This post was updated in December 2017 with new information.
Because finding qualified developer candidates is such a difficult task in itself, it’s easy to think that you’re bound to hire someone once you’ve managed to schedule a few interviews for a role. However, the reality is that your initial sourcing activities amount to just the first step in your developer hiring process. In fact, some of the most common interview tactics actually end up driving candidates away. To help you avoid missing out on your next great developer, here are a few of those tactics.
Many employers might see that 87% of all developers are employed at least part-time and say, “Let’s make sure all of our interview tactics put us in a good position to sell candidates on our job.” For recruiters who are trying desperately to fill urgent roles, it’s tempting to respond to this by treating developer candidates like a potential customer that needs to be wined and dined. Although developers are in high demand, they don’t expect you to coddle them during the interview process. In fact, many developers say that they wish interviewers asked questions that force them to think about technical solutions to real business problems.
Our CEO Joel Spolsky wrote that one of the worst types of developer interview techniques is the Quiz Show Interviewer. He adds, “This is the kind of person who thinks that smart means ‘knows a lot of facts.’ They just ask a bunch of trivia questions about programming and give points for correct answers.” As comforting as it might be to be able to tell your boss that a candidate gave you the exact answers you were looking for, the truth is that responses to brain teaser questions are not good indicators of whether or not candidates can write quality code and think on their feet to solve problems. You’ll learn much more about a candidate’s abilities if you allow them to speak open-endedly about a project they worked on in the past.
As a former recruiter with a big mouth, I’ve made the mistake of thinking that “being personable” was one of the best interview tactics in my toolbox. It’s surprisingly easy for recruiters to get so caught up in a conversation with a candidate that you forget you’re in an interview—and when that happens, the discussion tends to skew more towards what’s on the recruiter’s mind. Developers enjoy engaging in conversations during the interview process, but they also want the opportunity to talk through the things they’ve accomplished. If you spend too much time talking about yourself, the conversation isn’t nearly as engaging as you might believe.
Recruiters will often get to the end of an interview with a developer and say to themselves, “That went well, but let’s see what kind of questions this person has for me at the end.” In fact, a few recruiters I know are trained to actively seek out “thoughtful” questions from candidates. In the event that a candidate has no questions, they assume that he or she isn’t genuinely interested in the job. On the surface, this might seem like one of the best interview techniques to ensure that you only hire people who are excited about joining your company. However, if you engage a developer well enough during the interview itself, you’ll likely end up answering a lot of questions that person had before the conversation started.