30 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Tech Specialist

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Jun 19, 2019

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. — Abraham Lincoln

So, you’ve got a tree … I mean … a software developer or any other tech position to fill. What should you do first? Rush to your computer and start browsing through tons of resumes? Start brainstorming an attractive LinkedIn post about the vacancy? Search for a magic spell that will help you find a perfect candidate?

None of these. As usual, scheduling a meeting with the hiring manager should be your first step.

If you don’t find out what the hiring manager wants, it drastically reduces the chances of success. Moreover, what they want is not always exactly what they need. So, asking the right questions during the intake meeting is the first step to a successful hiring. Jointly with the team, we’ve made a checklist of the useful things to find out.

The Tech Side of the Project

What languages/frameworks/libraries are used on the project?

Some candidates don’t want to work with tech stack they’re unfamiliar with. Others, conversely, would love to accept the challenge of learning a new language or framework. Another group of candidates won’t accept your offer if they consider the project’s tech stack outdated. In general, tech stack will be the first subject each candidate asks about, so it should be the first question you ask the hiring manager.

What is the project’s architecture?

Is it a monolithic or a microservice app? What patterns does it implement? This information can impact the candidate’s interest in the job.

How soon is the code from a repository deployed to production?

Is the project a self-hosted solution, or does it use cloud technologies? Does the team employ the CI/CD practices? Are container technologies used in the project? Do the team members review each other’s code before deployment?

What are the other significant tech details the candidate needs to know?

Find out as much as you can about the databases, APIs, build tools, IDEs, version control systems, etc. If the candidate is really interested in the company and the project, they will definitely ask you a lot of related questions.

If you have troubles understanding tech terms, turn to special plugins for recruiters, such as GlossaryTech. The more you read about the related terms, the better you “speak” tech.

Who maintains the project’s documentation? How often is it updated?

Some candidates will be eager to know whether writing and maintaining the project’s documentation will be among their responsibilities.

How is the code tested?

Is it a Unit, Integration, Regression, or A/B testing, or some other type? Who is responsible for writing tests? Which amount of code is now covered by tests? What bug trackers are used?

Who is responsible for force majeure situations?

What if the server failover happens in the middle of the night? Who will be responsible for fixing the issue? Does the project have on-call rotations?

The Project, the Team, and the Company Culture

What are the key details of the project?

What problem(s) does the application solve? What are the project’s short-term and long-term goals? Is the project raising investments, or is it planning to do so? How does your solution differ from your competitors’?

What methodology does the project use — Agile, Waterfall, Scrum, Kanban?

Sometimes there are several methodologies used. Know the entry point for the future hire, and the present developmental stage of the project.

How much is development vs. maintenance?

Every candidate you contact is going to ask this question. Be prepared.

How large is the corresponding team? What is its structure?

Some developers feel better when working on a big team with a complicated structure, while others prefer being individual contributors. Learn as much as you can about the team’s size, structure, the number of foreigners, etc.

Who will the future hire report to?

Or will they be reported to?

Is there room for growth?

Are there any career advancement opportunities for this position? Is there a job-rotation program?

Does the company encourage education for this position?

Are there any workshops or hackathons planned within the company? Will the education, (conferences, courses, training), outside of the company be encouraged and paid for? Will the future hire have a mentor, or will they have to mentor somebody else?

What is the working schedule?

How flexible is the schedule? Is it possible to work from home? Do employees on this project work overtime? If so, is overtime paid? Does the position entail business trips? If yes, how often will they take place and what will be the destination(s)?

Is the team friendly?

Are there any corporate events? How often do they take place? How are conflicts within the team usually resolved?

In your opinion, why do people stay with your company?

It’s an abstract, somewhat philosophical question. But, having asked it, you may find some significant trump cards that will compel candidates to choose your company.

The Perfect Candidate

What skills are required, and which ones are only “nice to have?”

Long and complicated lists of obligatory skills often scare away candidates and may confuse you about what skills to be searching for. Read the vacancy to the hiring manager, and ask them to rank the skills by importance. You’ll see how quickly half of the must-haves turn into like-to-haves. Moreover, some skills which weren’t mentioned in the initial job description may emerge in conversation.

What are your primary expectations?

What should a successful candidate achieve in 30/90/120 days? What are their short-term objectives in a new setting? Clarifying expectations will minimize future disappointments for your hiring manager.

Do we need somebody who will grow in this role or someone who comes with ‘out-of-the-box’ experience?

This truly depends on the details of the vacancy and project. Specify it clearly.

What annoys you the most about candidates during the interview and hiring process? If you’ve rejected developers for similar positions so far, what were the main reasons?

Knowing the hiring manager’s red flags will help you to not overwhelm their inbox with inappropriate resumes.

Is a tech degree a must-have for this position?

If so, why? Is it all about possessing a thorough knowledge of the basics? Are there any education-related visa issues?

Tech Hiring Process

How many stages will be there in the interview process? How will it proceed?

Surely, the interview process may vary from vacancy to vacancy, or even from candidate to candidate. But in general, know all the stages of the hiring process and their average duration. Don’t forget to ask who will be interviewing the candidate at each stage of the process.

The technical interview deserves special attention. Will it be a Skype call or a personal meeting? Will a candidate have to write code or answer technical questions? If it’s a job involving relocation, will the company cover flight and living expenses for the final meeting at the office?

What does a test task look like?

Some candidates will be willing to prepare for the test task. Others will be curious how much time it will take to perform, or whether they will be limited in time. Although you don’t have to reveal all the details during the very first phone call, explain some specifics of the test task.

The Vacancy Itself

What is the salary range for this job? How flexible is the salary?

Specify the salary range and how often it will be reviewed.

What is the reason for this job opening … is it a replacement or a new role? What problems are you trying to solve by filling this position?

If it’s a new position, why did it open? Is there a new team being formed, or a new customer needing some special features in your product? If it’s a replacement, why did the previous candidate leave?

What are the key perks for the future hire?

Working with new or rare technologies? Challenging tasks? Competitive bonuses? Trips abroad? Relocation assistance? Use all the trump cards you have to attract the best talent.

Other Important Questions

How did you find the current top developers at your company?

The hiring manager may know some sources you hadn’t even thought about.

In your absence, who else can I ask about the project?

Even if we added 100 questions to this checklist, we wouldn’t be able to guarantee the complete absence of additional questions during the hiring process. You need a person you can always rely on.

THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION: Is there anything else I should know that didn’t come up in our discussion so far?

Having asked this question, you may find out many more details than during the whole intake meeting.

Thorough preparation is half the battle. What other questions do you usually ask the hiring manager before hiring a software developer? Please write them in the comments.  

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