When conducting a non-technical interview, it’s hard to know whether the developer in front of you is the one—especially if you only have an hour to make your mind up, or worse 15 minutes!
Like that one time you interviewed Jake over the phone and decided he didn’t fit the bill. Even so, he added you on LinkedIn. A year later, you find out that he got scooped up by your company’s top competitor and is doing wonders in the other pond. Yep, you let a fine fish get away.
After all, when hiring a developer, there are so many factors to take into consideration. It’s not all about technical skills. You also have to check for soft skills, such as ability to communicate, adapt to fast-changing environments and perform under pressure. On top of skills, you also need to see whether the candidate and his motivations fit in with your company.
The most efficient interview questions are based on concrete examples that demonstrate a candidate’s ability to work under challenging circumstances.
We’ve put together our top 10 interview questions to help you make sure that you don’t let the good programmers slip away. Each question has been tried and tested by tech recruiters around the world.
1. Why are you interested in working at “XYZ company”?
Candidates should do their homework and learn about your company. This question helps check if they sincerely want to work with you. You’ll be able to see whether their work motivations fit company goals and culture.
2. Do you like programming? If yes, why?
Watch out for developers who have a hard time explaining why they enjoy programming, and those who program for the money and/or because it’s easy to find a job. A good programmer is a programmer who enjoys coding for the sake of creating and being challenged.
3. What did you like about your previous work environment and what didn’t you like about it?
Chances are, they’ll have the same preferences wherever they go. So if something they strongly dislike is widely present at your company, they probably aren’t going to be happy in your tech team. On the other hand, if their preferred work environment resembles that of your company’s, they’ll most likely thrive.
4. Have you ever worked in a multidisciplinary team (i.e. with both tech and non-tech members)? If yes, did you like it and why? If not, would you like to and why?
Use this question to get a feel for how they work with others. See whether they like getting feedback and learning from others, especially from those who have different expertise from them.
5. Describe a situation in which you came across a major obstacle to complete a project. How did you deal with it? What steps did you take?
The candidate’s answer should reflect their ability to adapt when things don’t go as planned. If you don’t get all the necessary details right away, probe for more. They should be able to describe a situation, the actions they took and the corresponding results. As per Karl Sakas in 4 Behavioural Question Mistakes to Avoid When Interviewing Developers:
“Be sure to ask follow-up questions, too — otherwise, you’re wasting an opportunity to dig into a candidate’s thought process.”
6. Give me a recent example of a stressful situation on the job. What happened? How did you handle it?
Get a feel for what the candidate finds stressful and determine whether they’re able to deal with it gracefully. Their answer should tell you whether they’re able to handle stress. Also, if similar situations persist in your company and they can’t cope accordingly, they probably won’t succeed in the role.
7. Tell me about the project you’ve worked on that you’re most proud of. What did you do that worked out particularly well?
Their answer should give you a sneak peek at what they know and value, actual positions they’ve held within a team and how they perceive their own work. The manner in which they respond will also show a bit of their personality (i.e., are they humble or conceited?).
8. Tell me about the project you’ve worked on that you’re least proud of. What would you do differently?
This interview question is one of our favorites. We all make mistakes (after all, we’re only humans). It’s also the best way to learn. That said, you need a programmer who can learn from their mistakes and do better next time. So let them explain how they coped with their worst developer failure.
9. What programming languages/frameworks can you work with? Describe your experience with them.
Although you may not be very techy, you can still find out about their skill set and level. This is very useful info for your tech leads or managers and operations team. Coupled with a coding test, you’ll be able to tell whether they’re the real deal or an impersonator.
10. If you could master one technology this year, what would it be?
Ask them this question to find out what technology they’re interested in and whether it fits in with what the company is using or planning to use.
Let’s wrap it up
Asking the right interview questions will allow you to identify passionate, honest and motivated developers.
One last thing you would want to know is how they see themselves in a few years. This question will help you tell the difference between a candidate who aspires to becoming a project manager, willing to coordinate others’ work, and a candidate looking to fulfill his or her potential as a developer who keeps on building things.