Hiring technical staff, regardless of the level, presents some unique challenges to organizations. HR departments and recruiters have to rely on keyword matching and there is a real struggle trying to differentiate candidates and their technical backgrounds.

Occasionally I interview technically talented individuals that really come to life in their abilities, and experiences and overall attitude. Here are some questions you might consider in your effort to draw out the ‘gems’.  

What side projects are you working on?

Is the person really dedicated to their craft? Does the person really love what they do? Are they steeped in their work or is it a gig? 

Do you have a portfolio of your work that’s up to date?

This is like a programmer’s LinkedIn profile. Does it reflect the individual’s present skill level? Are they proud of what they love to do? 

What do you think of trends in technology today?

What are the topics of the day within their company? What technologies have they chosen to use and why? Does the individual have an opinion and perspective on what’s going on today and in the future in their company?.   

Can you articulate the user experiences in the application you’re working on?

What impact does the product have on their company, the industry or their competitors? 

Can you whiteboard your work for me?

Can you map out the architecture of what you’re working on? What modules are yours? Do you have documentation to back up your work (taking into account confidentiality issues)? Many developers aren’t used to talking about themselves or their product architecture. This is why whiteboarding work is so important. 

Can I see a demonstration of your work?

This is much more visual and stimulating and provides you a chance to see how engaged the individual is in their work.   

Tell me about you and about your work.

How articulate is the individual? Does the candidate ask questions or is it a one way street? How interested are they in the details of the work, what the company does, etc.? 

What do you know about our company?

Do you know what technology we use, what are clients say about us, what our support forums say, what’s happening on our blog? Have you tried out our free sign up option and gone for a test drive. 

Do you have questions to ask me?

How original are the questions? Does the individual seem engaged? 

People should be passionate about what they do. They should understand where their work and their role fit into the bigger scheme of the organization.

Try these questions the next time you interview a techie. I’ll bet you’ll find some real winners in the crowd.