How to Conduct Effective Interviews with Technical Candidates

How do developers and technical professionals like to be interviewed? A study by CodinGame and CoderPad found 61% of developers prefer hands-on assessment tests with real coding questions. Developers and other technology professionals make it clear: they engage best with interviews that test their knowledge and with interviewers that speak their language. At Recruiting Innovation, we’ve found a process for conducting technical interviews that help technical recruiters better engage with technical candidates and hiring managers. Read on to find our strategies for conducting effective technical interviews that will help you place candidates 20% faster.


Understanding the Software Development Lifecycle

Although software development teams have differences in the process, the main key milestones remain the same:

  • Research
  • Design
  • Build
  • Test 
  • Deploy

This process is called the Software Development Lifecycle, or SDLC. When speaking with your hiring manager about a new role, it would be helpful to learn the activities engineers on your technical team do in each part of the lifecycle. Another way to better understand the technical role is to ask your hiring manager what keywords or experiences align to a good candidate for the role. Although you won’t understand “tech speak” you’ll still be able to have a deeper conversation with each candidate and pass higher quality candidates to the next part of the recruiting process. Now that you have a full understanding of the role, you can put together a plan to interview candidates.


Contextual vs Behavioral Interviews

Most recruiters facilitate interviews in two ways: contextual interviews and behavioral interviews. Each style has its place in the interviewing process. Below you will find the similarities and differences between the two interviewing styles, and when to use each one.


Contextual Interviews

A Contextual Interview gives interviewers insight into the context of the life of the interviewee. The goal is to gain a 360° view of that person — what they are doing, thinking and feeling during each stage of their work. Contextual Interviews provide a storytelling framework tech recruiters  can follow, no matter the technical level of the candidate. By combining the software development process with contextual interviews, tech recruiters can ensure they’re asking the right questions , conduct better interviews and navigate any technical conversation.


Behavioral Interviews

Behavioral Interviews, on the other hand, operate on the belief that past behaviors will predict future behavior. Behavioral Interviews are structured to ask a series of questions about how a candidate has overcome obstacles, improved communication skills, or collaborated with a team. Behavioral Interviews do not typically help to suss out a candidate’s technical skills or experience.


What’s the Best Way to Conduct Technical Interviews?

Conducting behavioral interviews compliment the insights derived in contextual interviews. At Recruiting Innovation we teach tech recruiters to start with contextual interviews and then fill in any missing information with behavioral interview questions. That way we can gather a full view of the candidate and deliver more value to our hiring teams as the interview process progresses. With that in mind, it’s time to build an interview template for hiring technical roles.


Creating a Contextual Interview Template

An easy way to create a contextual interview template is to map out the software development lifecycle we covered at the beginning. Remember when you asked the hiring manager what team members did at every step of their process? Now you can take that information and generate technical interview questions for each step of the process. 

As interviewers, we are going to want to learn about what the candidates are doing, thinking, and feeling throughout their process, with an emphasis on the doing & thinking aspects. At Recruiting Innovation we call this process The Alignment Framework™. Below you will see a snapshot of this step:


Facilitating Contextual Interviews

Armed with our Alignment Framework™ we’re able to facilitate a contextual interview that asks technical candidates about their entire process, from research to deployment.

To kick off a contextual interview, ask an anchor question, such as:

“Walk me through a project you are most proud of or that was particularly challenging. What was the goal of the project and how did you go about completing it?”

Listen closely to the response. Most likely, the candidate will jump right into the Build stage of the project they’re sharing. Your goal now is to ask follow up questions to get the full picture of their workflow. Don’t stop until you have at least one comment per stage.

A simple way to dive deeper and deeper into the candidate’s experience without stressing them out is the 5 Ws question approach. It provides a natural way to continue the conversation. As we continue to complete our 360° view of the project, the candidate will open up and share more details about their experience. With all this rich information, you’ll be able to stand out to recruiters by actually understanding their process, and you’ll deliver better insights to your hiring manager.

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