10 Best Questions to ask a Software Engineer During an Interview
From speaking to many candidates and hiring managers I have compiled a list of the best questions to understand software development candidates. These questions cover a range of topics from ideal environment to interests and motivations. An interview must be considered from both points of view.
From a hiring manager’s perspective, they want to challenge the candidate while getting a full understanding of their personality and technical ability. From a candidate’s perspective, they want to have a good interview experience, they want the chance to sell themselves while getting a better understanding of the company. In order to provide positive interview experiences hiring managers must think carefully about their interview process and the questions they ask.
Here are my top 10 questions to ask the job seekers during their interview:
- Tell me something that other people don’t know about you.
This question gives an insight into the real person, interests and can highlight what they like to do outside work. You will get a real answer here rather than something pre-planned.
- Explain a situation where you had a conflict with another team member. How did you resolve it?
Here you will see how the Developer identifies problems, solves and learns from them. From the example you will be able to identify if this candidate will have any issues with your existing development team. It will also give you confidence that the candidate will speak up and share his experience with the team and not be afraid of conflict.
- Can you tell me about your favourite project?
This question will help you identify what areas within their job they enjoy most. If they talk about getting to work across the full stack but your role can only offer back-end development, they may not be the best fit. Similarly, if they highlight a project aligned with one your team are currently working on you know they will be motivated in this role. You could also ask them to show you this project on GitHub.
- Can you explain your most challenging project?
Similar to the previous question you are getting a full project review, tech stack and how they contributed. With these questions you can evaluate their ability to self-reflect and also the complexity of their work. For example, if a developer describes a standard project as their most challenging then maybe they are not at the right level for this position.
- What is your biggest achievement in your career to date?
This gives the hiring manager a gauge of how ambitious the candidate is. This allows you to compare and contrast the achievements of existing developers at a similar level already within the business. It will also allow you to assess their confidence and how proud they are of their work.
- Tell me about a project that went wrong. How did you address this?
By asking this question you are challenging the candidate to highlight a flaw rather than a skill. You can assess honesty and how they cope in difficult situations. You will get a sense of whether they take ownership or blame others.
- Highlight an area that you have had to upskill in recently. Explain why?
Here we can understand how motivated a candidate is to upskill and whether they upskill because they have to or because they have a keen interest in new technology and want to learn more. By the example they use we can evaluate whether they are trying to get ahead of the market in learning a new skill or just keeping their tech stack modern enough to get by.
- In your eyes what makes a good manager and what makes a bad manager? Explain why?
This question can highlight issues this candidate is having in his/her current role or had in previous companies. It may shed light on their real reasons for wanting to leave their current role.
Similarly, it will help you understand how they like to be managed and communicated with. You can compare their answers with your management style and see if it’s a match. The candidate’s answers can highlight their attitude and level of maturity.
- What interests you most about this position?
Rather than usually evaluating how the candidate fits the role you are asking them to explain how the role fits them. This will give you an insight into their motivations, career aspirations and reasons for leaving their current employment. You can also monitor the energy they have when reviewing the position, if someone conveys enthusiasm and excitement, they will be more appealing.
- Can you explain your ideal team set up and working environment?
Compare and contrast their answer by what you and your team can offer. If this is widely different, they will not be a fit. You will get a sense if they are an introvert or extrovert and how they could work in individual and group tasks.
- Do you have any questions for me?
This will help understand how interested the candidate really is in the position and the level of preparation they have done. You can assess how they take initiative in finding out more about the team, company, future plans, next interview stages etc. From their questions you will be able to see if they are more role or company focused. If someone has no questions it is not always because you covered everything in the interview, it could mean that the candidate was ill prepared, which is a major red flag.
Having a bad interview experience is something that does not sit well with Developers and can lead to a company getting a bad reputation in the market. People talk and will share their opinion within the Developers community and some even leave reviews on various job boards.
These bad experiences can lead to less candidates applying to roles and cause difficulty in selling positions to passive candidates. To ensure positive interview experiences it is important to consider both parties and choose questions that are challenging, informative but not too difficult which can be off putting.
The questions above will help you understand Developers better rather than just assessing if they have the required technical skills. By using some of these questions you can cover some key topics in hiring that are sometimes overlooked.
Make sure you evaluate Emotional Intelligence, Environment, Culture, Achievements, Upskilling, Accountability, Management, Honesty, Interests, Attitude and Maturity during an interview process. If you’d like to find out more about hiring or industry trends check out our Hire Talent and Tech Insights pages.