Monday, October 19, 2009

Questions for an Interview

QUESTION: Based on your resume, you have [seen lots of different management styles OR had extended experience with a single employer]. With that experience, I'm sure you've seen your share of good and bad management practices. What are some of the worst things you have seen management do? What style of management works best for you?

Of course, this is a trap! This is a good indication of whether or not the person will fit into the management style you use. Typically, the applicant will answer "micro-management" (as the worst style), and that they prefer someone a little more hands-off. ...I find this to be a cop-out. A good answer here would use a specific example of something that management did poorly and how the applicant attempted to resolve it. The best answers to "best for you" would involve managers that give the applicant the tools they need to succeed. Such answers demonstrate that the person knows how a team actually works, that they are driven, and that they can overcome obstacles.

QUESTION: What do you think are the most important qualities of [good code]?

...Note that this could be applied to pretty much any trade, just be sure you're asking about the resulting product, not the position--that's a different question.

Any answers that demonstrate they have thought about this (hopefully, a LOT), and they've formulated their own opinions about what makes the product good. of course, you can choose to add your own interpretation to their answers to see if they are a good fit with your company, too: do they share values with the other workers?

QUESTION: What do you think are the most important traits for a [developer]?

...Note that, of course, you can change "developer" for anything you want.

You want them--WITHOUT PROMPTING--to list off their own best traits, and to explain how they posses them. If you have to prompt them with a question like "...and how do you think you measure up to these?", then you've found an applicant that isn't very applied and is probably low-confidence. It comes out naturally with good applicants. And, again, you want to compare their answer with the values of your current employes to see if it's a good match.

QUESTION: What makes you a remarkable candidate? What do you think makes you stand out from the other applicants?

Well, you may or may not want to see some humility here ("I don't know if this makes me *remarkable*, but..."); that's up to you. But this answer yields a good idea about their level of confidence and what they like to do most. ...Not necessarily what they're best at, since their answer is so biased. : )

QUESTION: Out of all the people you've worked with, who would you say you respected most, and why?

[after they answer]

...If I were to ask that person to describe you, what would they say?

Well, I'm not sure, but the point of this question is to get the applicant to think about two things and how they relate: what they like most in a co-worker, and what co-workers probably think of them.

QUESTION: Assuming you get this job, what would be your biggest fear? What do you feel could go horribly wrong?

If nothing else, I think this question gives you a chance to see how the applicant handles a stressful, difficult question. Ideally, they would answer honestly, and tell you what the biggest potential incompatibility would be. However, I find that most applicants shrug this question off and use it to make a joke. I've also seen applicants really choke on it, which (to me) was a good indication that they weren't likely to work well under stress, and that they aren't comfortable being honest with authority figures.

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