Getting Technical: How Tech Teams Can Get the Best Results from Job Interviews

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Photo by You X Ventures on Unsplash

By Eric Wise

This is the second in a series of posts on building outstanding tech teams. 

Now that we have discussed maximizing predictability by understanding the value of the resume, it is time to move on to the technical interview. The first rule of technical interviews is no gimmick questions. If you don’t believe me, ask Google, which declared that brain teasers were a waste of time.

There are three main rules a team should follow with regards to technical questions.

1. Never ask questions you have not asked before.

Questions need to be tried out on non-candidates in non-interview situations before you put them into a live question queue. Only by asking questions in this way and collecting feedback can you determine if the question:

  • is the appropriate difficulty level;
  • is clearly stated; and
  • can guide someone through the question if they struggle.

2. Make a rubric.

I strongly encourage teams to make a rubric for questions to identify poor, mediocre, good, and excellent answers that details what makes an answer fall into a category. This approach will significantly facilitate the effectiveness of interviewer notes.

Example: You are interviewing for the position of sandwich craftsperson. You ask them about the process of crafting a high-quality sandwich.

Table for Getting Technical: How Tech Teams Can Get the Best Results from Job Interviews

3. Create questions tailored to your situation.

Too many technical interviewers reach for questions that are subject to regurgitation (many computer science/academic questions fall into this category) or are ‘toy’ problems that could be interesting in general but have little to do with the day-to-day job.

Questions should be relevant to what you want your candidates to do. For example, if you are hiring developers to write front-end web interfaces, their ability to build a linked-list data structure from scratch probably is not relevant to the position.

Should we do a hands-on assessment?

Would you hire a band for a wedding without hearing them first? In short, my advice is that if the role requires implementation skills, then you should certainly do a hands-on assessment. Keep the rules above in mind and have clear guidelines around determining the quality of the submission. Assessments also should be tailored to the job.

Be respectful of the candidate’s time. In-person assessments should last no more than an hour and take-home assessments no more than two hours. 

Sure, you can find standard questions online or in books, but they are not all that useful if countless other companies are using them. Consider services such as BitTiger, Pramp, and Interviewing.io that can prepare you for technical interviews and frequently utilize common questions in their practice banks.

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