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My Two Favorite IT Interview Questions

5 Points I Cover During a Consultant Phone Interview Screen

I enjoy interviewing information technology candidates. I meet with software developers, business analysts, project managers, and quality assurance analysts who are eager, polite, dressed sharply, ready to impress, and usually a bit nervous.
I have a couple goals as an interviewer:

  • I want to sell my own company. I want to let them know that Perficient Digital is an amazing place to work. In a way, this is a selling opportunity for my company.
  • I want to make the interviewee comfortable. I don’t want to let nerves get in the way or be the reason a candidate loses out on a job. Especially if we are looking for someone who won’t be client facing. Some of the most brilliant developers I work with are extremely introverted and I’m sure are not comfortable interviewing. I would not want to lose out on having that kind of talent on our team just because they couldn’t interview well.
  • I want to learn as much as I can about what type of worker the individual will be on our team. I certainly want to know they have the skill set we are looking for, but also what will they be like to work with.
  • I want to have a conversation. Most of my questions come from prior things the candidate has mentioned.

While I don’t usually have a long list of questions at the ready for our conversation, I do have two favorite questions that I ask in almost all my interviews.
1. Tell me what product, any product, you think of as a high-quality product and why.
I’ve mentioned this question in a prior blog post. This question always seems to catch candidates off guard. It is a question that I don’t think is commonly asked during interviews. Because most people are not expecting this, I get to see how well they think on the spot. I’ve gotten such a diverse set of answers when asking this question. I’ve heard about cars, violins, and DJ-related software, just to name a few.
The real reason I ask this question is to understand what this individual thinks quality looks like. This is especially important when I’m hiring a QA team member, but I want to know that all other team members that I’m working with also have quality in mind when creating deliverables. I want to hear them talk about things other than the fact that the product works without defects. I want to hear that the product is:

  • Packaged well
  • Has clear instructions
  • Is easy to set up
  • Is intuitive to use
  • Invokes a sense of security

Have you ever been to a website with the intention of buying a product, but something about the site doesn’t seem right? Maybe you can’t easily find the exact product you are looking for. Perhaps the site feels outdated. It could be something as silly as the input boxes don’t line up in a clean way. My inclination is to leave such a site right away. Such sites may be a result of a lack of development funding, but also comes from a lack of attention to detail by the development team.
2. Tell me about a project that you were proud to be a part of.
I just realized that my two favorite questions aren’t technically questions at all. This just goes back to the point that I want my interviews to be conversation based.
The emphasis of this conversation point is obviously the word “proud.” I’m almost handing the job to the candidate (or taking it away) with this one word. Assuming the candidate has the right skills we are looking for – and since we vet out candidates using their resumes before interviewing, they usually do – the way they answer this question can really set them apart. If all other questions in the interview didn’t give a candidate the opportunity express who they are or something amazing they did, this one question gives them free reign.
If someone asked me this question, I would light up. I could almost use any project that I have been a part of as an example for this question. I could use my current three-year engagement with a client where I have been a part of a project that has delivered some amazing work. I could talk about the QA team I grew from the ground up, or I could talk about working for a global entertainment company where I worked on a prototype that many people are familiar with. With any of these examples, I can talk about how much I learned and grew through the course of the project. I can tell how humbled I was to work with great and talented people. I can talk through how we faced and overcame challenges. I can say why the project was successful. I can even speak to the point that the work I did was profitable for my organization.
If you are interviewing candidates, feel free to use these questions, however, before you do make sure you have clearly thought through how you would answer these questions yourself. A very astute candidate, when given the chance to ask you questions, very well may use these questions on you. And why shouldn’t they? This would be their opportunity to learn so much about the company for which they are interviewing.

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Patrick Herman

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