Dr. David Cox: on improving interviews.

  • Dr. David Cox
  • Co-Founder & Chief Digital Officer
  • Closed Loop

In this issue of Talent Point of View, we sat down with Closed Loop Medicine’s Co-Founder and Chief Digital Officer, Dr. David Cox, to discuss how Talent Point are helping them make their ambitious MedTech goals a reality. Closed Loop’s innovative platform combines patient feedback from digital questionnaires and data from monitoring devices/wearables to allow reactive, real-time updates to be made to the prescribed treatment.

First of all, easy start: In your own words, who are you and what do you do for Closed Loop Medicine?

Hi, I'm Dr. David Cox, Chief Digital Officer and Co-Founder of Closed Loop Medicine (CLM).

Now, this is a bit of an unusual situation, because Closed Loop Medicine are at the very start of their story and Talent Point have been involved from day one. That means I can't ask about what your hiring processes were like before we got involved. So, instead, have you been involved in the hiring process in previous roles and, if so, what did that entail?

Absolutely! Whilst I was the Chief Medical Officer at Headspace, I helped to define the company hiring process – though my focus was more on how we interviewed than finding potential hires. That was largely driven by leading through example with my own team, which I built out using best practice techniques such as competency reviews. The rest of the company saw the success we'd had in this area and adopted techniques from there, so it was an organic change rather than being top-down.

On the other side, Audible already had a very high standard in place when I joined; their hiring function was highly successful, used best practice techniques, and generally secured very strong people. That was more of learning experience, and validation that what I'd implemented at Headspace was applicable across different companies.

So, I've had the best of both worlds: the Agile nimbleness of the more startup-like Headspace and exposure to the robust best practices used by Amazon [at Audible]. My aim has been to bring those together for CLM, but Talent Point have really been a thought partner for me in terms of helping to define the order that roles are hired, and obviously finding the right people to fill them. Being able to leave Talent Point to find strong applicants has meant I can focus elsewhere, instead of wasting my time taking people out for coffee or having to manage various shortlists.

Excellent. With such a broad range of experience with hiring processes and best practice, you clearly have a good understanding of what makes a good interview. With that in mind, why did you approach Talent Point for additional interview training?

Well, with CLM we're still at a very early stage in our process, which means these are our first tech team hires. I think everybody would agree with the idea that, typically, when you want to select the right person, you need to be able to judge their technical fit and the relevance of their skillset. I'm very confident in my ability to judge general competency and the company fit side of an interview, but not so much the technical skills, not that side of things.

The training we had from [Dan Wells, Learning & Development Manager at Talent Point] helped me to really understand what a Product Manager (PM) does and how you can test that they’re actually any good. It showed me, well, the long and short of it is, that being a PM is all about storytelling; that means that if they can tell me a convincing story, then that’s how they can prove they have the necessary skillset.

It also helped us to generally structure the interviews in a way that gave the applicant the best chance to succeed, whilst ensuring that the process we used and questions that we asked remained consistent across interviews.

So this is actually a pretty ideal time to meet up, as you’ve recently made your first hire since the training. How did you find using the STAR and CEO techniques? Did they result in any unexpected outcomes or surprises?

I actually used to use STAR at Amazon, but CEO was completely new to me. I was mainly struck by how complimentary CEO is to STAR; it's a very good accompaniment and just makes the whole process work. I know CEO is something Talent Point came up with, but I'm still surprised that Amazon doesn’t use something similar.

The training was also very straightforward to pass on across the company [CLM], and it was clear that [the other founders] all picked it up straight away. Though, one thing I would say, is that if you're someone coming at hiring completely fresh, you need to give a little thought into how you structure the question using CEO so that you don’t give the candidate the answer. CEO and STAR can be so similar that someone can almost fill in the blanks, but as long as you pay attention and tailor questions sufficiently, it's not hard to make sure you don’t feed them the answer.

Slightly unrelated to the training, but Talent Point also helped you by creating an interview crib sheet for the recent role. How did that help with the hiring process?

The crib sheet was actually incredibly helpful. Again, I've used similar concepts at Amazon before, where the idea is to capture STAR details in a consistent manner, but they used a generic question bank to ask from rather than making them role specific.

Talent Point's crib sheet is better, as it guides you on what aspects of the role you specifically need to test. That means you can quickly read through the sheet and check whether you can confidently answer everything on there. If you can do that, you can tick the box – there's no room for misinterpretation or vagueness, so it makes it a lot simpler to both review and keep track of during the interview.

It's great to hear the training has had such a positive impact, but I just want to step away from that for a moment. More broadly, what has been the most beneficial aspect of our services from your perspective? How have we helped Closed Loop Medicine to achieve their goals?

Specifically with relation to the interview training and crib sheet, I'd say the most beneficial part was the confidence that it gave us during the whole hiring process. We were filling such a key position for the company, so having the confidence to know how to test for the role meant we could be satisfied that we were hiring the right person and for the right position, and that’s very important.

With Talent Point generally, what's been most beneficial was the combination of your delivery pace and adaptability. Your fast turnaround is one of your USPs, and you genuinely delivered on that promise. However, you also weren’t rigid with your processes in order to guarantee that delivery, so we were able to flex and adapt. Because CLM is at such an early stage, you had to be reactive as our roadmap and plans changed, which is a slightly different scenario to what I imagine you're used to dealing with. I'm very grateful for that flexibility with your process, as without that it could have been quite tricky.

Whilst Talent Point aims to help you create a measurable and accurate interview process, our techniques are also designed to put the applicant at ease and empower them to provide the right information for you to make an informed decision. Have you found that aspect of our service to be noticeable? Have you seen any changes in behaviour or other "side effects" during interviews?

I'm not sure I've noticed anything directly during an interview, though as I've said, the STAR and CEO combination does help boost my confidence that we're getting the right information.

However, whilst not directly about the interview, we did have one candidate say that the campaign brief that you provided was the best job description they’ve ever seen for the related role. That kind of feedback has to be all on Talent Point and your writing team.

As a writer myself, that's fantastic to hear! To wrap this up, what has been your biggest surprise about Talent Point’s services so far? And do you have any other comments?

Honestly, that you're genuinely not like other recruitment agencies… though I’m not sure I want to be on the record for that [laughs]!

Generally, I'm just very grateful for the support we've been given by Talent Point so far. I think that consulting relationships can often feel very transactional in nature, but every interaction we've had so far has been personable and supportive, which has made a really big difference for both myself and CLM more broadly.

We would like to thank Dr. Cox once again for taking the time to meet us and provide such insightful answers to our interview questions; it’s always interesting to see behind the curtain at what other companies are doing!

If you feel like you’ve got some interesting insight into a business topic or work for a company that are doing things differently, we’d love to hear from you and include you in this series. Get in touch at info@talentpoint.co.