It is nearly impossible to imagine a successful tech project without a good software engineer. Many businesses are striving to digitize their products and workflows or develop online features that require programming solutions. Hiring departments with little experience in hiring software engineering talent suddenly need to set up a software developer interview process and decide if they can conduct this sort of interview on their own.
Searching for a qualified software specialist requires dedication and effort. Knowing the perks and drawbacks of various programming languages is also helpful. This article will cover the basics of setting up an interview process and answer questions on how to conduct a software developer interview.
Hiring a Team to Interview Developers
Interviewing a developer is not a job for a single person. There should always be a team to decide whether a candidate is a good fit. A developer should be a team player able to communicate well and collaborate with other team members. Depending on seniority level, developers may even need to work with teams externally.
How Do We Form a Hiring Team for Interviews?
First, you must include the future manager so they can conduct a technical interview. This professional can be a tech lead or a manager. Next, include the supervisor of this manager or lead. A human resource manager should also be involved in the interview squad.
It is critical to include someone technical in the process. This person should check an applicant's knowledge during their interview with software tasks. Having a technical person to confirm a candidate's level of expertise will increase your chances of hiring a successful developer.
On average, it takes about two months to hire a developer. If your company is not one of the top tech companies, you can conserve your resources by involving an external recruiting team that specializes in hiring developers.
The hiring process is more than asking questions about companies, behavior, and previous experience. A well-structured interview includes the following:
- A technical phone interview.
- A coding interview.
- Post-interview assessments of an applicant's software development skills.
Weigh your resources before diving deeper into how to interview software developers with your in-house recruiting team.
Stages for Interviewing Developers
The market is hot for developers' roles, and chances are high that you will receive many applications for an open software-related job. Once you filter the resumes, you will probably still have several promising candidates. A well-structured interview process will help you spot the best candidate.
The interview process can be divided into three basic stages: screening, software skill assessment, and a final interview. Here is a closer look at each interview stage:
Stage 1. Screening
You have filtered the submitted resumes at this stage and selected those that look promising or caught your eye. Now you need to "screen" these candidates, which is typically done over the phone. The screening interview aims to learn more about the candidates, see how they communicate, and clarify or check some resume points.
What are the outcomes of a successful screening interview?
More information about employment history.
Clarity on past projects. NDAs are common for developers, so candidates might not be able to share a lot of details on a resume. You can work around these restrictions by asking about tools or their experience in problem-solving.
A more complete understanding of the candidate's skill set–both soft and technical skills.
Stage 2. Assessment
Assessment is the most important stage of the interview process for a developer position. It defines the candidates' eligibility for an open job and evaluates their knowledge of software tools and programming languages. During this stage, you can test a candidate's ability to solve the problem within a given framework. And yes, this stage is the most technical part of the hiring process, so have software specialists assist you in conducting the interview and assessing outcomes.
Candidates interested in getting a job or growing in this field should be well-prepared for any interview due to their job experience and software projects.
The assessment stage usually consists of one or more coding interviews, and a test task called a coding challenge. You can learn more about types of assessment in our article on how to conduct an interview.
The most common assessment approaches are a system design interview, object-oriented programming, and code explanation tasks. Self-explanatory coding challenges have also gained popularity. A coding challenge is a test task where software engineers seek a solution by writing a piece of code. Some companies like to conduct this test as a whiteboard challenge to see the live workflow and save time on checking. Sometimes, the coding challenge is a take-home assignment for developers that can be submitted remotely.
Before launching your interview process, work with management to decide how you will conduct your assessment. Office settings are somewhat rare in tech right now, so you may want to choose an online interview format.
Stage 3. The Final Interview
The hiring department can conduct the final interview remotely or on-site, depending on the job type (remote, on-site, hybrid) or the interview preferences of the company.
Candidates should ask any questions they might have. Pay attention to the candidate's communication skills and the points they discuss to ensure they are a company culture fit. Inviting someone from the team to discuss the project and future responsibilities is also a good idea.
Remember to wrap up this interview stage with some positive feedback. If you feel like mentioning a negative or embarrassing moment, provide it in a compliment sandwich: start with something positive, move to the bad point, and finish with other kind words. Make sure you have told the candidate when they should hear back from you or when the interview results will be ready. Taking these steps demonstrates a good attitude and respect for your candidate's time.
Interview Questions to Ask Software Engineers
The biggest concerns teams have about interviewing tech people are what to ask and how to evaluate candidates. This challenge is faced by most recruiters and hiring managers, especially those with little experience in the software field.
At the first interview, avoid making a candidate recite their resume. Clarify that their tools and skills match the requirements on your list, ask behavioral questions, or ask more in-depth case questions. In brief:
- Case questions will help ensure the candidates are well-qualified.
- Behavioral questions tell you more about a candidate's personality and decision-making by inquiring about choices taken in the past and lessons learned in particular situations.
Here Are Some of the Most Popular Interview Questions:
Question 1: Why did you choose software development as a career?
This question shows how candidates feel about software creation and what drives them to work in the industry. Seek a passionate person eager to study and grow within the industry rather than someone money-driven.
Question 2: What is your favorite programming language, and why?
Each programming language has certain situations where it will work best. This question shows which tasks a developer might be best suited to assist with and the types of projects they prefer.
Question 3: Imagine a situation where your teammate is struggling with a coding problem. What would you do?
The answer is more about the set of actions the candidate might take. Any response is correct. Pay attention to the strategies a candidate suggests and their attitude to get a look at the personality of each software professional you interview.
Question 4: Which project management tools have you used?
Companies use various tools, from Excel and Jira to internal software. If the candidate does not mention a tool you need during an interview, ask about it. Project management tools also indicate the workflows that are familiar to the candidate.
Question 5: Imagine a situation where you developed a product that meets the requirements, but the client is unhappy with the final result. What would you do?
This question is a great chance for a candidate to demonstrate negotiation skills and the ability to think quickly in unexpected or extreme situations.
Question 6: What is your current project?
Learn about the programming languages your candidates use currently and the tasks they perform daily. Ask if they have any side projects of their own. Remember to ask what they like about their current project or what they wish they could change. Try to spot whether a candidate is a problem solver or a troublemaker.
Question 7: Can you tell me about your most successful project?
It is always a good idea to finish an interview with a question that allows the candidate to boast a little about achievements on software projects. This type of question ends the interview on a positive note for everyone. Moreover, you will hear about the candidate's impact and what they value in their work.
Tips for Interviewing Developers
A clear idea of your dream candidate and meticulous planning are the basics for a smooth interview process. Here are some points for your team to keep in mind:
Specify the Top Skills You Want
Study the job description and define the most important skills and competencies you want in a candidate. Do not check each listed soft or hard skill. Instead, choose a few key skills to help you scan resumes faster.
Judge a candidate by the strongest points you saw during their interview, not the weakest ones. Unicorns do not exist, and each candidate has weaknesses or areas for growth. Consider which skills are essential, nice to have, or can be learned on the job.
Prepare an Assessment Beforehand
Do not pull your test tasks out of the ether during an interview. Instead, ask a tech co-worker for assistance ahead of time. Make the tasks tech related so that the hiring team can see a candidate's performance in relevant situations.
Ask Open-Ended Questions
You want more than a simple yes or no answer from a candidate. Open-ended questions encourage candidates to talk and comment, showing their attitude and level of expertise.
It is also helpful to prepare a complex question you can ask during the interview—one with multiple parts that are easy to break into a smaller set of questions with shorter but open answers. This technique will work better than asking random questions here and there, which can result in a fuzzy depiction of the candidate's competencies.
Keep the Same Questions for the Same Position
Stick to a chosen set of questions to provide an equal opportunity for every candidate you interview. Modifying the tasks for every interview can lead to confusion at the assessment stage, as you cannot compare candidates directly.
Create a Handy Chart to Take Notes on Each Candidate
A chart will save you a lot of time when you need to make a decision. Going through random points in your notebook takes longer than using a checklist in Excel or any other software you like.
How to Evaluate a Candidate for a Developer Position
Once the interview data is collected, it is time to evaluate it. Here are some parameters you should consider on your score chart:
Tech is about constant networking and teamwork. Candidates who communicate poorly during the interview process are less likely to communicate well in the workplace. Ensure that the candidate thinks before sharing an idea, is brief and concise, and is an active listener. It is also a good sign if the candidate asks clarifying questions.
Focus on Details
Code challenges are usually about details and are great brain teasers requiring intense focus. Another way to determine a candidate's level of detail orientation is to note the clarifying questions they asked you.
Any coding challenge has several possible approaches. Ensure the candidate has chosen the fastest and most effective method, or at least not the longest one. You may also ask a candidate to specify why they did the task this way and if they had any other ideas on how to approach it.
Submitting Work on Time
If the candidate was expected to do an assessment remotely, did they submit it on time? Time management can be tracked throughout the interviewing process—for example, if the candidate arrived on time for a scheduled interview or efficiently used the interview process to ask questions.
The Functionality of the Code
Being bug-free is the main criterion for any software or piece of test code. Of course, the code should also work, be understandable, and be easy to tweak if needed.
Hiring a software developer is not a one-day-long process. Each company approaches how to interview a software developer differently. However, a good process starts with extensive interview preparation, followed by a sequence of interviews to challenge candidates and spot the best one. It is also important not to go overboard on interview tasks. Instead, choose brief and efficient assessments relevant to your future software project.
A team of professionals with tech backgrounds will make this process faster, so feel free to delegate this process to a team of skilled recruiters and hiring managers. The goal is to kickstart your tech project as soon as possible!