Designers interviewing software developers

11 Aug 2010 - 4:48pm
4 years ago
4 replies
611 reads
ttaunk
2009

 

I am a product designer at a large software company. I have been asked to interview a developer (programmer) for a job opening in the company. Although working with developers is a big part of my everyday job, this is the first time I have been asked to interview one, and to provide my feedback on the candidate.

 

Do you have any suggestions on the kind of questions I can ask during the job interview? I was thinking of asking the candidate questions around how he typically deals with ambiguity and last-minute changes to the design. Can you think of other questions I can ask a developer that a designer would be interested in knowing? Do you know of any online resources that list questions like that?

 

Thanks for your help!

 

Tarang

 

Comments

11 Aug 2010 - 5:58pm
banjodrill
2010

It's a good start to ask the ambiguity question. 

I would also find out what limitations the candidates have when it comes to rich media and cross-platform compatibility.  Will they be developing for the web and the mobile market?  You don't want to end up with someone who can't deliver multimedia content in a variety of ways...i.e. someone who only knows how to deliver multimedia through Flash.

It'd be wise to ask for all of the languages/programs they can use to build a site...and if they're comfortable expanding their skillset. 

You may also want to ask for examples of situations in which they've had to learn a new skill to fulfill a job requirement.  It's important for developers to be dynamic and open-minded, as new challenges often arise with new projects.

Can the developer translate your designs into pixel-perfect sites?

Are they good with wireframes or other methods of pre-production?

I apologize if these recommendations are obvious, just wanted to contribute off the top of my head.

Good Luck!

11 Aug 2010 - 6:31pm
balabaster
2010

I am a professional developer and I've been freelancing for more than 10 years for both large corporations and smaller startups, I've been an interview candidate many times and I've interviewed developers for hire.  I can only speak for myself, everyone is different, but perhaps my POV will provide some insight into how developers minds work.  Take it as you will...

As candidate I tend not to take those companies seriously if I walk in and am not given a grilling over my technical skills - preferably in the form of an exam that will allow me to flex my mental muscles for a few minutes - we developers spend most of our lives coding the same monotonous rubbish day in day out, so something that actually makes us think is often a welcome distraction to the monotony. 

The tasks in the test may not turn out to be that taxing, but even if it isn't, it stil shows me that as a company you're *trying* to hire good quality developers and that means when I graduate through the interview and get the job, I'm likely to be working with other developers of a decent calibre that I can learn from.  I don't want to be working somewhere I cannot learn and I equally don't want to be working with poor quality developers that I have to spend my life cleaning up after.  The questions shouldn't be designed to run the candidate into the ground either - they're just to show that they can think on their feet, and translate some basic logic into clean usable code.

As an interviewer it's my job to separate the wheat from the chaff as it were, once you've got through the exam, I personally may not even look at it, I may pass it off to another developer to look at and see if they're up to the calibre I need them to be.  If the candidate has come from a fair distance away then I may look over their answers myself and hold the second interview then and there, depending on how they fared.  It's not reasonable to make someone take the exam as their first interview and then make them come back 50 miles for a second interview - in fact, I think that's rude, both as an interviewer and as a candidate.  If they've made the effort to come a significant distance for the interview, I can make the effort to review their answers there and then and if they did okay, we can talk more, if they didn't fare so well that doesn't necessarily mean they fail, but we're going to need to discuss their results to find out if they're just not good at exams or if they're just not that great a developer.  Not *everyone* can perform on the spot, some people freeze up and can't think, others thrive on it.

Once you've got past the exam stage, get to know them a bit, find some rapport with them, talk about non-work stuff for a few minutes it'll help them relax and be more likely that you'll get them to be real - if you're stuck for topics, most decent developers are gadget freaks, easy topics "You have an iPhone?  When are you going to upgrade to an Android device?", or vice versa - play devil's advocate to see if you can get a rise; ask them when they started programming and what got them interested?  Use this as a segue to ask them what the last programming language was they learned, how long they've been coding in it, how long it took them to get up to speed with it and what they've written using it.  Ask them also what language(s) (if any) they are looking to learn next. If they've got any screenshots or a portfolio you can look at, all the better - but most developers caught up in enterprise development don't end up with much of a portfolio.  If the conversation can flow easily back and forth between their personal interests and those that align with the company, then chances are you've got a winner.

What programming languages are used at your company?  Find out and get some questions designed to specifically test that the candidate knows what they're talking about when it comes to those languages - you may need some help from your developers for that.  For instance, if I'm looking for a C# programmer I don't necessarily need them to understand C# right out of the box if they've got a few weeks to get up to speed - especially if the last language they learned was based on similar principles and they picked it up fast.  For instance, if they already know C++ and Java and just learned JavaScript last month and are playing around with jQuery, there's a good chance they will be able to pick up C# quickly as long as they accurately understand object oriented principles, like abstraction, polymorphism, delegation etc.

The other thing is: do you need a junior developer or do you need someone who can hit the ground running?  A junior developer probably won't have had much (if any) commercial experience with things like version control systems, documentation systems, unit testing, continuous integration, nightly builds so if your company uses these things, then you'll need to know if they're capable of doing that or if they'll need ramp up time/training so you can make arrangements for these things if necessary.

Lots of senior developers don't like it when you slap a test down in front of them as they feel they've already been in the industry long enough to prove themselves and the last thing they need is to prove themselves to someone they may look down upon.  If they look at the test as an opportunity to test their abilities like one does with a crossword, then you're golden; if they scoff at it like it's not worth their time, then chances are they're going to be a pain in the ass to work with, scoffing at anything that needs doing that they consider "beneath them" - you want someone that's going to work *with* you, not be a pain in the ass about things when it confronts their ego.

It would be helpful if they've got a web site, a Stack Overflow or a Twitter presence because you can go back and get a feel for who they are much easier than in an interview where they're on their best behaviour for an hour.

A degree isn't necessarily helpful in the current market as technology is moving so fast that it won't give you the first clue what their skill level is like.  It will however tell you one thing - they're used to meeting deadlines and they're used to studying and they're capable of finding resources to continue their research and that alone is useful to know.  If they've got no ability to find answers to questions themselves, that can be a big hindrance to their potential team mates whose productivity will take a dive.  But that doesn't mean that someone who *doesn't* have a degree isn't capable of studying and learning on their own and finding answers to their own questions without impeding on those around them, some of the greatest, most motivated people around don't have degrees and are self educated - check out http://www.endswithsaurus.com/search/label/self-educated.

Key thing to remember: Chances are whoever you're interviewing will tell you whatever they think you want to hear.  Get past that and figure out what's real.

11 Aug 2010 - 7:05pm
monkeyshine
2010

Some of the questions I ask include:

- if I come to you with a design solution/feature design that you are not sure can be done, how do you handle? A follow-up might be...what if you question some functionality (from either business or user experience perspective measured against time to implement)?

I keep the scenario pretty vague because I am curious what questions they will come back with (or if they do!).

- Have you worked with other designers before? If so, describe a project where you worked closely together? What was the process like? Roles? Was it successful or not?





On Wed, Aug 11, 2010 at 4:33 PM, ttaunk <ttaunk@gmail.com> wrote:

 

I am a product
designer at a large software company. I have been asked to interview a
developer (programmer) for a job opening in the company. Although working with
developers is a big part of my everyday job, this is the first time I have been
asked to interview one, and to provide my feedback on the candidate.

 

Do you have any suggestions on the kind of questions I can ask during the job interview? I was thinking of asking the
candidate questions around how he typically deals with ambiguity and last-minute changes
to the design. Can you think of other questions I can ask a developer that a
designer would be interested in knowing? Do you know of any online resources
that list questions like that?

 

Thanks for your
help!

 

Tarang

 

(((Pl
12 Aug 2010 - 12:06am
DerrekRobertson
2010

Awesome questions! Enjoyed them and will likely use them to interview object c devs for my next iphone app ( when I find funding).

Derrek Robertson Neonsunburst.com

On Aug 11, 2010, at 7:53 PM, monkeyshine wrote:

> Some of the questions I ask include: > > - if I come to you with a design solution/feature design that you are not sure can be done, how do you handle? A follow-up might be...what if you question some functionality (from either business or user experience perspective measured against time to implement)? > > I keep the scenario pretty vague because I am curious what questions they will come back with (or if they do!). > > - Have you worked with other designers before? If so, describe a project where you worked closely together? What was the process like? Roles? Was it successful or not? > > On Wed, Aug 11, 2010 at 4:33 PM, ttaunk wrote: > >>
>> >> I am a product >> designer at a large software company. I have been asked to interview a >> developer (programmer) for a job opening in the company. Although working with >> developers is a big part of my everyday job, this is the first time I have been >> asked to interview one, and to provide my feedback on the candidate. >> >>
>> >> Do you have any suggestions on the kind of questions I can ask during the job interview? I was thinking of asking the >> candidate questions around how he typically deals with ambiguity and last-minute changes >> to the design. Can you think of other questions I can ask a developer that a >> designer would be interested in knowing? Do you know of any online resources >> that list questions like that? >> >>
>> >> Thanks for your >> help! >> >>
>> >> Tarang >> >>
>> >> (((Pl >> >

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