Ask these non-tech questions for hiring a developer

The key to a well-rounded tech hire is an in-depth interview

You might have experienced it is difficult finding a developer. Tech investment is heating up and tech startups are around every corner. The big Silicon Valley firms like Facebook, Google and Twitter have already been here for years and are hiring too.

You may think your potential developer candidate has got the technical chops you need: performed well on coding challenges, whiteboard exercises look great and knows your stack.

The right engineer is someone who communicates effectively and knows what it means to be part of a team.

So before you send out that offer letter, ask them some non-technical questions too.

Here are few suggestions:

  1. What are your hobbies? This is a nice opener because it creates a bond with the engineer outside of simply tech. You can see how they talk about something they’re passionate about.


  1. Give me an example of a time you helped a non-technical person with a technical problem, and how did you explain it to them?  This one is a gem. You immediately understand if your choice candidate has worked with non-technical people in a meaningful way by the terms they use when describing non-technical people and the explanation itself.


  1. Have you worked with QA (quality assurance) before? What were your feelings about it and how would you improve the process?    Sometimes, a developer can be at odds with their QA team. Understanding if the engineer values QA, and how they handle the process, is important. Same is true for designers and project managers.


  1. Have you ever worked in a customer support or client facing role?  At larger firms, it’s easy for engineers to get siloed and tucked away from end users. Knowing someone has experience interacting with people in a service role can be helpful.


  1. What do you like about your current work environment, and what do you not like about it?  This is an opportunity for you to understand the drive of a candidate. Many candidates who, when given the chance, berate their current employer or make unproductive comments about them. While it’s common for people to be unhappy with where they currently are — which is likely why they’re interviewing with you in the first place — the way they communicate about it will give you a lot of insight into their personality.

Most importantly, empower the non-technical people on your team, whether it’s customer support, marketing, QA or anyone else, to interview the candidate as well and provide their feedback. Hopefully, these questions can serve as a guideline on what to look for when you do.

A talented engineer is a hard commodity to come by. So it’s important to look at these questions not as an additional hurdle to building your team, but as an acknowledgement that you don’t just value a person for their skills but also for their personality and their heart.

Find those brilliant, empathetic and passionate engineers that make your team wonderful.



Suresh Shah, M.D., Pathfinders Enterprise

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