You’re Doing Your Tech Interview Wrong – 21 Tips

Here are 21 tips I’ve used when interviewing/hiring hundreds of people over the past 5 years. I hope you find them useful.

  1. If you’re asking questions that can be Googled, you’re wasting everyone’s time or you’re lazy.
  2. If you’re not asking questions that indicate someone’s attitude, you’re missing about 80% of their ability to succeed.
  3. A small test of fundamentals is far more indicative of success than gotcha questions.
  4. Ask what they do for fun and outside of work, get them to talk about it.
  5. Have the interviewee pair-program with you for a simple problem or two using the answer from 4 above.
  6. Focus on communication, curiosity, and creativity when pairing vs. the right answers.
  7. Understand how they work. Headphones on and solo? Or are they happy chatting and talking at a large table of other developers?
  8. Challenge them beyond their level of expertise and see how they respond. How do they respond to failure?
  9. Do they smile or laugh at themselves? Not taking yourself too seriously is pivotal to team dynamics and flexibility as requirements and projects change focus.
  10. Do they work on their own stuff outside of work or do they play video games or engage in other passive activities?
  11. Do they share? Have a blog? Are they on GitHub?
  12. Don’t give a code test and ask interviewees to perform “test”. This is another waste of time and a lazy way of evaluating candidates.
  13. See tip #1, #12 and don’t give the impression you’re too busy to interview someone, you’ll only get desperate developers.
  14. Developers with computer science backgrounds do just as well as those without.
  15. Introverted developers are just as good as extroverted ones, don’t confuse personality with ability.
  16. The fit is more important than ability if you’re interviewing someone for a maintenance role that’s much different than a greenfield project.
  17. Your interviewee should interview you, it’s a two-way street if they don’t ask questions about the culture or project that’s a red flag.
  18. Why are they looking to change careers? This will give you insight into how they will fit into your company/culture.
  19. Read their resume and ask questions about the skills they say are their strongest, be to the point and if they say they are 8/10 on a skill, inquire on that, not on something they might know.
  20. Ask how they learn new things, some people are book learners, others are doers.
  21. Trust your gut, if you don’t have a good instinct for people, bring someone who does into the evaluation process.

As I said I’ve interviewed hundreds of candidate and learned a lot over the years when evaluating people for potential roles and these ones seem to work the best.