Becoming a Hiring Manager

Hello. This is Idel from Osaka Branch.
I joined Rakuten in late 2015 as an Engineer. One year later I switched to Project Management and then got an additional role as Vice-Group Manager the following year.
In this article I would like to share my experience as a new hiring manager in my group and the journey as a team to improve our hiring process. I hope that this can help give a hint to new hiring managers on how to improve their hiring process.
If you are that person, read on.
When I got the additional role as Vice-Group Manager of my team, hiring new members was one of the responsibilities. Never in my wildest dream that I would sit in the opposite of the interview table and be the one doing the actual interview.

But yes it happened and I was terrible at it.
I have been in the other side of the interview table for as far as I can remember. I have experienced good interviewers and some are just meh.
So when the table is switched, it was daunting.
As I continued to join and interview people, I was getting frustrated why we could not find the right candidate.

At the end of each interview, I would get irritated and blame HR why that candidate got sent to us for an interview. It did not fit the Job Description we were looking for. It was easier that way, to find a scapegoat and blame it to someone else. It’s difficult to accept that you don’t have the skills needed for it.
My colleague and I were frustrated, tired and yet we didn’t know where to start. It might be that we failed good candidates without us knowing it.
Sharing my frustration to a fellow colleague, I found out that we were not the only ones facing this kind of issue.

If we stick to what we have right now, we will be wasting our time and still cannot find good people to fit the team. It was time to do some improvements.


Step 1: JD (Job Description)

  • We were looking for different roles and the Job Description in the company’s hiring page was very outdated. The Engineering Leaders reviewed and updated the technical skills required from the candidate. Senior Product Managers and Project Managers worked together across the department to list the skills needed creating a template/baseline for each team. 

Step 2: Questions

  • Role Specific Questions: The questions were all over the place. There was no consistency. Same as the JD, we prepared different questions based on the roles. There are different questions for Junior Engineers compared to Senior Level Engineers who are required to have a leadership skill as well.  
  • Fundamental Question related to working in Rakuten, Communication with team members and etc.

Step 3: Common understanding about the job.

  • It's almost always the case that the candidate misunderstand the role they are applying for. So before proceeding further with the interview, it is always good to have a common understanding. It will help both parties decide either to continue with the interview or not. Or it will give the candidate an idea what kind of question they need to ask the interviewer later on.

Step 4: Create a relaxing atmosphere

  • In most interviews I joined, both as an interviewer and interviewee, the atmosphere is almost choking. Everyone is on the edge. You don't need to be all smiley but it would be great to have a more relax and easy atmosphere to answer or ask questions.

Step 5: Process/Flow

  • Understanding the current process and find the way to improve it.

Step 6: Culture Fit

  • If you already have a team, you need to find someone who can fit into the team. Every team is different and priority for each hiring manager is also different. Do you go for high skill without putting teamwork as a priority? Or do you want someone who can work with the team that you already have. Finding the balance is always the difficult part and always a risk. As a hiring manager it is always good to keep in mind the kind of person you are looking for. If you’re lucky you can find both.

Old Style of Interview Flow


This was the interview style I started with, it was basically mostly a one-way question and answer session.

New Interview Flow

f:id:R-Hack:20220308151030p:plainWe tested the new flow in the next interviews we had and it was more fluid and more relaxed. It gave us the idea what were the strong points of the candidates and what were the expectations on both sides. As we followed this flow more, we got the sense on how to redirect the question and the interview itself to everyone’s advantage. Of course , it did not work 100% all the time, there were times when it was over before it even started. 

If you are new to hiring, it’s hard and it will require a lot of your time as a manager. From reviewing CVs, questions and then going to the interview itself. Afterwards, the decision to either pick candidate 1 or candidate 2 because you can’t have both because of budget constraints. Having said that, it was a great experience for me. As we hire people with different cultural background, we have to improve the style and the questions. It will be partly your responsibility on what kind of team you are going to build, so be sure to choose wisely.

Thank you very much for reading. In Rakuten Commerce Incubation Department, we are currently hiring talented people who can help us create and nurture new values as one team to help drive the business growth. We hope to see you soon.