Anatomy of a Successful Senior Developer Interview

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You might have all the software and hardware you need to get your business up and running, but what about the “humanware “? What about the senior developer that will bring it up to peak efficiency and keep it there?

Senior developers must carry a lot of responsibility from writing exceptional code, mentoring junior engineers, and managing technologies.  In short, a senior developer is a cog that keeps the wheels of your business turning.  Finding a good one is essential and begins with the interview process.

The initial step in this process is defining the title of Senior Developer and what you expect from the one you choose.  What skills do you expect from your senior developer, and what (by the way)  is a senior developer? 

A minimum of five years of experience in professional coding is a reasonable start to finding the right person to spot problems and solve them.  A top tier developer needs, also, to keep abreast of market developments, know how to sell new ideas to management and how to go through the software development process.

After you’ve narrowed your choices, go to the team to find out what they need in a fellow employee.  Have them develop a “job ladder” to determine where they and the new senior developer stand on it.

Interview questions are subject to many variations.  Whether face-to-face, Skyped, or on the telephone, cogent questions are important and should appear conversational.  Transparency as to what the position will involve is important but the interview should not drag on.

Ask appropriate questions including:

  • When would you use a NoSQL solution instead of SQL?
  • How would you deal with scaling a monolithic web service such as a Django or Ruby on Rails app?
  • How do you stay up-to-date on new technologies related to full-stack web development?
  • What technologies, programming languages, and frameworks would you use if you had to develop a project from scratch in only one month?
  • What are the benefits and drawbacks of working in an Agile environment?
  • For a public-facing application, what security concerns would you have? And how would you address them?
  • How would you document your work on an application so that others coming after you can understand why the system is the way it is?

The interview should include a panel of those who will be most affected by working with the new hire.  The panel, however, should not be more than five people.  If others need or want to be involved, schedule additional interviews. Although time-consuming, the collaboration encouraged by including others in the interview process is important for both the interviewee and the employees.

If your company is coding dependent, asking for the interviewee to complete a coding test – either take-home or an in-house – is appropriate in today’s interview protocol. 

Finding the senior developer that fits your business might be difficult, it’s well worth the effort for growth.