(Part 2) Essential Questions To Ask When Interviewing Developers In 2021
The first part of this blog stresses the importance of asking the right technical interview questions to assess a candidate’s coding skills. But that alone is not enough. If you want to hire the crème de la crème of the developer talent out there, you have to look for a well-rounded candidate.
Honest communication, empathy, and passion for their work are equally important as a candidate’s technical knowledge. Soft skills are like the cherry on top. They set the best of the candidates apart from the rest.
Re-examine how you are vetting your candidates. Identify the gaps in your interviews. Once you start addressing these gaps, you find developers who have the potential to be great. And those are exactly the kind of people that you want to work with!
Let’s get to it, shall we?
What constitutes a good interview question?
An ideal interview should reveal a candidate’s personality along with their technical knowledge. To formulate a comprehensive list of questions, keep in mind three important characteristics.
- Questions are open-ended – questions like, ‘What are some of the programming languages you’re comfortable with,’ instead of ‘Do you know this particular programming language’ makes the candidate feel like they’re in control. It is also a chance to let them reply to your question in their own words.
- They address the behavioral aspects of a candidate – ensure you have a few questions on your list that allow a candidate to describe a situation. A situation where a client was unhappy or a time when the developer learned a new technology. Such questions help you assess if the candidate is a good fit for the team.
- There is no right or wrong answer – it is important to have a structured interview process in place. But this does not mean you have a list of standard answers in mind that you’re looking for. How candidates approach your questions shows you whether they have the makings of a successful candidate. Focus on that rather than on the actual answer itself.
Designing a conversation around these buckets of interview questions brings you to my next question, “What should you look for in each candidate to spot the best ones?”
Hire GREAT developers by asking the right questions
Before we dive deep into the interview questions, we have to think about a few things that have changed. COVID-19 has rendered working from home the new normal for the foreseeable future. As a recruiter, the onus falls upon you to understand whether the developer is comfortable working remotely and has the relevant resources to achieve maximum productivity.
#1 How do you plan your day?
Remote work gives employees the option to be flexible. You don’t have to clock in 9 hours a day as long as you get everything done on time. A developer who hasn’t always been working remotely, but has a routine in place, understands the pitfalls of working from home. It is easy to get distracted and having a schedule to fall back on ensures good productivity.
#2 Do you have experience using tools for collaboration and remote work?
Working from home reduces human interaction heavily. There is no way to just go up to your teammate’s desk and clarify issues. Virtual communication is a key to getting work done. Look for what kind of remote working tools your candidate is familiar with and if they know what collaborative tools to use for different tasks.
Value-based interview questions to ask
We went around and spoke to our engineering team, and the recruiting team to see what questions they abide by; what they think makes any candidate tick.
The result? – a motley group of questions that aims to reveal the candidate’s soft skills, in addition to typical technical interview questions and test tasks.
Recommended read: How Recruiting The Right Tech Talent Can Solve Tech Debt
#3 Please describe three recent projects that you worked on. What were the most interesting and challenging parts?
This is an all-encompassing question in that it lets the candidate explain at length about his work ethic – thought process, handling QA, working with a team, and managing user feedback. This also lets you dig enough to assess whether the candidate is taking credit for someone else’s work or not.
#4 You’ve worked long and hard to deliver a complex feature for a client and they say it’s not what they asked for. How would you take it?
A good developer will take it in their stride, work closely with the client to find the point of disconnect, and sort out the issue. There are so many things that could go wrong or not be to the client’s liking, and it falls on the developer to remain calm and create solutions.
#5 What new programming languages or technologies have you learned recently?
While being certified in many programming languages doesn’t guarantee a great developer, it still is an important technical interview question to ask. It helps highlight a thirst for knowledge and shows that the developer is eager to learn new things.
#6 What does the perfect release look like? Who is involved and what is your role?
Have the developer take you through each phase of a recent software development lifecycle. Ask them to explain their specific role in each phase in this release. This will give you an excellent perspective into a developer’s mind. Do they talk about the before and after of the release? A skilled developer would. The chances of something going wrong in a release are very high. How would the developer react? Will they be able to handle the pressure?
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#7 Tell me about a time when you had to convince your lead to try a different approach?
As an example of a behavioral interview question, this is a good one. The way a developer approaches this question speaks volumes about how confident they are expressing their views, and how succinct they are in articulating those views.
#8 What have you done with all the extra hours during the pandemic?
Did you binge-watch your way through the pandemic? I’m sure every one of us has done this. Indulge in a lighthearted conversation with your candidate. This lets them talk about something they are comfortable with. Maybe they learned a new skill or took up a hobby. Get to know a candidate’s interests and little pleasures for a more rounded evaluation.
Over to you! Now that you know what aspects of a candidate to focus on, you are well-equipped to bring out the best in each candidate in their interviews. A mix of strong technical skills and interpersonal qualities is how you spot good developers for your team.
If you have more pressing interview questions to add to this list of ours, please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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