How to lead an effective job interview for IT professionals: 6 tips from experienced recruiters

Updated: Oct 5, 2021

by Ieva Baranova

Preparation and structure is key for a successful job interview - be it in the office or remote.

The IT employment market is growing like wildfire, but the current outbreak of Covid-19 has brought many challenges to both companies and candidates. For example, numerous businesses have stopped hiring internationally until the lockdown in many countries is lifted.


Meanwhile, the employment situation changes for many IT professionals, and many of them are increasingly available for remote interviews.


If your company is still searching for new staff - or preparing to restart actively hiring after the crisis, this time may be your opportunity. You can be the first to hire some of the best IT professionals out there.


In this article, we’ll help you prepare for leading effective job interviews with our tips that are tried and tested over the years.


1. Take preparation seriously

Thorough preparation is essential when you’re interviewing for a position in IT. First of all, you will have to ask technical questions and give tasks in order to assess if the candidate is suitable for the job. If you are the CEO or the HR manager, you’ll probably need to ask someone from the IT department to join the interview.

If several people are involved in the interviewing process, we strongly suggest having a quick meeting before the interview. This way you’ll make sure that everyone is familiar with the candidate’s profile and plan of the interview. If you have a clear plan for the interview, it’s enough to meet 5-10 minutes before the candidate comes in. If it’s your first interview together, we would recommend meeting 30 minutes before to discuss the flow of the conversation.

It’s wise to check the candidate’s social network profiles beforehand, especially LinkedIn. As it’s a social network for professionals, candidates usually don’t mind that you’ve looked through their profile. You may find the answers to some of your questions and save the precious face-to-face time to ask something else.

2. Test the candidate’s skills (or logical reasoning)

As we mentioned earlier, when interviewing for IT positions, you probably need to have someone from your tech team on board. You may think you know the job requirements, but if you aren’t a developer yourself or if you’re working on different projects daily, you may be missing something important.

How to effectively test your candidate’s knowledge and skills?

You can ask someone from your dev team to prepare a test task and make it as relevant to the job position as possible. Make sure you schedule time both for creating the task and for reviewing it - the more complex the assignment, the more time it will take to create and review it.

Time is of the essence, as many candidates apply for several positions at the same time and are not willing to wait for an unknown period of time. You should be able to inform them about when you’ll provide feedback.

Some employers choose to test the candidate’s logical and critical reasoning instead of coming up with a specific assignment. And then there are those who test both specific skills and logical reasoning - usually during the interview.

But beware - many demanded professionals may feel reluctant to consider positions at companies that start by assigning a time-consuming task before even speaking to the candidate to see if their values match. Our experience shows that having the interview or at least a short conversation before giving the test task significantly increases the number of completed assignments.


3. Create a structure for your interviews

It may be tempting to lead the job interview as a friendly conversation and see where it takes you. However, it’s proven that structured interviews are up to twice as effective at predicting the candidate’s job performance than unstructured ones.

In unstructured interviews, questions are not consistent and can change depending on how the conversation flows with each person, making it harder to draw comparisons.

In structured interviews, all the candidates are asked the same questions in the same order. This helps you give them all a score from a standardized rating scale. Ideally, each question should be linked to specific job competencies based on a detailed job description.

Systematic interviews are also better for record-keeping and, in case any issues arise, also more legally defensible. Besides, if there is more than one interviewer, a structured interview gives a more objective assessment of the candidates.

Maris Tepers, the CEO of Mate HR, suggests that a combination of both tactics is also possible:

We usually have a list of main points that we need to ask the candidates at some point during the interview. However, their sequence is not set in stone. We ask them during a friendly conversation, thus building rapport with the candidates while keeping the opportunity to compare them later on.

4. Ask the candidates how they stay updated with the tech world

The tech world is constantly changing, that's why it’s crucial to find out what are the candidate’s learning habits. Ask them about conferences, meetups, or courses they have attended, blogs or vlogs they are following, and any relevant personal projects - anything to assess how they stay updated and learn new stuff.

You can also ask more specific questions concerning the primary technology or methods you use in your company. This way, you can see if the candidate has researched this approach to learn something new about it.

You can usually tell how enthusiastic the candidate is about the technologies he or she would be working with at your company. Ideally, you’d want the candidate to speak with passion and energy about topics that are aligned with the role.


5. Advertise the job and the company

Remember - any job interview is a mutual screening process. You are equally interested in selling your vacancy as the candidate is in pitching his or her skills and knowledge.

We recommend outlining the general information about the company at the beginning of the conversation. Tell about your projects, methodology and tech-stack, your management style, team structure, main bonuses. If this position requires relocation, let the candidate know how that would work and what would be included in their relocation package.

If the interview is going well and you have a good feeling about this person (and they have shown interest in your company and the vacancy), you can briefly mention some of these things towards the end of the interview:

  • How your company has grown over the years, and how you are planning to expand and improve in the future.

  • Why the respective position is important for your team and how it contributes to your company’s growth.

  • Training and mentoring options for the specific position. Explain what kind of support you could offer if the new employee faced any challenges.

  • How you invest in educating your team - e.g., company-sponsored courses, conferences, meetups & tech talks.

  • Any added benefits after employees have worked a certain amount of years (better health insurance, company shares’ ownership, etc.).

  • Address any worries or wishes that the candidate mentioned earlier in the interview.

Finally, you can ask the candidate if they’d like to meet someone from the company. It can be the manager or someone from the respective team or department that could tell or even show them how the organization works.

6. Assess the candidate’s desire for the job


The more enthusiastic the candidate is during the interview, the better the chance that he or she will show strong motivation and good performance after hiring.


However, you shouldn’t expect that the candidate has researched everything about your company since IT professionals are highly demanded. Maybe they didn’t even apply for the job but were headhunted.


To assess the applicant’s motivation, try this tactic:


At the beginning of the conversation, ask a friendly question if they had a chance to look the company up before the interview and if they have any questions right away. Their answer will let you see how motivated they are and directly address the questions that might be crucial to win them over.


Bonus tips for a better job interview:


  • Try to reduce the candidate’s stress. If you want to see the applicant’s best performance, try making the interviewing process less stressful for them. For example, send them an email a few days before - to clarify the length, structure, and participants of the interview. Consider mentioning the dress code (if the interview takes place in person) and other important details to make the applicant feel as comfortable as possible.

  • Try not to assume anything before the interview. While reading the applicant’s resume, your mind will create an image of them, making you more or less prone to like this candidate. However, try to stay neutral and open-minded during the interview.

  • Let the candidate do most of the talking. The interviewer’s role is to ask the right questions and to clarify the candidate’s answers. Only by listening you’ll be able to tell if the person matches the requirements of the job. However, you should talk enough to explain the position and answer the candidate’s questions in full.

  • Look beyond likeability. We all are biased to hire someone similar to ourselves, or having similar interests. Make sure you choose the candidate who is not only agreeable to you but also compatible with the team and has the required skills. Maybe it even makes sense to have two interviews - one for assessing the candidate’s professional abilities and another one to see if they would fit well in the team.

  • Think of the interview as a two-way street. Ideally, each candidate should feel like they benefited from your meeting, even if you didn’t hire them. For example, you can give an insight into the industry or offer some career advice and direction. Even if you don’t hire now - it’s a small world, and your paths may intersect in the future.

Conclusion

Interviewing is not just the hour that you spend speaking to your candidate. It also includes time for preparation, coordination, and analysis.

Furthermore, you need to make the interview process engaging but not too intimidating - to convince the best candidates to stay instead of turning them off.

Anyone who’s ever done it will tell you - interviewing takes a lot of time and effort.

If you’d prefer to spend less time on the hiring process, we suggest working with a professional recruitment company. This way, you can be sure that only the best candidates that fit all the requirements will reach you. All you’ll have to do is make the final decision on who to hire.

We at Mate HR have years of experience in IT recruitment. Our candidate pool covers more than 25 countries allowing you to find the most suitable specialist for your vacancy.

Sounds interesting? Want to know more about our services? Drop us a line at info@mate-hr.com