Sunday, May 10, 2009

Yes-no questions that a non-technical recruiter can ask during an interview

[This was originally posted at]

When interviewing, many companies first filter developers through HR (such as for online resume screening or a phone call). The irony is that they want a technical star, but screen all candidates through non-technical HR folk. Sometimes people in such situations, pressed for time, resort to quick yes-no questions. The naive approach is to just ask "rate yourself on 1-10", or "do you have over X years experience?" While I think the best type of interview is one where technical people can ask technical questions (or even write pseudo-code on the whiteboard), not every developer gets that opportunity. So if for whatever reason, the recruiter is limited to only yes-no questions, consider these kind of questions:

  1. Do you program in your spare time? --> programming in your spare time implies that you enjoy programming, which implies that you're motivated and good at it.
  2. Do you have any Microsoft Certifications? --> implies basic Microsoft-specific education
  3. Do you have an engineering or CS degree? --> implies a basic general education
  4. Have you ever lead a team of over 3 people? --> implies basic leadership abilities.
  5. Have you ever programmed an application over X thousand lines-of-code? --> big apps will provide scalability and process problems that small apps never will.
  6. Are you an active member of any professional groups? --> implies motivation
  7. Have you ever been published (magazine, online journal, book)? --> implies good communication
  8. Do you have your own website or blog? --> implies personal motivation and innovation
  9. Do you contribute to any open-source projects? --> implies hands-on coding and working with others
  10. Since college, have you read more than three technical books? --> implies continual, pro-active education, as opposed to just re-actively reading scattered blog posts.

This is only a partial list, but you get the idea. Many developers can have "X years experience", yet never do a single thing on this list. This list focuses on what you have done, not how long you've sat in front of a computer.

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