it is being suggested as a context that someone was blamed for a failure. You reframe it in a way where you avoid the blame but also in a way to make sure the interviewer doesn’t feel “judged” for blaming people for mistakes. May be tricky!
  • High adaptability and reception to feedback.

    • Can be easily tested by seeing how you respond to comments about your code. Ideally, you should be able to defend your approach, and have an opinion but be able to accept an alternative solution or suggestion.
    • Adaptability is also understanding that tickets may change requirements late in the process, business may pivot and so on.
    • At the same time be aware that showing too much of the above may look like you don’t care or don’t have an opinion. Not having an opinion may suggest you didn’t experience certain situations enough to build an opinion.
  • Leadership skills.

    • In most cases it’s being displayed through past actions of initiative/leading/organizing. But not always…
    • It’s difficult to phrase but sometimes when I’m in the process with good leads they make me feel like they “carry me” through the interview. It’s so incredibly easy - arranging and keeping the time, it’s almost like they help the process to be successful through good organization, time management, and “leading” to the right outcome.
    • You can also display mentorship skills by teaching something to the person on the other side of the table. Be sure to make it a short lesson.

If you want to practice I highly recommend Awesome Behavioral Interviews.

Coming prepared

By spending an hour researching your company and their job offer you can increase your chances tremendously. That process should lead to you coming up with a set of good questions to ask.

You may ask them before, during (if there is a chance/situation) or after the interview.

Additionally, you should ask them to make sure you’re going to the right company. A great place to start may be Reverse Interview, The Joel Test, The Rands Test. The more senior role you apply to, the more important the “reverse interview” is. Some hiring managers see people who complain about multiple-interview steps as failing the “reverse interview” because it means they are willing to jump off onto another boat only for a money increase without caring if this boat has holes inside and a hungry tiger on it.

In the past people would write motivational letters, and who knows, maybe they are coming back too.

Technical skills

You won’t get the job without technical skills unless it’s an intern/junior role. However, with very high technical skills, failing on the soft skills above, you won’t get the job either. Ideally, we should have great skills in all areas but there are not enough perks to buy with the limited time… 😄

How to increase your chances for technical questions:

  • There are plenty of websites where you can refresh your knowledge on short and basic questions about frameworks. I like and You may also just browse the questions list on the Internet for your tech…

    • This is why I like to ask one of the first questions about Ruby that I can find on the web. Medium difficulty. Simple warm-up… but if someone struggles with it, it shows me that they didn’t even do this obvious preparation exercise.
  • I also like to ask questions about recent news in tech - to see if you stay on top of the industry.

    • In 2022 I’d like to ask if people would start new projects with SPA or not and why. This is when newsletters were trending with articles on the same topic, as well as Thoughtworks tech radar.
    • I’d ask about a feature released in one of the techs I’m looking for in the last 3-9 months. If someone answered, I’d ask about upcoming features which were announced.
  • In general tough I favour open questions & drilling in. Examples:

    • What is your favourite clean code principle and why? It opens many areas. What is the definition of “clean code”? Are we talking about Uncle Bob or a general idea? So many people say “DRY”. I then reply “Have you heard about ”WET”? A simple 5 minute conversation about clean code can tell me a lot about a person’s mindset, and books they’ve read. If it’s interesting you can go deeply and say if they agree with SOLID or not. Fun!
    • What is a good code review process? Most people focus on aspects that I quickly swoop off with “Let’s say we have static analysis in place which takes care of that. What else could we do?“. There are many areas we could cover - assignment process, acceptable change size, approval count, SHIP/SHOW/ASK or even the definition of Continuous Integration and what it means for the code review process.
    • I can also make a scenario question like in an RPG game. Your CRUD web app works slowly. What may be wrong? Or “there is a bug reported on your SPA frontend but you cannot reproduce it, how would you investigate it?“. Instead of giving me the best solution, tell me your best guess, the shortest, simplest possible explanation… and then go a step further, show me an alternative, but more expensive. Further. Further.
    • I also like to ask one tough one, for example, “What was your most difficult problem related to job queues” or ”(…) with “caching”. If nothing comes to mind, then I go with ”(…) bug”. Make sure to have a good story for such a question - you don’t want to come up with a problem which is on a tutorial level.
    • Those questions are difficult to prepare for because they evaluate your experience in general. What I can recommend is to train through self-interview using evergreen-skills-developers or system design questions since they teach you an approach that you can apply to these types of questions.
  • Bonus - If I’d recruit these days, I’d ask about GH Copilot and your recent experience with AI assistants.


There are certain ways to go through the interview much easier.

  • Personal branding. If I have a candidate with a popular blog, that tells me a lot and in some cases may even eliminate any need to ask most of the questions, even applying, reducing everything to negotiation.
  • Conferences, meetups. If you are a speaker, a good talk may bring a lot of attention and bonus points to you. However, you can also just talk with speakers or companies who are sponsoring the meetup (and usually hiring) and use that occasion for a less-formal interview, often with a beer in hand.
  • Open source. If you’re an active RoR contributor and you maintain a popular library, I can not only browse the code but it tells me a lot about your attitude, priorities, and growth mindset.
  • Headhunters. Pass your contact to them - most of the time they will be better negotiators than you are and it’s always better to have more deals on the table. Additionally, headhunter recommending you means you passed the first filtering and you are worth their time. Entering the process “from the web” is nearly always the worst for you.

Less important tweaks

  • Nice CV. Cool to have but less important.
  • Algo tasks prep. You have to prep for it if you’re applying to BigTech. There are dozens of resources for that but is the one I recommend the most.
  • Obtaining certification. Advantage if it’s recent and related strongly with your task but it’s a large investment of time.
  • Getting a better education. Unless it’s PhD, doesn’t make a big difference.


All in all, preparing for the interview is exhausting. I hope the list above will show you some of the areas that may increase your chances. I wish you a stamina bonus!