How to Hire Great Software Engineers:
Interview Stages

According to IBM, a positive interview experience makes candidates 38% more likely to accept a job offer, and that starts with creating a structured interview process. Keep in mind that each interview stage should be identical for each candidate to ensure equitable, unbiased hiring. We recommend the following 6 steps (including a technical assessment and reference check) for engineering candidates.

1.) Phone Screen

Recruiters should conduct a preliminary phone interview that typically lasts 20-30 minutes. This initial conversation determines whether an individual is a viable option for the job and should start with some introductory questions to learn about the candidate’s special skills and talents. During the screening process, you should also allot time for the candidate to ask more specific questions about the company, the role, and the responsibilities so they can also determine if they have interest in moving to the next stage.

2.) First Interview

The first interview should be a one-on-one interview between the applicant and the hiring manager(s). This is the time to ask questions related to work experience and skills and also for the candidate to ask their own questions to determine if there’s a mutual fit. Side note: It’s a red flag if they DON’T have any questions! Depending on your organization, this will most likely be a virtual interview. In fact, according to Gartner, 86% of organizations are now conducting all of their interviews virtually.

3.) Technical Assessment

Here’s where we’d recommend a timed, automated code test. The test requires candidates to write and run working code that solves a single question or set of questions. This way you can filter candidates out during this stage of the interview process if their technical skills don’t match up to the role’s requirements. One thing to keep in mind is to ensure the technical assessment is a true reflection of the day-to-day work that candidates will be doing. Check out our friends at Woven if you’re in need of a technical assessment tool!

4.) Team Panel

If the candidate has succeeded in impressing the hiring manager(s) after the first conversation and has passed the technical assessment, a team panel is the opportunity to find “team fit” within the engineering department. During this time, you can get a feel for how the candidate likes to work and what sort of team they work best in. This is also the candidate’s opportunity to ask other engineers about the working environment and assess team camaraderie.

5.) Final Stage

The final interview with the hiring manager(s) sets the stage on making the ultimate hiring decision. This is the time to ask deeper questions that you didn’t have time to address during the first interview and is the last opportunity for the candidate to impress you…and for you to sell the candidate on working for your company.

6.) Reference Check

Many companies find reference checks to be unnecessary, but trust us, you want to cut through any exaggerations by completing them. Request a list of at least three references from the candidate and contact them to get their insights into the candidate (we recommend that at least one reference is a former manager of the candidate’s). This way, you’ll be able to independently verify your assumptions about the candidate, address any concerns, and hopefully have the confidence you need to hire them without any second guesses.