April 14, 2022

How to Build a First-Class Software Development Culture in a Remote/Hybrid World – Interview Secrets

Recruiting developers
Written by

Lisa

We’re in the middle of the worst talent shortage since records started, which means that recruiting developers for software development or mobile app development who can deliver on your objectives is a challenge for us all. The pressure of daily maintenance combined with approaching deadlines means that many of us can’t get people in through the door fast enough. 69% of companies report that their operations are being affected by a talent shortage.

As a software development company much older than most, we certainly have a lot of learnings to share with you. To ensure success in this volatile job market, Our COO had to rethink how we find and interview people to ensure the right fit whilst also keeping the candidate interested during the recruitment cycle. Here we share our learnings so you can also build a team that delivers.  

In such a talent shortage, it’s natural to focus on skills and competencies, and less on culture. Don’t fall into this trap. When people have different priorities or don’t meet eye to eye on things that are extremely relevant for the company’s success, such as project priorities, goals, and expectations, working together could possibly become a nightmare.    

Many find that they have to focus their scarce resources on keeping the wheels in motion, rather than thinking big and working on innovation goals. Working with a development partner to augment your teams will take the pressure off in the short and medium while you continue to build your internal capacity.

Take Time to Find a Good Fit – and Don’t Hire Intelligent Jerks

We’ve learnt over the years that interview preparation is powerful and that questions don’t necessarily have to be the same for every candidate. Also, the more an interview feels like a two-way conversation, the more relaxed a candidate will be, which means you get to build a connection with them during a critical phase. All this helps you to stand out in the candidate’s mind in a positive way when they’re making decisions on their next steps.

In a competitive job market where you’re trying to balance project delivery times with finding the right person, you might think that recruiting for technical ability is the most important factor. But it’s actually about shared values, enthusiasm and a willingness to learn.  

Of course, technical ability is important, but if a new recruit doesn’t fit into the team, delivery will be affected. After all, the ethos of the SCRUM framework is about team delivery. So ask candidates about their research; What did they love about your website? Was there anything they didn’t like? What did they think of your case studies? Having a two-way conversation rather than a traditional ‘question and answer’ interview, helps you both to work out if you like each other.  

And don’t underestimate the power of encouraging candidates to be curious and ask questions. This isn’t just about marketing your company to the candidate; it will also save you time later on because the questions they ask will help you work out if your culture is a good fit for them.  

Don’t Underestimate the Screening Call

Always make sure people are screened during a quick call. This avoids you having to interview too many people and also prevents interview fatigue. Give your HR team a list of questions for the call that will establish if a person is a good fit and if they’re ready skill-wise for the role.

This screening call could involve a basic understanding of SCRUM, a few development questions and a couple of personal questions too.

Don’t Stick to a Script

We believe that interview questions don’t necessarily have to be the same for every candidate. Of course, for fairness, technical questions need to be consistent. But situational questions can differ based on what you’ve read about in their CV.  

The best way to curate a bespoke interview is to review a candidate’s CV in detail and prepare your questions in advance. And instead of asking the candidate to talk you through their experience, ask specific questions about things they have written.

Some of Our Favourite Questions Are

  • Talk to me about this stat / achievement; how did you achieve this?  
  • If you have downtime during the day (and your tickets have finished) what do you choose to do? (This tells you a lot about a person and how their mind works.)
  • What would you do if...? (After two or three questions like this, you’ll understand if a person is naturally curious to find out more and what they do if they’re stuck.)
  • What are you hobbies / what interests you? (This checks for a correlation between a creative mind and a developer.)
  • Do you do personal development projects at home? And if not, why not? (if they do, it means they love what they do.)  
  • If you were a superhero, what would it be? And why?  
  • If you were to cook something right now, what would it be?

It’s important to throw in one or two really obscure questions. Not to put candidates off, but to see their response to something unexpected.

Help Candidates Relax

This may go without saying, but you really do get the best out of candidates when they are relaxed and comfortable, which is important for building a connection.  

Our favourite ways to get candidates to relax

  • Face fears head on: Try “Let’s forget that this is an interview” or “We’re just having a chat so we can get to know you better” and “You can ask us questions too so you can get to know us better.”
  • Ask questions in a very casual manner, rather than trying to catch them off-guard.  
  • Use coaching techniques to get the best out of someone.

Look out for Keyword Stuffing

It’s important to look out for keyword stuffing in CVs. So ask specific questions about accreditation, claims or anything that could be a keyword. If a candidate says they are world class, ask them to be specific about what world class means.  

If they were “developer of the year”, ask who issued the accreditation. If they mention a “Fortune 500 developer” ask which company and what their role was in the team? And if they talk about remote working, ask what tips they have for leading a remote team of developers.

Hitting Your Software Goals whilst You Recruit

We’ve been working with customers as a partner to augment their teams in the short-term whilst they build their internal development team through recruitment. This approach means that the pressure is off because you can keep delivering on your objectives in the short term.

Book a clarity call so we can show you how we could augment your software development team to help you keep your development projects on track.

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