Blog // How to Interview Top Tech Talent for Success

How to Interview Top Tech Talent for Success

Navigating the interview process is like solving a puzzle- effective planning is key. But let's be real, it's no easy feat, especially when managers are juggling a dozen other tasks on their plate.  

Imagine a non-techie manager trying to navigate through questions for a solutions architect role - it's like asking a Kiwi to fly! And let's not get into when team members haven't been able to agree on the questions to ask a potential programme manager. Chaos! But fear not, developing an interview framework that can handle the madness of high workloads and occasional hiccups is like having a secret weapon in your arsenal. With the right setup, your interview process can flex and adapt to all sorts of hiring needs and job types. Picture this: all interviewers singing from the same hymn sheet, spotting the creme de la creme of candidates effortlessly. 

So, how do you make this happen?  

Research Candidates Before the Interview 

Interviewing highly skilled, niche specialists requires you do to your homework beforehand. The sensible assumption to operate from is that, if the candidate has an in-demand skillset, you should avoid wasting their time with overly basic or generic questions. Reviewing their resume before the interview and making notes will give you ideas about specific questions to ask them.  

By doing your homework, you signal your commitment to engaging with the candidate on a substantive level and allow more time to delve into the how and the why of their experiences, instead of just the what

If you're working with an experienced tech recruiter, you won't have piles of resumes to review, as they will provide you with a shortlist of only the top two or three candidates. 

Timing is Essential When Interviewing Technical Candidates 

We must admit, this one is obvious. It's impossible to successfully hire developers or data scientists without testing their programming nous or statistics knowledge. A common question is when to incorporate technical questions and tests in the interview process.  

Whether you're conducting a whiteboard interview, giving take-home assignments or issuing any other form of coding test, we recommend reserving these only for the very best shortlisted candidates - after an initial phone call and review of their resume. This approach can free up time during the interview to focus more on behavioural and soft skills-focused questions.  

Combine Tailored and Standard Questions 

Job interviews ideally include a mix of questions tailored to the candidate plus a standard (or structured) set of questions that all candidates should be asked.  

A standard set of questions ensures consistency in your interview process, enabling fair evaluation and comparison of everyone you're interviewing. This is especially important when there may be multiple managers using these questions as they hire for different teams. Standardised questions typically cover fundamental aspects such as work history and situational scenarios, providing a baseline for assessing each candidate's capabilities and suitability for the role. These questions are also important for keeping any biases that can slip into the recruitment process at bay. 

Meanwhile, tailored questions allow you to delve into the candidate's motivations and attitude, giving you insight into how they align with your organisation's culture. (This is where that aforementioned homework will come into play.)  An effective blend of personalised and standardised questions will give you the most nuanced picture of each candidate.  

Here are some examples:  

Standard Interview Questions to ask Tech Professionals  

  1. What programming languages and frameworks are you most comfortable with, and how do you stay updated with the latest developments in these areas? 
  2. Describe your experience with [insert programming language] 
  3. How do you approach debugging and troubleshooting complex technical issues? Can you walk me through a specific example? 
  4. Describe your experience with cloud computing platforms such as AWS, Azure, or Google Cloud. What services have you utilised, and what projects have you deployed on these platforms? 
  5. How do you ensure the security of applications or systems you develop? Can you discuss your experience with common security practices and protocols? 

Tailored Interview Questions to ask Tech Professionals  

  1. Could you walk me through a recent project you worked on that showcases [insert specific skill you're looking for] ? 
  2. In our industry, collaboration is key. Can you share an example of a time when you had to work closely with a cross-functional team to deliver a project? What challenges did you face, and how did you overcome them? 
  3. Our company emphasises innovation. Can you discuss a creative solution you proposed or implemented in a previous role that had a significant impact on the project or organisation? 
  4. As a tech professional, continuous learning is crucial. Can you tell me about a new technology or tool you recently taught yourself and how you applied it in your work? 
  5. Our company values adaptability. Can you share an experience where you had to quickly learn a new technology or skill to meet project requirements? How did you approach the learning process? 

Create a Comfortable Environment 

We can't think of anyone who appreciates being interviewed in interrogation-like settings! Instead of interviewing candidates in a bare meeting room with just a fluorescent light overhead, consider a more relaxed setting, i.e. an airy space with mixed or natural lighting.  

If you're interviewing technical candidates, you might be opting for a whiteboard interview to test their dev skills. In these situations, conducting the interview in a quiet and relaxed space is essential - but it still shouldn't feel like an interrogation. 

There's no need to go overboard on the ambience, but it is an important factor to consider as part of a positive candidate experience. 

For video interviews, there are fewer variables in your control, but small gestures - such as a friendly introduction and informing candidates about who will sit in on the interview - can go a long way.  

Follow Up with Each Interviewed Candidate 

Providing feedback and closure after an interview is a good practice that has long-term benefits for an organisation's employer brand. Word does get around about poor recruitment etiquette, especially ghosting - so be sure to inform candidates about where they stand after an interview!  

Put simply, many organisations, even tech recruiters, fail to 'close the loop' after interviews are complete, leaving candidates frustrated with the lack of follow-up.  

In domains where competition for talent is consistently high, it's important to remember that the candidates who were unsuccessful in the current round of interviews may eventually become top candidates for future roles. Taking the time to offer feedback to unsuccessful candidates is a gesture of goodwill and helps your organisation cultivate a positive reputation. 

Get Support from Dev, Data and Product Hiring Specialists 

Hiring the right developer, data engineer or project manager will help your business achieve scale. You can't afford to get technical hires wrong, so why not get expert help with managing the interview process? 

With more than 35 combined years of experience in technology and digital recruitment, the team at Digital Garage are passionate about matching the right person for the role. We help organisations from start-ups to corporates build great tech teams across New Zealand. Contact us today to discover how we can support your hiring strategy.  

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When you need the best digital talent in NZ, whether for urgent temporary support or a long term strategic value, we have the expertise to help. Our depth of experience as digital recruitment specialists combined with a range of proactive and innovative sourcing solutions means that the people you want are already talking to us.