Good Interview Questions #26

December 11th, 2016

I’ve encountered all sorts of interview questions, mostly on the receiving end but some as part of the interviewing team myself. I will elaborate on some good and bad interview questions, at least in my humble opinion. The numbers are random fun – I don’t have 25 other examples on this blog (yet).

I learned this one from my previous manager and made a few modifications below. He would ask the candidate to describe his or her favourite project that they have worked on. He will then request for a high-level domain model or class diagram. Follow-up questions are asked depending on the project and the candidate’s level of involvement.

Here are the things that we can learn about the candidate through this single line of questioning:

  • Their interest in software development: Some might call it ‘passion’ but I wouldn’t go that far. However, one would still need to show a bit of interest especially at the interview stage. It is hard to show excitement when you’re describing a hypothetical architecture. It’s so much easier to do that when talking about a pet project.
  • Tests their ability to explain architecture visually: I find this skill to get more crucial as one progresses in seniority. It’s important to be able to convey your thoughts in a team environment especially if others are doing the implementation.
  • Reveals their actual level of involvement in the project: A candidate may be able to wax lyrical about the project, but follow-up questions should aim to uncover their contribution. There are two main forks this conversation can take:
    • “I was responsible for the whole project”: Questions can revolve around how they ensured the quality and who else worked on it. The aim is to know if the candidate is an experienced solo-flyer, a person who prefers to work alone, or worst of all, someone who wings it because they have been working unchecked.
    • “I was responsible for component X”: Questions can revolve around who decided on this architecture and how it integrated with the other modules. This answer can sometimes show that despite their elaborate explanations, they were only responsible for a small portion of the system.

Interviewing is a tricky art as we are trying to ascertain if a candidate will fit an organisation’s needs in only a few sessions between 30 to 60 minutes. The right interview questions can help illuminate multiple aspects of the candidate without directly asking about it. Let me know of any good interview questions you have come across in the comments below!

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