Interview Questions that Separate the Good from the Awesome

interview questions

The very best remote workers have three characteristics. They’re all equally important, and when you find someone who has all of them in equal measure, you’re a very lucky employer indeed. But it can feel like a lottery, taking on someone who you haven’t met in person. If you’re not used to recruiting for a remote role, then this article is for you.

Getting back to those characteristics; great developers, whether they work from home or an office, need to have incredible technical skills. While you’re not necessarily looking for the sort of person who has all the commands memorized and can ace a whiteboard test, you do want someone who can do most things, and know where to go for help when they come across a problem they can’t fix.

You’re also looking for someone who will fit in well with your corporate culture. Hiring people who share your values increases the sense of belonging and ownership. Having clear values and expectations can increase diversity, innovation and employee retention.

Last, but not least, your candidates need to be remote ready. They need to be capable of working effectively without close supervision, and of communicating well with others via email, chat, and video/voice calls. They need to be well organized and resilient enough to keep going when the rest of the dev team is asleep.

The simplest way to find yourself talking to developers who meet all these criteria is to let us select your candidates; it’s what we do, all day, every day. But once you’ve got them on the other end of a video call, what questions can you ask to reassure yourself that you’re talking to the right person?

The Questions

A while back, we shared a post with the qualities that you need to look for in a remote worker, along with some suggestions for questions you might ask to see if a candidate has them. If you read that post in association with this one, you should have a list of questions that will help you separate the wheat from the chaff.

Technical Knowledge

The industry standard for technical knowledge is usually a whiteboard test. We don’t think that’s the best way to test a developer at all. You may get someone who has memorized the manual, but who doesn’t have the ability to approach their work flexibly.

Before you start the interview, be clear about the project and what the role of the developer will be. Take some time to think about what skills are really needed; are they coding from scratch, or making changes to existing code? Will they be bug fixing or handling customer support requests? Each of these is a different skillset.

If your developer is already working as part of a team, you can be pretty sure that they’re capable of coding to a reasonable standard. Questions that might be more useful to you are things like this:

  • Tell me about a project that you worked on that ended successfully. What was your contribution to that success?
  • Tell me about a time when a project wasn’t going too well. How did you handle that?
  • Have you worked in an Agile team before? (Or the development methodology that you use)
  • What testing methods did you use in your previous role?
  • How do you prefer to organize your modules and assets?
  • Tell me about the process you use for tracking down a bug.

Cultural Fit

Company culture has become increasingly prominent in recent years, mainly because working for an organization that shares their values is desirable for millennials and Gen Xers. While you should strive not to exclude older staff members from your culture, it still pays to have a clear idea of what your company wants to do, and how it wants to do it.

Culture can encompass many different things, and the culture of your team may be different from the company culture as a whole. You’re looking for someone who is aligned with the company’s mission and values. Someone who will work well in a team that behaves the way yours does, sense of humor, for example, or celebrating Taco Tuesday.

If you’re not sure exactly what you’re looking for, it’s worth taking some time to consider the team members that you already have. Is there anything they have in common? If you all get online to play video games together after work on a Friday, someone who doesn’t play might find it difficult to bond with others, for example.

Questions to ask include:

  • What’s the company culture like in your current job? What would you change about it?
  • What type of work environment do you enjoy?
  • What would your ideal working hours be?
  • Tell me about a time when you had a really heavy workload. How did you handle it?
  • What are the best and worst qualities you’ve ever had in a boss?
  • Why do you want to work here?

You should also consider asking questions that relate to the core values of the company. If the environment or charity work is important, ask the candidate what their concerns or causes are and what they do to contribute to change.

Remote Ready

If you don’t work from home yourself, it can be hard to imagine how someone can do it effectively. I’ve lost count of the number of times people have said, ‘I couldn’t work from home, I don’t have the self-discipline. I’d just watch Netflix all day!’ That’s because they’re comparing a single day working from home to doing it as a career.

People choose to work from home for many different reasons (we’ve talked about this before). The major motivator for most people taking a job is to earn money. When you’re working from home full time, bingeing on Netflix rather than putting the hours in is a surefire way of losing your job. Until the day Netflix pays the mortgage? People will navigate the distractions and get the job done.

Remote workers need to be self-disciplined, well organized and be able to manage their time well. They should be able to anticipate their needs, so they don’t end up getting stalled waiting on colleagues who are in different time zones for answers or code. Here are some questions you can ask to vet your remote developer.

  • What are your top positive and negative things about working from home?
  • What time of day do you do your best work?
  • What tools do you use for time or workflow management?
  • What is your work set-up like?
  • Tell me about a time when there was a communication problem when you worked from home. How did you resolve it?
  • What’s your number one tip for beating distractions?
  • How do you keep work and life separate when you work from home?
  • What do you do if you run into a problem you can’t solve alone?
  • How do you feel about time-tracking software? (If you intend to use it – you can read our thoughts on that here).
  • Have you ever been misunderstood by a colleague? Or have they misunderstood you? Tell me about that experience.
  • How do you stay connected with your current/last team?
  • What version control tools have you used?

Let us pre-vet

As we said before, we help companies and teams like yours to connect with the best remote developers around the world all day long (in many different time zones). We’ll make sure that every candidate we present will be technically competent, remote ready and we’ll do our best to find a fit your company culture, too. Your only job will be to pick which of the great possibilities we identify will be your top choice. Get in touch today to find out how we can help.

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Sarah Dixon

Sarah Dixon

Sarah Dixon is a children’s author, prolific writer of short stories and is studying for an MA inCreative Writing. She’s also does all sorts of things with words for businesses, like creating engaging and original blog content, copy, bids and more.

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