how to screen entry level developer applicants?

eon

2[H]4U
Joined
Oct 11, 2003
Messages
2,218
We will be conducting interviews soon for entry level developers. I am somewhat of the lead developer of area they will be working with so I was told to be apart of the interview process. I am not too concerned with their competency as they were already given a "weed out" exam and all are grads from legit CS programs. And this is more of a business intelligence program analyst role so the programming we do here is not very complex at all.

What I am mostly concerned about is their personality and potential behavior after they settle into the job. We try to keep things laid back and informal here but dont want people taking advantage of this. So we want someone who will be remain a motivated worker who will do their job with minimum supervision. Also I am a nonchalant, non-confrontational person so I also dont want someone who is aggressive and would try to push the limits of what I would tolerate.

So I'm here to see if anyone has any tips of how to screen if a developer would be a "good" or "bad" member of your team?
thanks
 

mkrohn

2[H]4U
Joined
Apr 30, 2012
Messages
2,345
Start by asking about any current projects they have. Anybody worth a damn as a programmer is always dabbling in different things they enjoy.

Ask them if they play modern warfare... gauging their interest level because a guy REALLY into the different FPS games means they do nothing with their lives outside of work. Sadly any serious FPS gamer is a rather shitty employee since they dont do as much to actually improve themselves. Some of the more time demanding games like WOW though can prove serious dedication which can be a double edged sword if they'd have access to something like that at work.

At the end of the day it comes down to if they're uptight and can take a joke. I personally can't deal with guys who I can't call women from time to time and sexually harass a bit but thats just me.
 

eon

2[H]4U
Joined
Oct 11, 2003
Messages
2,218
lol I play FPS games, well atleast until marriage and a baby sucked up what little time I had after work.
Also I really dont mind how if an employee isnt very personable or social.
 

FiveFig

Gawd
Joined
Jun 27, 2011
Messages
517
After weeding out my fair share I can give you a couple tips I learned along the way, whether they work for you or not... we'll have to see?

Since you mentioned you weeded them out for education and skill you can focus on that less in your interview questions. You want to ask questions that will let them be themselves, more to the point let them show YOU their true self. You want them to get away from the canned answers (I went to X school, studies Y, have Z degree... if you ask these they'll feel like you didn't even take the time to read their Resume/CV and is a great way to frustrate them) What you want them to do is tell stories about their work. This allows you to get them to use their natural language to describe things and can clue you in on their personality type.

Ask about successful projects, how they helped the team (nobody EVER does a project solo unless they own their own company and have no employees) and how the team helped them. [can they work well with others]

Then, ask about unsuccessful projects: why they think it failed, what they learned from it, how they can use what they learned in the future to prevent the same mistakes. [listen for how they phrase this, they can either blame others, bad mouth bosses, and be negative, or they can nicely discuss the issues they faced and how they handled it while working together with the team]

You can ask them if they have ever had to go above and beyond what they thought their job duties were and why. [This is a way for motivated people to brag about working hard to ensure a project's success, and a way for lazy people to complain about how unreasonably hard a boss worked them]
 

eon

2[H]4U
Joined
Oct 11, 2003
Messages
2,218
I am the OP lol what I meant by personable or social, is I dont mind if an employee is nice but boring, keeps to themselves, or doesnt have a big sense of humor. I definitely do NOT want someone who is a jerk.
 

Skripka

[H]F Junkie
Joined
Feb 5, 2012
Messages
10,792
First thing to know is after any initial screening...how many bodies are you hiring, and how many applicants do you still have to weed through?
 

PTNL

Supreme [H]ardness
Joined
Jan 2, 2005
Messages
4,196
Look at the interviewees resume, and see where their experience lies, and get them to speak about it. Here are some conversation starters.
- What was their internship and/or classroom experience in? What topics and projects were covered? What depth and breadth are they familiar with? How well does that translate or perhaps parallel the needs you are hiring for?
- What side projects are they working on?
- Do they participate in any online communities related to software development?
- Write a simple application ("fizz-buzz" comes to mind). Let the person choose the language.
- Within a few minutes, architect a website deployment on a whiteboard. What pieces are used? How do you protect components, but expose the necessary functionality?
- Within a few minutes, draw out a DB schema for a inventory purchase system.
- Barring language barriers, to what level are they able to clearly communicate and explain topics that they understand? How effective are they at translating the information for different target audiences?
- Get them to talk about conflict with peers - both in person, and electronically. What was the disagreement? How was it resolved?
- General SWOT self-analysis questions.

Sadly any serious FPS gamer is a rather shitty employee since they dont do as much to actually improve themselves. Some of the more time demanding games like WOW though can prove serious dedication which can be a double edged sword if they'd have access to something like that at work.
If your point is simply "make sure the interviewee understands that you need to ship software on time", that's fine. Encouraging self-education is desired. But this parallel you've presented isn't as reliable as you suspect: e.g. software companies that are hiring FPS developers.
 
Last edited:

eon

2[H]4U
Joined
Oct 11, 2003
Messages
2,218
First thing to know is after any initial screening...how many bodies are you hiring, and how many applicants do you still have to weed through?

so far we have about 10 interviews who did were not weeded out on the exam. We have 3 developer positions open but only one for my team. The other team thats hiring 2 positions will actually be in the same interviews.
 

mkrohn

2[H]4U
Joined
Apr 30, 2012
Messages
2,345
the classic e-stalking didnt work?

I put my pr0n stage name on my resume.

I also included both head shots
 

eon

2[H]4U
Joined
Oct 11, 2003
Messages
2,218
any suggestions of a question to ask to detect if someone may actually be "too confident"?
I feel this could be a sign of arrogance and brashness and that person may become difficult to manage later on
 

NickTheNut

Supreme [H]ardness
Joined
Jan 18, 2001
Messages
4,657
If you're just worried about company fit at this point I'd suggest taking the candidate out to lunch with your more friendly and "joker" coworkers. Once the candidate feels more at ease and can let his/her guard down you'll start to really see how they fit with your team.

Obviously don't ask personal questions, but try and get the person talking about what they're passionate about. What their hobbies are. etc. Try and find something you both can relate to, that way you open up a much more honest dialogue. Not every question of an interview has to be about their business experiences or about the actual job they're applying for.

Just my .02c
 

PTNL

Supreme [H]ardness
Joined
Jan 2, 2005
Messages
4,196
any suggestions of a question to ask to detect if someone may actually be "too confident"?
I feel this could be a sign of arrogance and brashness and that person may become difficult to manage later on
While there are things you can ask and do to detect warning signs with a candidate, there's nothing wrong with having one or more people also meet with the person (e.g. business manager for the team, HR, etc.).
 

mkrohn

2[H]4U
Joined
Apr 30, 2012
Messages
2,345
schedule them all for an interview at the same time and have one of those mirror/glass things and watch how they interact with each other LOL guys making friends with guys they think are the competition is a super quick way to know the friendlier ones to begin with.
 

eon

2[H]4U
Joined
Oct 11, 2003
Messages
2,218
thanks for the suggestions, did some interviews this morning and in between my questions and of other managers there, I think I was able to get a solid feel for each candidate's personality.
 

ShoeLace

Gawd
Joined
Apr 5, 2006
Messages
650
I would say if an entry level programmer is acting really confident but they have no public presence (github profile, etc.) then they are most likely delusional.
 

rehab

Gawd
Joined
Aug 23, 2005
Messages
766
Their technical abilities can be vetted a by many of whats been mentioned but lately, im more interested in personality for employee retention. The future of healthcare coverage will change the way I look at future prospects; coupled with a flooded new grad-entry level population. Its difficult to choose between Tom, Dick, and Cherry because they are have a bachelors w/ spotty real world experience. (This of course depending on the technical proficiency of the position and the position itself.) For the entry level gigs, 70% of their success rate will be personality driven and the 30% can be taught assuming my other guys will want to dick with them. So, that being said:

Top 3 movies
Top 3 musicians
Song that invokes a personal emotion
Scene in a movie that does the same.
Favorite holiday, why
Out of work activities, physical or non.
Books
Roundabout questions about family / home life... yea yea I know its a grey area.
yadda yadda..

Sounds stupid but I can tell you in 10 minutes if I want to work with or manage some joker if I know their cultural interests. Its a shame, but we are that intertwined now that somewhat of a definition can be hypothesized by the nebulous crap we waste or spend out time on.
 

Quartz-1

Supreme [H]ardness
Joined
May 20, 2011
Messages
4,257
Ask them about problem solving when they don't immediately know the answer. Boot the ones who don't mention consulting colleagues.
 

aL Mac

Gawd
Joined
Jul 20, 2002
Messages
949
Their technical abilities can be vetted a by many of whats been mentioned but lately, im more interested in personality for employee retention. The future of healthcare coverage will change the way I look at future prospects; coupled with a flooded new grad-entry level population. Its difficult to choose between Tom, Dick, and Cherry because they are have a bachelors w/ spotty real world experience. (This of course depending on the technical proficiency of the position and the position itself.) For the entry level gigs, 70% of their success rate will be personality driven and the 30% can be taught assuming my other guys will want to dick with them. So, that being said:

Top 3 movies
Top 3 musicians
Song that invokes a personal emotion
Scene in a movie that does the same.
Favorite holiday, why
Out of work activities, physical or non.
Books
Roundabout questions about family / home life... yea yea I know its a grey area.
yadda yadda..

Sounds stupid but I can tell you in 10 minutes if I want to work with or manage some joker if I know their cultural interests. Its a shame, but we are that intertwined now that somewhat of a definition can be hypothesized by the nebulous crap we waste or spend out time on.

So you wouldn't hire someone if they don't have favorite movies and musicians? Or can't think of a song that "invokes personal emotion"? There's a lot of people that are perfectly normal but don't work that way.. It would be hard for me to pick out a random movie and remember some specific scene that had meaning to me.

Some of these metrics seem very underhanded or bizarre. Just talk to the candidates like a normal person and get to know them, is that so hard? Do you really have to ask them some crazy question where if they don't answer it like you would, that you decide to disregard them?
 

rehab

Gawd
Joined
Aug 23, 2005
Messages
766
So you wouldn't hire someone if they don't have favorite movies and musicians? Or can't think of a song that "invokes personal emotion"? There's a lot of people that are perfectly normal but don't work that way.. It would be hard for me to pick out a random movie and remember some specific scene that had meaning to me.

Some of these metrics seem very underhanded or bizarre. Just talk to the candidates like a normal person and get to know them, is that so hard? Do you really have to ask them some crazy question where if they don't answer it like you would, that you decide to disregard them?

I dont necessarily want them to answer it like I would, I just want them to answer it. I am interested in the applicant meshing with the existing company culture and the people he/she may work with. If I "get to know the applicant" and say "I like you" then a bias took place because in reality, I wont be spending the majority of the time with them. There isnt a wrong answer. Hypothetically, If the guy I hire is a social retard with no life but is a boss developer, it makes no difference if I liked him or not...he wont work out. There is a place however that promotes that type of personality... nothing wrong with that.

I mean, granted, I dont ask those specific questions and if I ever have asked something along those lines it was with a touch more elegance or background leading into it. My point was that its getting difficult to "get to know" applicants in the time allotted. Its also difficult to find something that makes someone stand out from the rest.

There is, of course, a legitimate interview that takes place before this happens. I just get more out of the latter....does that make sense? I didnt mean to be so absolute with my recommendations or make it sound like my way or the causeway.
 

metril

Limp Gawd
Joined
Jun 3, 2007
Messages
414
I'm going to answer this question in a general sense. Let's take any job for which you need a 4 year degree.

Several years ago, not everyone had a college degree (from an accredited university). Today, a larger portion of the population has a degree (some have two).

At the end of the day, a degree says that you are book smart. When I look at a fresher's resume, I look at the GPA, but I want to know what else he/she did while getting that GPA. If you can get a 4.0 and didn't bother to do any other activities, then I think poorly of you. However, that student that got a 3.0 and was on a robotics team, played chess, designed a homecoming day float, etc, earns more merit because it shows that he/she has people skills. He/she got a passing grade while still maintaining a "life".

Now, a lot of people have degrees, but not everyone knows how to approach a task or a problem. Some people try to toss everything they know at a task/problem without any sort of "understanding". So, I find it valuable to ask people questions in areas that they know nothing about, but know enough to find their way around. It's like "sight reading" a new musical composition.

The following question is a very famous question and is used in many interviews.

"Why are manhole covers round and not square, triangular, etc?"

The answer is very simple. You already learned everything you needed to answer this question once you finished geometry in grade school. Rather, the question tests your ability to understand the purpose of a manhole cover in the real world. There's actually another underlying problem in the question, but you need to have the ability to first think within the box and then think out of the box before you have the correct answer (this is really how a manhole was invented).
 

Parmenides

Supreme [H]ardness
Joined
Apr 25, 2006
Messages
6,578
ask: "is there anything better than going balls deep?"

Then see what the answer is
 

Parmenides

Supreme [H]ardness
Joined
Apr 25, 2006
Messages
6,578
You can ask them if they have ever had to go above and beyond what they thought their job duties were and why. [This is a way for motivated people to brag about working hard to ensure a project's success, and a way for lazy people to complain about how unreasonably hard a boss worked them]

Are there really that many lazy people who will just complain on the interview? First week of work, sure, but interview? I guess there will always be some
 

aL Mac

Gawd
Joined
Jul 20, 2002
Messages
949
I dont necessarily want them to answer it like I would, I just want them to answer it. I am interested in the applicant meshing with the existing company culture and the people he/she may work with. If I "get to know the applicant" and say "I like you" then a bias took place because in reality, I wont be spending the majority of the time with them. There isnt a wrong answer. Hypothetically, If the guy I hire is a social retard with no life but is a boss developer, it makes no difference if I liked him or not...he wont work out. There is a place however that promotes that type of personality... nothing wrong with that.

I mean, granted, I dont ask those specific questions and if I ever have asked something along those lines it was with a touch more elegance or background leading into it. My point was that its getting difficult to "get to know" applicants in the time allotted. Its also difficult to find something that makes someone stand out from the rest.

There is, of course, a legitimate interview that takes place before this happens. I just get more out of the latter....does that make sense? I didnt mean to be so absolute with my recommendations or make it sound like my way or the causeway.

That's more reasonable, thanks for the clarification.
 

mikeblas

[H]ard|DCer of the Month - May 2006
Joined
Jun 26, 2004
Messages
12,776
So I'm here to see if anyone has any tips of how to screen if a developer would be a "good" or "bad" member of your team?
thanks
Think of what you mean by "good" and "bad", specifically. Then, design questions that tell you if the candidate exhibits those traits. If you can't define what's "good" or "bad" in your environment, then you need to get to work on that first. Otherwise, you don't know what you're testing the candidates for.

Also I am a nonchalant, non-confrontational person so I also dont want someone who is aggressive and would try to push the limits of what I would tolerate.
This sounds particularly troubling -- like you're never going to hire anyone that's actually going to end up being better than anyone else at your company. If that's true, every hire you make is going to bring the average down a bit and you're going to dilute value. Why do you want to make your company bigger, but worse?

"Why are manhole covers round and not square, triangular, etc?"

The answer is very simple.
Indeed, it is: it's that manholes are round. Really, this is one of the worst possible questions to ask in an interview because it teaches you nothing about the candidate that predicts future job performance. That a candidate can correctly answer this doesn't correlate to an expectation good job performance; that a candidate can't correctly answer this doesn't correlate to anticipated poor performance, either. (Unless you have some wonky definition of "good" and "bad".) On top of it, the question has very little surface area -- there's not much opportunity for questions about the candidate's reasoning or approach, and you'll learn very little about them.
Sounds stupid but I can tell you in 10 minutes if I want to work with or manage some joker if I know their cultural interests.
Easily the worst list of questions I've ever seen proposed for an interview. The "roundabout home life" stuff is illegal in the US, on top of it -- no grey area about it.

any suggestions of a question to ask to detect if someone may actually be "too confident"?
I feel this could be a sign of arrogance and brashness and that person may become difficult to manage later on

These are all soft questions, so asking them can be a bit difficult. You need to have a conversation with the candidate started by these questions, and you need to become good at interpreting the responses and guiding the conversation based on what it is you want to learn. But, here's how I'd seed conversations to determine confidence and arrogance levels:
  • Before the interview, overconfidence is easy to identify. People will put dumb statements in their resumes and cover letters about "able to learn anything" or "willing to do anything". These applications go in the shredder.
  • Ask them if they've failed at something, and what they did about it. Have them describe the situation, ask them what they learned. Ask them how they might have failed earlier -- how would they have wasted less time going down the wrong path?
  • How do they know when to ask for help or advice on a challenging project?
  • What's the most difficult thing they ever did, and why? What did they learn and how did they handle the situation?
  • What's the biggest mistake they ever made? How did they recover from the situation?
  • Ask them what they're good at and explain why. Ask them to compare themselves against someone who's truly world class in that field. If they're a great programmer, what sets them apart from Donald Knuth?
  • Ask them what the difference between "confidence" and "overconfidence" is.
  • How do they deal with negative feedback?
  • Ask them to rate themselves on a scale of 1 to 10 on their identified skill sets. If they're picking 9 or 10, then ask about what they might improve, or why they think they're the best they can possibly be at that skill already, even though they're just entry-level.
Still sounds like you're overly worried about your leadership position being challenged.
 
Last edited:
Top