Tips on how to Interview Candidates for a Software Developer/Programmer Position

Software is ubiquitous in our lives. Most companies realize that routine, repetitive tasks that do not take human creativity to complete – but instead require following a series of well-defined procedure for reach an outcome are perfect candidates for automation via software packages. But that’s not all – there are plenty of other kinds of software that are actively and engagingly used by employees to accomplish their daily tasks. Unfortunately typically are ill prepared to go through the hiring process for quality software programmers.

One of the sad things about the software advancement industry is that there are way too many programmers who have no business being programmers. This goes back to the time of the Dot com boom and the subsequent Dot com bust. In those days, development was not a mature discipline but was a highly lucrative position. There were way too many individuals reading “How to program within 7 days” type books and able to get a job because of this lack of maturity in the industry. Unfortunately many of those exact same people who do not have the proper training are still in the business of programming. How do you weed those out? Here are some effective methods.

One thing you absolutely do not wish to accomplish is simply print out a list of ‘interview’ queries focused on the technology in question and go off that list exclusively. Even though it is important for you to interview the applicant for his knowledge about a subject, it really is far too easy for candidates to find these very same lists of interview queries online and simply memorize the answers prior to the interview. For example , if you are hiring an ASP. Net developer – you do want the candidate to know about ViewState. But you should not expect them to just know the definition. Programming is way more about application of concepts than knowledge of terms and toolsets. To find out if the candidate really understands ViewState you want to ask them questions that draw out their particular experience working with ViewState. Ask them in regards to the uses of it, the challenges associated with working with it, the purpose of it, the particular alternatives to it, etc . Another illustration is asking them about particular controls available in the toolset.
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A lot of interviewers simply ask about the candidate’s familiarity with a particular control. Most candidates with rudimentary knowledge of the toolset will be able to answer this. But to really understand their abilities of working with the controls, you should ask contextual questions. For instance, these questions might be based around scenarios that require the candidate to build a screen or even page for a hypothetical application, allowing the candidate to explain the choice of controls to be used and why.

Since you may have surmised from the examples given above, one of the most effective ways to figure out a programmer’s ability is to steer away from very specific knowledge type questions into more broad software type questions that allow the applicant the ability to speak at length regarding his experience. Open ended queries are great to get the candidates talking in this particular fashion. For instance, a couple of my favorite questions to use are: What was your most satisfying or rewarding project? What was your most challenging project, and exactly how did you deal with those difficulties? These questions do not have a specified right or wrong answer but rather open up a dialog for the applicant to showcase what he or she has to offer. You will find that quality candidates will be able to speak at length about their previous experience whereas those who are used to bluffing their way through simple questions will falter.

Another tried and true method that many people I know have used effectively is to give them the task of in fact writing a piece of code. You do not want to make this an extremely difficult task but a simple piece of code that would require these to spend no more than 15-20 minutes to complete. This will give you great insight into their own programming and design approach and when that would fit in well with what you anticipate from a person in this position. Additionally it is a great discussion tool to use with all the candidate once they have completed the exercise to go through their thought process in programming.