There are the standard practices of code challenges and problem solving questions that can help weed out candidates who are weak technically. But even beyond their fluency with programming and algorithms, there are essential interpersonal skills, and creative thinking, that can be just as essential for becoming a highly successful and valued employee.
Being a technical guru is not enough. It’s also important to hire someone who communicates effectively and knows what it means to be part of a team.
So before making that offer, here are 8 tips to help determine the person you are interviewing is a good match.
Have a technical interview that reveals how a candidate thinks
Getting the right answer is only part of the challenge. It is important to see how the candidates think on their feet, and whether they can engage in collaborative problem solving. Often when providing a challenge to create a specified solution it helps if the interviewer is positioned as a 'product manager' who can answer questions about what customers think, as well as taking on the role of a compiler, interactive debugger, and QA tester while helping the candidate solve the problem.
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Often those candidate that are focused only on getting the right answer aren’t the right people for the job. If they show the same lack of collaborative skills on the job, they will lose credibility and in order to influence others they can resort to bullying instead of using their negotiation and communication skills.
Find out if the candidate knows where to look
Today’s great coders aren’t lone wolves: rather, they understand how to leverage globe-spanning networks including past and present colleagues, Google, StackOverflow, GitHub and more in order to find a pre-built solution and either integrate or replicate it.
IT departments need a top-quality coder but just as important is a quality outcome: great quality code built quickly, reliably and cheaply (and ideally, that’s easy to maintain). All of these requirements point to standardisation, and hiring people who are good at leveraging existing knowledge is an easy way to build great outcomes.
Have the non-technical people on your team interview the candidate
Whether it’s customer support, marketing, QA or anyone else, have them interview the candidate as well and provide their feedback.
Have them explain something technical to you in a non-technical way
This one is critical since many of their tasks will involve interfacing with business users and other non- technical people. Based on their response you will immediately know if the candidate has worked with non-technical people in a meaningful way by the terms they use and how clearly and simply they can describe complex things.
Find out their previous experiences with their QA team
Sometimes, a developer can be at odds with their QA team, and have difficulty accepting criticism and responding to suggestions. Understanding if the engineer values QA, and how they handle the process, is important for success on the job.
Ask if they have had a customer support or client facing role
At larger firms, it’s easy for engineers to get siloed and tucked away from end users. Knowing someone has experience interacting with people in a service role can be helpful.
Ask what they enjoy doing most outside of work
This is a nice opener because it creates a bond with the engineer outside of simply tech. You can see how they talk about something they’re passionate about.
Have them explain what they like or don’t like about their current job
This is an opportunity for you to understand the energy of a candidate. You want to avoid people who berate their current employer and co-workers, or make unproductive comments about them. While it’s common for people to be unhappy about their current or previous place of employment — which is likely why they’re interviewing with you in the first place — the way they communicate about it will give you a lot of insight into their personality and how they are likely to interact with your team.
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IT is genuinely different as it requires both specialist knowledge and niche skills. However, positions in IT require interpersonal skills, creativity and other qualities that need to be revealed during the interview and given equal consideration.