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Interview screening: Questions to ask every tech candidate

The cost of a bad hire is more than an inconvenience to employers and their hiring teams; the true cost is a risk to an entire organization. The U.S. Department of Labor finds the cost of a bad hire is around 30 per cent of that worker’s first year salary – while other experts are placing that figure much higher at well into the hundreds and thousands of U.S. dollars.

Allegis Group reports most employers (94 per cent) agree they always or sometimes uncover untruths or exaggerations during the interview process, yet another 77 per cent of organizations also admit unqualified candidates are still slipping through their screening process.

Unfortunately, it’s common for hiring teams to become complacent, yet when done effectively, great screening will lead to informed hiring decisions that engages and retains the types of talent that keeps competitive organizations moving forward.

When screening candidates in today’s IT staffing landscape, here are questions to add to your screening process that will identify and ensure a quality hire:

1. QUESTION: “Tell me about a time that you were brought in as a Scrum Coach for a team that had no previous experience working with an Agile approach.”

QUESTION TYPE: Situational
POSITION: Scrum Master

IMPORTANCE: This question will provide the candidate with an opportunity to describe, in his or her own words, their experience directly related to the role and technology. The level of detail provided will help the interviewer determine the candidate’s fit and their ability to communicate their experience. 

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The right candidate will highlight the company they worked for, the type(s) of team(s) they lead, what the project was and what challenges and successes they experienced.

RED FLAGS: Vague answers that have no details or a response that includes terms that imply a hypothetical scenario, i.e. “I would” vs. “I did” might indicate that he or she doesn’t have the experience they claim.

2. QUESTION: “You’ve noted that you’re a good problem solver on your resume. Tell me about a problem that you solved in your last role and how that benefited your team or company.”

QUESTION TYPE: Behavioural
POSITION: Java Developer

IMPORTANCE: This question quantifies characteristics noted on the resume, giving the interviwer an opportunity to see how the candidate responds to their own personality traits. Is he or she demonstrating these during the interview?

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The right candidate will provide a detailed example of the candidate’s problem-solving skills. The example itself should be relevant to the role and clearly answered.

RED FLAGS: A response that isn’t related to problem solving will indicate that the candidate:

a) Doesn’t have problem solving abilities or may lack desired level of experience.
b) Doesn’t understand the question and communication may be an issue.
c) Wasn’t listening to the question and he or she isn’t engaged in the opportunity.

3. QUESTION: “How would you propose tackling this role/project?”

QUESTION TYPE: Situational
POSITION: Process Engineer

IMPORTANCE: After explaining the scope of the role or project, this question will help determine the level of a candidate’s experience with a similar project and their ability to break things down and communicate.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Ideally, the candidate would communicate a step-by-step process that he or she normally follows. They will communicate these steps in some level of detail, providing examples of similar work throughout the discussion.

RED FLAGS: Any vague answers that don’t specifically include a planned approach will indicate the candidate may not have experience he or she claims.

4. QUESTION: “Why are you looking for a change?”

QUESTION TYPE: Work history

IMPORTANCE: Typically asked interview questions are very important, as questions like this one provide insight into a candidate’s motivation factors and can indicate whether or not that candidate is actively seeking an opportunity or is passively looking to see what the market is like to use as leverage in their current role.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Often, candidates can be seeking new opportunities simply because their previous contract ended or current one isn’t up for an extension, which is common if the role is short-term. This is also easily verifiable. If the candidate is in a permanent position, interviewers should be looking for indications that the candidate is interested in career growth or upskilling with an organization that is a fit with their skills, experience and personality.

RED FLAGS: Any negative comments about their current or previous company, manager, co-workers etc. will indicate that the candidate could do the same to a future employer and could be a disloyal worker.

5. QUESTION: “Can you describe a situation where you were asked to take on responsibilities that are not part of your daily routine?”

QUESTION TYPE: Situational

IMPORTANCE: This question will determine whether the candidate is open to ‘wearing different hats’ if they have a required skill and a situation arises. Are they willing or open to taking on more responsibility if needed? It will also indicate whether the candidate is open to collaboration within their own team or other departments.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The right candidate should provide a positive response where he or she is open to accepting challenges outside of their comfort zone.

RED FLAGS: Continuous learning and development is crucial to sustaining business. If a candidate typically only completes tasks assigned to their role and refuses other opportunities, it may suggest that he or she isn’t a team player.

6. QUESTION: “Can you describe the scope of your last project and what systems you worked with?”

POSITION: Project Manager

IMPORTANCE: This question helps interviewers identify if the candidate is capable of handling large projects for enterprise-level organizations. If he or she has experience using ERP systems, it’s an indication that they have the required skillset.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Ideally, the right candidate will provide specific answers related to the project’s budget; interviewers also need to determine if the candidate can handle multiple projects simultaneously and work with ERP or CRM systems, which are generally only used by enterprise-level organizations.

RED FLAGS: When a candidate is:

a) Non-specific or vague when relating to projects or systems.
b) Hesitant when disclosing budgets.
c) Communicating he or she reported to other Project Managers, it can indicate that they aren’t as senior as claimed.

The role of a trusted partner
Hiring contingent labour comes with more costs and risks than a traditional worker program. Often, organizations will adopt a unified approach by outsourcing the management either in its entirety or in part to a third party.  A great staffing partner will support an organization’s total talent needs, streamlining its workforce program to elevate quality and drive efficiency across the entire talent lifecycle, increasing efficiency and mitigating risks.

As a trusted partner, Procom is committed to advising our clients on the best solutions available to meet their business goals and deliver innovative services that transform how they acquire and manage talent. 

Candidate engagement doesn’t end once you’ve found the right fit.  Investing in recruiting talent is of little to no value if a hiring program fails to retain that resource. Learn tricks and tips to keeping contingent workers engaged once they’re hired with our article: How to onboard better to increase new hire engagement and talent retention.

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Interview screening: Questions to ask every tech candidate

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