Exelaration

Are You Asking Your Technical Recruits the Right Questions?

One of easiest missteps when recruiting a for a position like software developer is being overly focused on ensuring the “minimum required skills” parameters of the position are met and losing sight of the fact that hiring is fundamentally about people. Technical skills will change over time (especially if you hire well), but the people you hire […]

by | Jun 30, 2020

One of easiest missteps when recruiting a for a position like software developer is being overly focused on ensuring the “minimum required skills” parameters of the position are met and losing sight of the fact that hiring is fundamentally about people. Technical skills will change over time (especially if you hire well), but the people you hire will likely (hopefully) stay with your organization for the long run.

Here are some questions we like to ask when recruiting student talent to join our highly selective internship:

What’s the coolest thing you’ve done in the last year?
We ask this question to invite an applicant to show off something they’re both comfortable with and excited about. The way they approach this can speak volumes about how they perceive themselves; look for enthusiasm, confidence, and empathy. Watch out for signs of ego and ambivalence. Some quality candidates, especially early in their careers, don’t respond well to this question due to impostor syndrome, or feelings of inadequacy despite a clear history of success. If you foresee or encounter this, you can exchange or pivot to something more direct such as “What part of your work in the past year had the most impact? On whom?”

Tell me about a skill you learned in the last year. What were the circumstances of that learning?”
This question can lead many places, and how a candidate responds gives clues about how they understand personal growth. You might hear about technical skill growth in a very focused way, such as a particular language/framework or platform, or a broader way like patterns, best practices and principles. You may also hear about soft skills like writing, speaking or process refinement. It’s important as an interviewer to approach this as openly as possible, and to try to leave behind preconceptions about linear growth patterns. Learning is non-linear in the real world. Even if a candidate relays recently learning a skill that you consider foundational or otherwise a “given” for a new team member, remember that you also once had to learn it, and that their path was not the same as yours. The goal here again is to understand more about the person as a whole, to gauge how they approach growth and learning, and discover if they are a good match for your team.

Let’s imagine we hire you; it’s six months from now and you’re not happy. What happened?” 
This both tries to uncover a candidate’s concerns and is an exercise in empathy. The goal here is to try to understand what facets of the match between candidate and company lack alignment and could ultimately lead to friction. Uncovering this in the interview (rather than six months later) pays huge dividends for both parties. Look for honesty, candor, and thoughtfulness about longer term career goals.

Overall, the goal of these questions is to put aside specific technical needs of the position and evaluate two vitally important culture fit aspects of the candidate. The first is their alignment with the position in terms of scope, trajectory, and passion. Ideal candidates are ready to grow from the position you’re hiring them for into the role you’ll need them to play in five years, and to love what they do as they go. The second aspect is strong communication. Honest, candid, and meaningful communication is the cornerstone of a creative professional’s effectiveness, more so than any technical skill set they happen to possess at a given point in time. It may rank as the single most important differentiator of quality team members.

Exelaration’s goal as a software development and training center is to provide the future tech workforce with the skills they need to succeed, while ensuring they have the right soft skills too.

Andrew Lindberg

Andrew.Lindberg@exelaration.com

Andrew has ten years of experience in software development and loves every opportunity to teach people new things. He has spent the last 3 years working as a software development mentor and has relished learning new technology together with his apprentices as well as helping them navigate the transition from student to professional. He is a Python, Linux and Open Source enthusiast.

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