A non-technical guide to interviewing developers
Congrats, your team is growing! You need to hire a developer (or developers).
While it's ideal that everyone feels involved in the process of picking their new coworker, it can be more challenging for non-technical founders or team members.
Here is some help to navigate the in-person interview for a technical position and get as much relevant information to hire your next great teammate!
1. Look for curious, ever-learning individuals
Good engineers have to keep training and learning constantly as new technologies keep appearing. Even if a candidate hasn't worked with the latest hot technologies at their last job, ask questions about their personal side projects and look for signs of a growth mindset.
- What about your craft are you passionate about?
- How do you learn? If you need to implement some feature and you don’t know how, what you do?
- Tell me about something you built that you are really proud of.
2. Evaluate communication skills
If this person directly interacts with non-technical team members, make sure that they can explain the concepts they are working with. This will allow better collaboration across the team rather than looking at development as a black box which can create issues down the line.
- Assuming I’m not technical - can you explain to me what “technical debt” is and why it’s important?
- Can you explain load balancing in non-technical terms?
- In a few words, can you explain back-end vs. front-end as if to a 10 year old?
3. Ask the hard questions
You'll immediately spot candidates that assign blame vs. the ones who grow from experiences.
- Have you ever been in a situation where you got pushback from a team member? Tell me more, what did you do? What would you do differently now?
- What do you do when a designer gives you a design that’s hard to implement?
- Tell me about a time you disagreed with a client.
4. Ask for specifics
A good interview technique is to ask for specific examples, starting questions by "Tell me about a time you… " or "Walk me through an example of...". It’s ok to remind the candidate to answer questions precisely, by giving details on actual situations they’ve been in.
A candidate that repeatedly doesn't answer questions with specifics might be trickier to collaborate with.
Example follow-up questions:
- What specifically were you involved in, vs. the rest of the team?
- Did you make that decision alone? Who did you consult with and why?
5. Look for a mutual fit
Ask for specifics again.
Being the sole full-stack engineer at an early-stage startup and having to deal with every aspect of the product (including devops) is very different from being an individual contributor, focusing on front-end, in a 12-person team with multiple layers of management.
- What are you looking for in your next role?
- What did you like/dislike about your last position?
As for all interviews, we recommend you always leave 5-10min at the end for the candidate to ask questions. Recruiting is a two way street. Candidates should be excited and confident to continue the recruiting process with your team!