The worst question that a tech recruiter can ask is…

27 September 2023

There are numerous effective questions that a tech recruiter can pose to a potential candidate, so why has this one particular question persisted for years?

When I first entered the world of IT recruiting, I was advised to inform candidates that “I’m not technically inclined.” This allowed me to evade the responsibility of asking, or worse, answering any questions pertaining to the tech stack. However, in reality, this approach diminished the impact I could have on the hiring decision.

Certainly, there are workarounds, such as sending an assessment or relying on the engineers to eventually assess the candidate’s technical aptitude. However, if our objective is to identify the best candidate in the shortest possible time, then I must enhance my pre-screening skills, rather than simply resorting to this cheap question:

🤦 “How many years of experience do you have working with (insert technology)?”
Followed by rinse and repeat for other technologies listed in the job description.

In my opinion, while experience is crucial, this question is the least effective means of assessing a candidate’s technical skills. I’ve been boiling water to make spaghetti for over 25 years, but that doesn’t qualify me to be a chef at a 5-star restaurant. (Okay, perhaps that’s a slight exaggeration, but you get my point.) In actuality, inquiring about years of experience merely ticks off the “must-have” checkbox on the job description.

Instead, by posing more insightful questions, we can:

✅ Evaluate how effectively the candidate can communicate with non-technical stakeholders, an essential skill for many technical roles involving interaction with diverse stakeholders.

✅ Ascertain the extent to which they generate new code daily, their approach to staying updated on the latest technology, their perspective on pair programming, their problem-solving abilities, etc.

✅ Save valuable interview time by clearly outlining the tech stack required for the role. I’ve had candidates respond candidly, stating, “I lack the skills in that area,” or “That’s not something I’m interested in pursuing.” This significantly streamlines the process for everyone involved.

Ultimately, to ask more effective questions, we, as tech recruiters, must invest in improving our technical knowledge.
Recognizing the distinction between Java and JavaScript is a starting point, but our pursuit to learn should not end there. Top tech talent has shown patience with me as I learn, but “fake it ’til you make it” wears out quickly.

Which is your least favorite interview question?