Honest and Effective Interviewing – The Best Way to Interview Developers




So you’ve decided you need to hire up. Now what?

The candidate search itself can be trying. But even when you’ve identified potential short-list applicants, you still have to interview them to truly discover who the right person is. And interviewing developers or software engineers is a slightly different beast.

This kind of interviewing isn’t an art; it’s a process. There are concrete steps you can take to ensure you are discovering your developer candidates’ true skill sets, team applicability, and genuine character.

Here are a few proven techniques for getting past stock interview answers and getting to really know your candidates’ strengths and weaknesses.

Have a strong technical person (or multiple, if possible) do the interview. This may seem obvious, but for a non-technical company hiring their first engineers, this can be tricky. If there aren’t any technical folks internally, scour your network for someone to help you with the interviewing process.

Make sure at least an hour of your interview process involves writing real code. People new at interviewing developers will often interview them like other positions: ask about career goals, judge their overall polish, etc. All of those things are important, but they’re also unrelated to technical ability. You need to make sure to interview for that as well.

Interview for overall attitude and learning ability first, and specific technical knowledge on your stack second. A developer that knows several languages already and is a quick study will come up to speed on your specific stack quickly anyway, so it’s much more important to get the overall fit right.

Watch out for any sign of an arrogant attitude. In spite of the pop culture around developers, it’s actually an extremely collaborative profession, and anyone that has an attitude or can’t work with other people will cause far more harm to your team than good.

Consider the candidate’s job duties when judging how well they interview. For example, if you’re interviewing for a sales position you can assume (or at least hope) that the person you’re interviewing will do a good job on selling themselves as being great at the role. Because the practice of selling is what they do for a living.

Developers, as a sweeping generalization, are likely to be more pragmatic and possibly more nervous during the interview process. If you’re not a developer yourself, you might think a person being nervous and not selling themselves well is a bad sign, but remember: their job isn’t selling their talents to a group of people. It’s writing quality code. So does that really matter?

Overall, as you narrow in on candidates, trust your instincts but follow process to ensure you’re getting an accurate and genuine idea of the people you’re considering adding to your team.

Devetry partners with clients to identify critical needs and build custom software. Understanding client needs comes first. Choosing the right technology comes second. Learn more.