Following on from my Interviews: Technical Tests post of the other day, I thought I'd write a post about interviewing in general. I've been involved with the interview process on numerous occasions, at a couple of different companies over the past 5 years. In the last couple of years I have been involved with interviewing on my own, or being the driving force of the interview, and I've learnt a lot from the experience.

When preparing for my first interviews alone, I read relevant sections of a couple of books. The first was one of the articles in Joel Spolsky's The Best Software Writing I. The second was a book I've made a lot of reference to over the past couple of years, The Instant Manager: Tools and Ideas for Practical Problem Solving. From these I gained some interesting pointers, and drafted my initial set of questions. These have obviously changed according to the job being offered, but in general they are questions like:

  1. Tell me about your current job? What do you do on a day to day basis? What have been the biggest challenges? And your biggest achievements? And of course, why are you looking to move on?

  2. What has been your favourite job up until now and why?

  3. Which project that you have worked on has made you feel the proudest and why?

  4. What is the most recent skill/tool/technology that you have learnt and what drove you to learn that?

  5. Have you contributed any code or writings to the wider community?

  6. How would you define "healthy" code, and what do you do ensure your code is “healthy”?

  7. As I’m going to interview other candidates, what would you like me to remember about you in relation to this position?

I'm generally looking to see what makes people tick, what they are enthusiastic about, and trying to guage whether their enthusiasm matches what the position I'm offering will provide. I'm yet to find anyone who has answered question 5 with anything other than a "No, but I could do" but this question is only a probing question to enquire about attitude to sharing information. Question 7 is my final question, and gives the candidates an "elevator pitch", which surprisingly few are ready for. The most memorable answer to date has been "Well obviously I'm gorgeous", which made me laugh, but didn't get the candidate the job.

Then, as posted a while ago, there are my new 4 questions to add:

  • When was the last time you read a trade/professional journal or book related to your work? (can substitute "attended an industry conference or took a course")

  • Name at least two of the key people in your field

  • If you had to, would you spend your own money to buy tools or other materials that would improve the quality of your work?

  • If you did not do this for work, would you still do it (or something related to it) as a hobby?

As preparation for my recent interview I went through my questions, as well as some found online. I hunted out some more team leader/lead developer type questions as well, and found questions focusing on motivating a team, recognising motivators, dealing with difficult team members, what makes a good manager etc. I received some excellent advice from one of our project managers which was to always use scenarios and give examples. That makes your answer less theoretical and more practical changing the tense from "I would" to "I did".

Anyone coming for an interview with me in the future can learn a lot from this post, and will be given bonus points for research if you mention it during the interview :-)