- Apr 18, 2023
- 14 min read
The Ultimate Guide to Identifying the Perfect Developer: A Step-by-Step Interview Process
Hiring software developers is challenging. First, you must accurately determine your requirements, considering current and future project needs. Then, you need to find suitable candidates and interview them to determine whether they are a good fit. Ultimately, you will need to make the decision about which software developer to hire. On top of it, you might struggle to decide whether in-house hiring, staff augmentation or managed services is better for your business.
Meanwhile, the importance of finding skilled software engineers is hard to overestimate, especially for start-ups. To help you navigate talent acquisition, we created the ultimate guide to hiring top talent developers.
Preparations: What to Do Before the Interview Process
Proper preparation can save you time, effort and money. It should include two key elements:
1. Determining your needs and requirements
Think about your project and its planned trajectory of development. Make a list of your needs and requirements by asking yourself the following questions:
– Do you plan to engage developers for short or long-term cooperation? Or are you unsure yet, how long it might take?
– What is the scope of work? How fast do you need it done? Will one developer suffice or do you need more people?
– What are the main project technologies (languages, frameworks, databases, etc.)?
– The developer of what seniority level do you need?
– What non-technical skills are necessary for the job? This might include communication, language, leadership, organizational skills, etc.
Voila! Now your hiring criteria are formed and it is time to choose your hiring strategies.
2. Selecting hiring strategies
No hiring strategy is ultimately better than the others. What to choose will depend on the peculiarities of your company and project, labor laws in your country, and the state of the local IT labor market. Furthermore, companies can use several hiring strategies simultaneously to speed up the process.
Thus, when it comes to hiring developers, 3 strategies prevail: -
1. In-house hiring
In-house hiring means using internal company resources to find a person whom you will invite to join your staff. This typically means engaging a person from your country following local labor laws.
- Solid choice to ensure stability
If your company is well-established and confident that it will require the employee for years to come, this strategy might be best for you. By employing a local developer, you will receive greater stability. Some countries, like Sweden, even ensure that the employee has to give a two to six-month notice before leaving. Also, by hiring a local, you wouldn’t have to worry as much about possible language or cultural barriers.
- Things to consider
Before choosing this strategy, consider the state of your local labour market. For instance, many Nordic countries face an acute shortage of mid and senior-level software developers. This is one of the reasons why the Swedish company uses Softkit’s IT staff augmentation services.
- Pro tip: Create a stand-out job description
If you decide to use this strategy, creating a captivating job description is your utmost priority. To attract the best candidates:
– Describe your company and explain why it is a great workplace.
– Talk about the work culture and benefits.
– Create a list of all requirements, differentiating between strict demands and “nice-to-haves.”
2. Using IT staff augmentation
IT staff augmentation is the practice when companies engage experts via a third-party vendor. This model has many benefits for hiring software developers:
- Wider talent pool
You have access to a vast talent pool from major IT hubs worldwide. Moreover, hiring is straightforward – your company signs a contract with the staff augmentation agency for the provision of services. There is no need for visas or other extensive paperwork.
- Faster hiring
Under this model, you can find a suitable developer in under two weeks. In-house hiring often takes months.
- Better value-for-money ratio
Experts from major IT talent hubs provide excellent quality code and software architecture. Moreover, such services can cost less compared to hiring in-house team members. This is explained by two factors: 1) Many experts live in countries with lower living costs and require a lower salary; 2) There is no need to pay local employee taxes as you would for an in-house team member.
You can hire someone for several months or years, whichever is best for the project. Moreover, it is easy to scale your team up or down without being constrained by local labor laws and regulations.
However, remember that your colleagues will have to communicate in English with the new team member. If most of your staff comes from a non-English speaking country, they might view it as a disadvantage.
3. Engaging a managed team
Another option is hiring a team of developers to undertake your project or IT business processes. You would be communicating with the agency’s representative, who will guide you through the process. They will ask relevant questions, create a project schedule, provide regular updates and seek feedback.
Hiring a development team offers the same benefits as staff augmentation. It is well-suited for short-term projects and start-up hiring. Managed team model is also perfect for well-established companies that wish to outsource everyday IT processes and focus on innovation.
You can find more info in our guide to choosing between staff augmentation and managed team.
Why Identifying the Perfect Developer Is Crucial for Project Success
When the preparations are done and you have your pool of candidates, it is time to consider your interviewing strategy. To identify the perfect developer, assess candidates’ soft and technical skills and determine whether they would fit in with your corporate culture.
Failing to detect potential employees’ shortcomings beforehand can be detrimental to your team and the project. For example, a developer who doesn’t fit culturally might start making misogynistic comments or otherwise insult other team members. Or they might not like the management style and quit after several months.
Note: We recognize that cultural compatibility doesn’t mean cultural homogeneity. Your employees can have different beliefs, but as long as they respect and support each other, they can make a great team.
Similarly, developers with poor soft skills might struggle to explain their thoughts or understand others. Insufficient technical expertise is equally detrimental, particularly when it comes to software that handles sensitive information or calculations.
But how to identify the perfect developer in an interview? In the following two sections, we will share our top 20 tips for identifying the perfect developer in an interview process.
Developer Screening: Asking the Right Questions and Assessing Cultural Fit
After the resume screening, several candidates have caught your eye. Now it’s time for the first interview.
Tip #1: Make them feel comfortable
Attracting top talent requires making a good impression. Be friendly and make the interview pleasant so that the candidate would want to join your team afterward. You can start the conversation with small talk. If this is an offline interview, offer the developer a cup of tea or coffee. At the beginning of the interview, tell briefly about your company and the vacant position.
Tip #2: Interview questions must be relevant
Tailor your questions to the position you are trying to fill. Think about the skills this person needs to be successful.
By now, you are familiar with the developer’s resume, portfolio and main achievements. Unless you want to clarify something, do not ask what you already know.
Tip #3: Ask for an overview and don’t forget about follow-up questions
You can ask the candidate to tell you a bit about themselves. This is a classic move and for a good reason – the developer will emphasize things they consider most important. They can even tell you a bit about their motivation. Ask follow-up questions to learn more about facts that interest you.
Assessing soft skills and personality
Now it’s time to evaluate the person’s soft skills and cultural fit for your company.
Tip #4: Pay attention to the developer’s listening and communication skills
During the interview process, reflect on the person’s communication skills. How relevant are their answers to your questions? If they didn’t seem to understand you, paraphrase and repeat. If miscommunication persists, the interviewee might have poor listening skills. In the future, they might have trouble understanding your tasks.
Also, consider how well the developer can explain their thoughts and opinions. Being overly eloquent might not be necessary, but the general ability to communicate is. Good communication skills are more important for developers who will be mentors or team leads.
Tip #5: Try behavioral interviewing
Behavioral interviewing is particularly popular among interview techniques. The underlying idea is that past behavior is the best indicator of future performance. Candidates are asked to describe a situation when they had to perform specific tasks, what actions they took and the achieved results. This is also called the STAR interviewing approach (situation, tasks, actions and results).
Tip #6: Make sure they feel heard
Don’t just question the person. React to their words. Make sure they feel heard, respected and valued by your organization – nod, smile and ask follow-up questions. You can share a bit about yourself.
Tip #7: Determine whether they are a team player
In an effective development team, each member respects and supports others, seeks help when needed and is willing to admit mistakes. You can ask the developer what mistakes they made in the past and how they fixed them. Was there a situation when they helped a colleague who struggled? Were there any team-building experiences in their previous company?
Tip #8: Ascertain whether the candidate is aware of their shortcomings
No one is perfect. The best employees know their flaws and work on them. Ask the developer whether there is anything they would like to improve regarding their personal or professional skills.
Interviewing for cultural fit
Assess the developer’s cultural compatibility with your team. Consider what values and personal qualities are endorsed in your team culture. Here are examples of what might interest you:
Tip #9: Ask what management style they prefer
What are the characteristics of a perfect manager, in their opinion? What did they like or didn’t like in their previous manager?
Tip #10: Determine their motivation
What motivates the developer to work? Do they like their profession? What is most rewarding about their work? Common motivation factors include money, professional growth, self-expression, joy of task completion, desire to create something useful, etc. Consider whether your project will be fulfilling for this developer.
Tip #11: Discuss their approach to challenges
Ask about the most challenging task in their career. How did they approach it? Ask follow-up questions and try to understand whether the person is willing and eager to learn new things.
Tip# 12: Discover what they don’t want to do
Are there industries/practices that the developer doesn’t support? This will tell you more about the person’s values and whether they fit in with your corporate culture. Make sure that the developer will be comfortable working for your company. For instance, if they are passionate about nature and your main customer is an oil tycoon, ask how they feel about it.
Tip #13: Pay attention to their social cues
What impression does a person make? What is their tone of voice and gestures? Do they come across as friendly or, perhaps, condescending and patronizing?
Ensuring skill and qualification match
Job fit assessment during the first interview includes ensuring that the candidate's skills match the project’s needs.
Tip #14: Discuss the tech required for the project
Required technologies might be on a person’s resume, but how often did they work with them? How well do they know them? Make sure the person knows everything that takes a lot of time to learn. However, if something can be studied in a couple of hours or days, it is ok for a candidate not to know it.
Tip #15: Encourage questions
Encourage all candidate’s questions and pay attention to what interests them – their priorities. Make sure they understand what they will be expected to do.
Evaluating Technical Proficiency: Tips and Examples of Tech Questions
Technical interviews are an integral part of proper candidate assessment. Without them, you cannot be sure that the candidate truly possesses the claimed level of technical proficiency.
Tip #16: Tailor question to the seniority of the position
When hiring senior software developers, ask questions that challenge them. You can give preference to practical questions over theory. On the other hand, interview questions for junior developers can be more theoretical and straightforward.
Tip #17: Use different types of tasks and questions
To learn the full extent of someone’s technical proficiency, the interview process must include different tasks, like tech questions, coding assessments and pair programming.
Tip #18: Ensure the clarity of the code
Clean and well-structured code is fundamental to the future of your project. With poor-quality code, making changes to software and adding new features is time-consuming and expensive.
Sample questions for technical interviews
We have prepared a list of questions you can ask when interviewing Java and front-end developers.
Questions for Java developers:
1. Questions to ask Junior Java Engineers:
- What are the OOP principles?
- What are SOLID principles?
- What is the difference between HashSet and ArrayList?
2. Questions for Middle/Senior level experts:
- You run a Spring Boot project and see an error NoSuchMethodError / ClassNotFoundException. Why could this happen? What will you do?
- What are the differences between Lambda and anonymous classes?
- What is a singleton? What are examples of singletons in Java Core? Is Enum a singleton? Why?
3. Several questions for Senior Java developers:
- How does GC (Garbage Collector) understand that an object must be deleted? (If the developer names only one method – reference counting, ask them follow-up questions: What happens when the object references itself? Is there a second method? What are GC roots?)
- Imagine a highly loaded service that counts statistics on the total number of products sold. Each time a number from the new request is added to the number in the database and the result is saved. What potential problem can occur with this service? (A tip: The load testing has shown that the total number saved in the database is much lower than it should be).
4. A brief task to ensure that a developer can write well-structured code:
Imagine a display with three buttons: “Forward,” “Function 1,” and “Function 2”. This display has many widgets we can scroll using the button “Forward.” Each widget has two unique functions. Your task is to create a logical structure for such a display. Keep in mind that adding new widgets in the future should be easy.
Questions to ask when hiring a web developer:
1. Junior-level front-end questions:
- What are the main responsibilities of a web development job?
- What is the difference between a library and a framework?
- Could you name the OOP principles?
- What are the differences between arrow and regular functions?
2. Things to ask mid-level candidates:
- What’s the difference between apply(), bind(), and call() functions?
- What are the advantages of pure functions?
3. Question for a Senior Developer position:
- Could you name some differences between ES5 function constructors and ES6 classes?
- What is the difference between const and Object.freeze()?
Tip #19: When it comes to start-up hiring, technical expertise is vital
The success of a tech start-up is determined by two factors – technical expertise and efficient management. Hiring for start-up success means identifying potential hires with top expertise, especially when choosing a CTO. Their knowledge and expertise should stir your development team in the right direction.
Read our Guide on How to Find a CTO for a Start-up.
Tip #20: Hire an expert for technical skills assessment
Identifying the perfect developer requires a great deal of subject knowledge. If your expertise lies outside programming, it is only logical to outsource the recruiting process to qualified experts. Start building an effective development team with Softkit.
Tips for Evaluating Technical Proficiency in Job Interviews Select an Image
Making a Decision and Next Steps
Decision-making is arguably the toughest part of the hiring process. If you have several top-talent candidates, how do you choose?
When in doubt, use your list of the desired qualities and qualifications. Assign evaluation criteria to each point and grade candidates. Your choice is the one who comes on top, even by a small margin.
What are your next steps?
So, did the chosen candidate accept your offer? Hooray! Now it’s time for the following steps:
- The reference check
If the candidate provided you with reference letters, check their validity. You can reach out to people who wrote the references and ask to tell more about the developer. Even a short conversation with the person’s previous employer/mentor can provide valuable insights.
- The background check
Any position with access to undisclosed information warrants a security and background check. Do not forget to receive a person’s permission for it beforehand.
- Paperwork preparation
Prepare all the necessary documents, contracts and agreements. If needed, consult a lawyer and an accountant to make sure that everything is in order.
- Reach out to other candidates
Let them know that the position has been filled. Be compassionate and express gratitude for their time.
Do you need staff augmentation? Hiring for growth is in our bloodstream! If you simply need the project done, we will be happy to take on its management too.
The first step of the recruiting process is preparation. At this stage, carefully considering all your requirements and selecting your hiring strategy is key. It will set you on the right track to success.
During the first interview, pay attention to the candidate’s soft skills, workplace preferences and values. Contemplate whether they will fit in with the company and make a good teammate. Also, inquire about their experience and make sure it is relevant to the position.
When assessing technical proficiency, tailor the tasks and questions to the developer’s level of seniority. Also, check whether their code is well-structured.
If in doubt, hire experts to help you with the hiring process.
For more information on how to identify the perfect developer in an interview, we recommend you read several renowned books on the subject:
- Elements of Programming Interviews by A. Prakash, T. Lee and A. Aziz;
- System Design Interview - An Insider’s Guide by A. Xu; and
- Programming Interviews Exposed by J. Mongan, N. S. Kindler and E. Giguère.
1. What questions to ask a software developer in an interview?
You can ask about their preferred management style, approach to challenges and motivation. Find more examples in the “Developer Screening: Asking the Right Questions and Assessing Cultural Fit” section.
2. How to prepare for a software developer interview?
Gather information about the company that will interview you. What are their corporate values? What tech do they use? This will help you spotlight the relevant skills and experience during the interview process. You can also review popular tech questions and think about how you would answer them.
3. How do I assess a potential developer’s technical proficiency during an interview?
Ask them questions relevant to the position and their level of seniority. Find examples in the “Evaluating Technical Proficiency: Tips & Examples of Tech Questions” section.
4. How to assess the culture fit in an interview?
Ask the developer about their preferences in management style, their motivation to work, things they don’t want to do and their approach to challenging tasks. Then, compare this information with your corporate values.
5. How do I evaluate all the information gathered during the interview process to make a decision on which candidate to hire?
You can make a list of the requirements for qualifications and personal qualities. Then, assign evaluation criteria to all points and grade the candidates.
6. Are there any additional steps I should take after making a hiring decision, such as background checks or reference checks?
The reference check is recommended as it can provide valuable insights. A background check is necessary if the developer needs a security clearance to start working. Also, make sure that all the paperwork required to employ the person is in order.
7. Are there any additional resources or information available for learning more about evaluating potential software developers?
Yes, we recommend you read other Softkit articles and relevant books: “Elements of Programming Interviews”, “System Design Interview - An Insider’s Guide” and “Programming Interviews Exposed.”
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