The best way to Interview Candidates for a Software Developer/Programmer Position

Application is ubiquitous in our lives. Most companies realize that routine, repetitive tasks that do require human creativity to complete – but rather require following a series of well-defined steps to reach an outcome are ideal candidates for automation via software packages. But that’s not all – there are several other kinds of software that are positively and engagingly used by employees to accomplish their daily tasks. Unfortunately most companies are ill prepared to go through the employing process for quality software programmers.

One of the sad things about the software growth industry is that there are way too many programmers who have no business being programmers. This goes back to the time of the Dot com boom and the subsequent Dot com bust. In those days, development was not a mature discipline but was a highly lucrative position. There were way too many individuals reading “How to program within 7 days” type books plus able to get a job because of this lack of maturity in the industry. Unfortunately many of those exact same people who do not have the proper training continue to be in the business of programming. How do you weed those out? Here are some effective methods.

One thing you absolutely do not need to do is simply print out a list of ‘interview’ queries focused on the technology in question and go off that list exclusively. Even though it is important for you to interview the applicant for his knowledge about a subject, it really is far too easy for candidates to find these types of very same lists of interview questions online and simply memorize the solutions prior to the interview. For example , if you are hiring an ASP. Net developer : you do want the candidate to know about ViewState. But you should not expect these to just know the definition. Programming is way more about application of concepts than knowledge of terms and toolsets. To find out if the candidate really understands ViewState you want to ask them questions that draw out their experience working with ViewState. Ask them in regards to the uses of it, the challenges associated with working with it, the purpose of it, the alternatives to it, etc . Another illustration is asking them about particular controls available in the toolset. A lot of interviewers simply ask about the candidate’s familiarity with a particular control. Most candidates with rudimentary knowledge of the toolset will be able to answer this. But to truly understand their abilities of dealing with the controls, you should ask contextual questions. For instance, these questions could be based around scenarios that require the particular candidate to build a screen or even page for a hypothetical application, enabling the candidate to explain the choice associated with controls to be used and why.
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As you may have surmised from the examples provided above, one of the most effective ways to determine a programmer’s ability is to guide away from very specific knowledge type questions into more broad software type questions that allow the candidate the ability to speak at length about his experience. Open ended questions are great to get the candidates talking with this fashion. For instance, a couple of my favorite questions to use are: What was your most satisfying or rewarding project? What was your most challenging project, and how did you deal with those issues? These questions do not have a specified right or wrong answer but instead open up a dialog for the applicant to showcase what he or she has to offer. You will find that quality candidates will be able to speak at length about their past experience whereas those who are used to bluffing their way through simple queries will falter.

Another tried and true method that many people I know have used successfully is to give them the task of in fact writing a piece of code. You do not want to make this an extremely difficult task but a very simple piece of code that would require them to spend no more than 15-20 minutes to complete. This will give you great insight into their particular programming and design approach and if that would fit in well with what you expect from a person in this position. It is also a great discussion tool to use with the candidate once they have completed the exercise to go through their thought process in programming.