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Curated interview process

Here’s a rundown of the best set of interview questions I’ve developed after doing over 200 interviews in the last two years, and how to run a successful interview process for engineers.

Regardless of the outcome, it’s important to give everyone a good experience. So we go through the majority of questions and provide honest and candid feedback to all candidates in a timely manner.

Introduction

Welcome the candidate and set the scene, ensure all parties can be seen and heard ok.

Welcome to the interview let’s do a sound check, I’m [name], [job title] at [company].. and [a one liner introduction e.g. I lead a couple of our product teams]

Assuming everyone can hear and see each other…

and as we haven’t got long today let’s dive straight in.

Set the scene and expectations and put the candidate at ease.

We’ve got a bunch of competency questions so for each its ok to take 30 seconds or so to think of your best examples, so don’t worry about any awkward silences, feel free to ask questions as we go along but there will be time to ask us questions at the end.

We’ve seen your CV but can you give us a two minute elevator pitch of you and what got you here today?

  • It’s a good introductory question to loosen the candidate up as they should be able to speak freely about their history.
  • It’s also an easy way to assesses their comms style - Are they succinct or detail oriented?
  • Can they keep to time? might be an indicator if they go off on tangents often when you might be looking for a focused value delivery

Please describe a recent piece of work you completed and talk us through the agile process and your involvement along the way?

  • This is a great question as it first gets the candidate to describe the work (providing insight into their business or tech focus as well as their start and end points of the work and how they approach agile. E.g., is it done done, do they chuck it over a fence, post-prod support? Three amigos, refinement etc).
  • A good follow up is to ask what they would change about that process? Showing a level of self-reflection/awareness
  • For senior hires I’d ask what stopped them from changing it?

What’s your approach to testing? And can you talk us through a recent bug and its resolution.

  • Looking for test pyramid knowledge and different testing types and then a deep dive into a bug.
  • A good follow up is if a test was added to the regression or what would they do differently next time.
  • Do they have broad testing experience or do they chuck it over the fence to a QA?

What’s the culture and environment that makes you the most happy and productive?

  • This is the culture question! This should tell you if they will fit in to the current ways of working and add to the culture.
  • Diversity is key to successful teams.
  • Follow on any points raised asking for more details, the benefits or negatives that might come from their answer.

Please tells us the last time you updated stakeholders or management about the state of a piece of development?

  • Looking for another concrete example answered using the star method.
  • This should also give you insight into their communication techniques and how comfortable they are in giving bad news. It is inevitable.
  • A good follow up is what other communication examples tthey have used in their last week? (Daily scrum, scrum of scrums, retro, review, emails, demos, refinement are all examples of things one can expect.

what’s the most complex technical development you have worked on and why?

  • This is the candidates opportunity to deep dive and talk through a problem using the star method
  • What would they have done differently if they had their time again? Is it really that complex?
  • If they struggle with this then ask them about the most exciting thing they have built.
  • If it’s something they are proud of they should open up and be able to talk in detail.
  • Always probe technically to see if they genuinely understand and were active vs it being done in the team
  • Confirm and challenge what were the outcomes.

What questions do you have for us?

  • Be ready and expect to describe ways of working, team structures, agile, progression, culture, if anything are unsure about always ask them what would good look like to them? What would be their preference. This makes it easy to agree or acknowledge.
  • Probe for more.

Finally;

  • Ask salary expectations (recruiters inflate!)
  • Explain next steps in the process
  • Wrap up with a thank you, give timeline for feedback (usually same day or next morning)
  • Wish them well with a smile and a wave.

Published 23 May 2023, with 833 words.