Developer Interview Thoughts

Recent interviews with developers have caused me to evaluate and devise questions that help assess behavior motivators…

While a more technical interviewer is responsible for questions related to technical competence, I am responsible for questions related to work ethic and value systems – in other words cultural fit.I used behavior description questions to discern whether candidates had the experiences of:

1) creating , from scratch, a framework, an application, or something that others would use

2) working in a fairly large team where multiple opinions are valued by leadership

3) working on a project where software craft for its own sake is appreciated and encouraged

I used those questions to discern (through listening) whether, in those experiences, the methods, practices and patterns that are valued on this team were known, valued, or encouraged by each candidate.

Two key things I always listen for in an interview with software developers are:

1) do they speak the language of the problem domain from prior projects with ease?

2) do they remember details about what they created or reworked that stay in their mind for years?

These are factors that I believe are crucial to all high performing developers – understanding the problem domain that they are creating solutions against.  Without this skill, all coding feels arbitrary, nonsensical, mechanical.  Developers who understand the problem can go much faster than those who don’t.  Remembering arcane details of old projects means that I can re-use things I invented years ago, and that I have a large catalog of mental product I can apply to any design exercise.  Developers who can’t remember or explain the code they wrote last week, or month, or year also do not have easy access to the catalog.

Just my thoughts.

Another thought – Johanna Rothman of Hiring Technical People has published a ton of stuff on interview questions, and I love these templates for Job Analysis.

Likewise Tom Foster of Management Skills Blog published this article about Interview Questions.

Check them out, they are way smarter than me.

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