May 14, 2021

Interviewing a Remote Software Developer: Questions and Best Practices to Find the Right Fit

According to an estimate from Evans Data Corporation, the number of software developers around the world is expected to reach nearly 29 million by 2024. Despite this sizable talent pool, souring and hiring a software developer is rarely easy. In fact, with more companies now embracing remote work in the wake of the pandemic, hiring the right developer has gotten even harder.

Hiring remote talent does give your company access to a broader pool of candidates — but your competitors have access to these same candidates, too. Moreover, a remote hiring process can be complicated. You have to find a way to interview and evaluate a candidate without ever meeting them in person.

You don’t just need someone who has excellent technical skills. You need someone who will thrive in a remote environment and be able to easily collaborate with their distributed team members. So, in addition to evaluating a candidate’s programming prowess, you also need to assess their soft skills like time management, communication, and self-discipline. It’s much easier to get a glimpse of a candidate’s soft skills when you can meet in person.

But that’s not to say hiring a remote software developer is impossible. You just need to be prepared. Here are some tips to help you craft a hiring process that will more quickly and effectively source the right remote software developers.

Evaluating a Remote Software Developer’s Hard Skills

A software developer’s technical competencies and past experience are paramount. Granted, the specific ways in which you go about evaluating a candidate’s hard skills will depend on the kinds of technologies you need your developer to use. However, there are some standard interview practices and questions you can use to validate your candidates’ skills regardless of the technologies at work.

Have the Right Person Conduct the Interview

One important tip is to make sure the interviewer has enough technical knowledge to competently discuss relevant technologies with your candidate. Otherwise, the interviewer may not be able to accurately assess a candidate’s level of skill.

Prepare a Coding Test

There’s no better way to measure a candidate’s skills than to see them in action for yourself. A coding test is a perfect way to do that.

Ask an architect or a senior engineer on your team to create a relevant task for the candidate to complete in a limited amount of time. Designed well, the test should highlight how quickly and efficiently your candidate can work, as well as how creatively they can complete their tasks.

Ask for a Sample of Past Work

A coding test can tell you a lot about a candidate’s skills, but it can’t capture the full picture. To get a broader view of what your candidate can do, ask them to share some past work samples with you. This will show you what a candidate can do when they aren’t limited by time or a particular task. Additionally, you can discuss the “how” behind the project, learning how the candidate planned and executed the task successfully.

Ask Your Candidate: ‘If You Were to Develop a Project From Scratch, What Technologies, Languages, and Frameworks Would You Use?’

This question can reveal a lot about a candidate’s knowledge of different technologies. It will also help you assess how creatively and innovatively the candidate thinks. Ask them to substantiate the reasoning behind their choices to get a fuller view of their knowledge and thought process.

Importantly, this question will also uncover the technologies that are most attractive to your candidate. You can see how well your company’s tech stack lines up with the candidate’s comfort zone.

What candidates do you see the most demand for?
Tell us about today’s job market in the May 2021 Recruiter Index® survey.

Evaluate a Remote Candidate’s Soft Skills

As mentioned above, soft skills are just as crucial as hard skills to successfully hiring a remote software developer. A truly thorough interview must incorporate several questions to get to the bottom of a candidate’s soft skills. Here are some suggestions:

• How do you deal with feelings of isolation when working in a remote environment?
• What do you feel is the best way to handle conflicts in a remote team? Can you give an example?
• How do you manage to stay focused in the face of distractions while working online?
• How do you strike a balance between your work life and your social life?
• What is your preferred mode of communication when working in a remote environment?

A candidate’s preferred methods for managing the challenges of remote work can tell you a lot about culture fit. Do the candidate’s communication style and conflict resolution techniques mesh with your existing team’s preferences, or might there be some dissonance?

While finding a remote software developer can be tough in today’s climate, it’s often the right move for a company. You can make the hiring process easier by preparing a targeted, relevant interview structure that reveals all the right information. This will help you ensure your organization hires a well-rounded candidate who will do well in a remote software developer role.

Iryna Bilyk is an expert content marketing manager who works at YouTeam.

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Iryna Bilyk is an expert content marketing manager who works at YouTeam, a marketplace for instant engineering team extension. She passionately discovers and writes about technology, innovations, and software development solutions.