Software Interview Skills 101

When interviewing a candidate for a developer role, we all know that we need to find out their technical abilities, their level of knowledge and their goals. I think these can be taken as a given. But there are several other often over looked qualities that in my humble opinion are equally important.

Passion. Yes, we often hear about this one, but it’s true. When I talk to a candidate I want to see them get genuinely excited about what they are talking about. I want to see the light come on behind their eyes and the fire igniting in their belly. They should be fully invested in what they do, and be looking to give it their all. What I don’t want is a pedestrian 9–5 type person. Someone who thinks that putting in the required hours is sufficient.

Cares about what they do. Creating software (or indeed creating anything at all) requires a level of investment. It represents what you do, and how much you care about your craft. If my name is associated with something, I want it to be the best. It should be obvious to anyone looking at my code and the software that I have created, that I cared about it. I invested the time and energy to produce the best that I could in the time that I had. I didn’t just throw something together, but instead that I crafted something that I could take pride in. If you don’t take pride in what you do, then you can’t care about it.

Going the extra mile. If you are passionate and care about what you do, then it should follow that you are willing to go the extra mile. That you are willing to make sacrifices to get the result that you want. This can be anything from reading up on a topic during your own time, getting into work early, leaving work a bit later or working through the occasional lunch. All of these things are sometimes necessary to ensure that you hit that deadline, that you meet that milestone.

I don’t expect anyone to work long, silly hours or weekends. That’s not what I’m saying. But I do expect someone to make the occasional sacrifice to bring a project in on time. If a project is slipping, then I would expect a developer to put in extra effort to try to pull it back. If they’re not willing to make those sacrifices, then they don’t really care about what they do. And more importantly, they don’t really care about the rest of the team either. After all, a developer who works as part of a team, needs to consider how their input affects the output of the team. If they’re not pulling their weight, then it’s not just their own output that suffers, but that of the whole team.

I appreciate that these qualities are difficult to quantify and gauge during an interview, but I believe that they are important nonetheless. Unfortunately, it may take time to really gauge just how far someone meets these qualities. So whilst it’s important to interview for the traditional abilities such as skill and knowledge, it’s also important to gauge how invested and passionate they are, and how far they are willing to go to get the job done.

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