How to Interview a Software Developer

August 30, 2023

Have you ever hired a software developer who seemed perfect on paper, but turned out to be a disaster on the job? Or have you ever spent hours interviewing candidates, only to realize that none of them had the skills or experience you needed? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you know how frustrating and costly it can be to hire the wrong developer.

Software development is one of the most in-demand and competitive fields in the world today. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of software developers is projected to grow 25 percent from 2021 to 20311, much faster than the average for all occupations, and a Statista2 survey estimates that 47.74% of companies plan to recruit IT developers in 2023. This means that there are more opportunities and challenges for hiring managers and recruiters who need to find and attract the best talent for their projects.

But how do you interview a software developer effectively? How do you assess their technical skills, problem-solving abilities, and personality fit? How do you avoid common mistakes or biases that could lead you to hire the wrong person? And how do you make a final decision that is fair and objective?

In this article, we will answer these questions and more. We will guide you through the steps of interviewing a software developer, from identifying the right candidates to holding a phone screen interview, assessing their skills, and conducting subsequent interviews. We will also share some of the best practices and tips that will help you improve your interviewing skills and avoid pitfalls. By following our advice, you will be able to hire software developers who are not only qualified and competent but also passionate and compatible with your team and culture.

So, if you are ready to learn how to interview a software developer like a pro, keep reading! ūüėä

Step 1: Identify the right candidates

The first step of interviewing a software developer is to identify the right candidates for your project. This means that you need to have a clear understanding of what kind of developer you are looking for, what skills and experience they should have, and what kind of projects they should have worked on. You also need to have a realistic expectation of what kind of developer you can afford, given your budget and timeline.

One way to identify the right candidates is to screen their resumes and portfolios. You may also miss out on some hidden gems or potential hires who may not have a conventional resume or portfolio. That’s why you should also consider using some tools or platforms that can help you find qualified developers more efficiently and effectively.

Some examples of tools or platforms that can help you find qualified developers are:

  • CodeSubmit: A platform that allows you to create realistic coding assignments for your candidates, and evaluate their performance based on their code quality, functionality, design, and test coverage.
  • Stack Overflow: You can use Stack Overflow to find developers who have expertise in your desired technologies or domains, by browsing their profiles, questions, answers, badges, and reputation scores. You can also post your own questions or challenges, and see how candidates respond to them.
  • GitHub: You can use GitHub to find developers who have contributed to open-source projects or created their own projects related to your needs. You can also check their code quality, style, documentation, comments, issues, pull requests, commits, stars, forks, and followers.

Step 2: Hold a phone screen interview

The second step of interviewing a software developer is to hold a phone screen interview with the candidates who passed your initial screening. A phone screen interview is a short conversation that allows you to get to know the candidate better, verify their basic information and qualifications, gauge their interest and motivation, and assess their communication skills. A phone screen interview usually lasts between 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the number and complexity of the questions you ask. You should prepare a list of questions that cover the following topics:

  • Background and experience: You should ask the candidate about their education, work history, skills, and projects. You should also ask them about their current situation, availability, and expectations.
  • Technical knowledge: You should ask the candidate about their familiarity and proficiency with the technologies or domains that are relevant to your project. You should also ask them some basic or general technical questions that test their understanding of the concepts or principles of software development.
  • Interest and motivation: You should ask the candidate about their reasons for applying to your project, and what they hope to achieve or learn from it. You should also ask them about their passion and enthusiasm for software development, and what kind of projects or challenges they enjoy working on.
  • Communication skills: You should pay attention to how the candidate communicates with you during the phone screen interview. You should evaluate their clarity, confidence, fluency, tone, and etiquette. You should also observe how they listen, respond, ask, and explain. You should try to assess if the candidate can communicate effectively and professionally with you and your team members.

Some of the best practices for conducting a phone screen interview are:

  • Set clear expectations: Before you start the phone screen interview, you should introduce yourself, explain the purpose and agenda of the call, and inform the candidate of how long it will take and what kind of questions you will ask.
  • Be respectful and friendly: During the phone screen interview, you should be respectful and friendly to the candidate. You should use their name, address them politely, thank them for their time and interest, and show appreciation for their answers.
  • Take notes: After the phone screen interview, you should take notes of the key points and impressions that you gathered from the conversation. You should write down the candidate‚Äôs strengths, weaknesses, skills, experience, interests, motivation, communication skills, and fit for your project. You should also rate or rank the candidate based on your criteria or scoring system.

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Step 3: Assess your candidates’ skills

The third step of interviewing a software developer is to assess your candidates’ skills. This means that you need to evaluate their technical abilities and problem-solving skills and see how they approach and complete a coding task. You also need to measure their code quality, functionality, design, and test coverage. One way to assess your candidates’ skills is to use a coding assessment method or tool. A coding assessment is a method or tool that allows you to create, assign, and evaluate a coding task for your candidates. You can choose from different types of coding assessments, such as coding challenges, algorithm questions, architecture questions, or project-based tasks.

However, choosing and using a coding assessment can be tricky and challenging. You may have to consider various factors, such as the difficulty level, the time limit, the language preference, the scoring criteria, and the feedback mechanism. You may also have to deal with some issues, such as cheating, plagiarism, or diversity.

Some of the advantages and disadvantages of different types of coding assessments are:

  • Coding challenges: Coding challenges are short and simple coding tasks that test the candidate‚Äôs basic knowledge and skills in a specific technology or domain. They usually involve writing a function or a class that performs a specific operation or solves a specific problem. Coding challenges are easy to create and administer and can be used to screen a large number of candidates quickly and efficiently. However, coding challenges may not reflect the real-world scenarios or requirements of your project, and may not measure the candidate‚Äôs creativity or innovation.
  • Algorithm questions: Algorithm questions are coding tasks that test the candidate‚Äôs ability to design and implement efficient and optimal algorithms for various problems. They usually involve writing an algorithm that can sort, search, manipulate, or optimize data structures or arrays. Algorithm questions are commonly used by tech giants like Google or Facebook and can be used to measure the candidate‚Äôs logical thinking and analytical skills. However, algorithm questions may be too difficult or unrealistic for some candidates, and may not reflect the actual technologies or domains of your project.
  • Architecture questions: Architecture questions are coding tasks that test the candidate‚Äôs ability to design and implement scalable and robust software systems or components. They usually involve writing a high-level design or diagram that can handle various scenarios or constraints, such as performance, security, reliability, or availability. Architecture questions are useful for senior or experienced developers and can be used to measure the candidate‚Äôs system thinking and architectural skills. However, architecture questions may be too vague or subjective for some candidates, and may not have a clear or definitive answer.
  • Project-based tasks: Project-based tasks are coding tasks that test the candidate‚Äôs ability to build and deliver a complete software product or feature. They usually involve writing a full-stack application or a user interface that can perform various functions or meet various specifications. Project-based tasks are realistic and relevant to your project and can be used to measure the candidate‚Äôs end-to-end skills and experience. However, project-based tasks may be too time-consuming or complex for some candidates and may require more resources and supervision.

Step 4: Subsequent interviews

The fourth step of interviewing a software developer is to conduct subsequent interviews with the candidates who passed the skill assessment. Subsequent interviews are deeper and more detailed conversations that allow you to explore more aspects of the candidate’s personality, fit, and potential. You can also use subsequent interviews to validate or clarify the results of the skill assessment, and to address any concerns or questions that you or the candidate may have.

Subsequent interviews usually last between 45 to 60 minutes, depending on the depth and breadth of the topics you cover. You should prepare a list of topics that cover the following aspects:

  • Personality fit: You should ask the candidate about their values, goals, preferences, strengths, weaknesses, motivations, passions, hobbies, and interests. You should also ask them about their work style, communication style, collaboration style, learning style, and feedback style. You should try to assess if the candidate has a positive attitude,
  • Team fit: You should ask the candidate about their expectations from your team,
  • Culture fit: You should ask the candidate about their expectations from your company,
  • Potential fit: You should ask the candidate about their career aspirations.

Want to increase your candidate closing rates? Don’t miss out on our guide on how to improve candidate experience.

Conclusion

In this article, we have learned how to interview a software developer like a pro. We have covered the steps of interviewing a software developer, from identifying the right candidates to holding a phone screen interview, assessing their skills, to conducting subsequent interviews. We have also shared some of the best practices and tips that will help you improve your interviewing skills and avoid pitfalls.

By following our advice, you will be able to interview and hire software developers who are not only qualified and competent but also passionate and compatible with your team and culture. You will be able to find and attract the best talent for your projects and build a strong and successful software development team.

Ready to take the next step in hiring exceptional software developers? Our team of experienced consultants is here to support you. If you're seeking personalized assistance or guidance, don't hesitate to book a free consultation using the form below. Let's work together to build a top-tier software development team that drives your projects to success.