The 6 Questions You Should Ask Every IT Candidate

August 25, 2016

Want to have a great IT team?

The formula is straightforward enough – hire great people and keep them engaged by working to make them better. The rest will take care of itself.

The problem is, neither one of those things are easy to do. Hiring people is hard, and so is keeping them motivated.

Well, this article should help, at least with the hiring part. Specifically, here are the six questions you should ask every IT candidate, that’ll best help you determine who is truly worth an offer:

1.    What’s your opinion of (a new piece of software or hardware that just came out)?

The reason for this question is not really about the candidate’s opinion. Instead, it is two-fold:

  • To find out if they are passionate about technology, as people who are have opinions on new trends in the industry.
  • To uncover if the candidate keeps up with the industry, which is a critical skill for someone who is going to have to constantly be implementing and supporting new tools.
2.    Can you walk me through your biggest work accomplishment?

Recruiting mega-guru (and author) Lou Adler believes this is the single most important question you can ask any candidate in any interview, so that’s pretty good right there.

In this question, Adler suggests really digging in, by asking person the specific challenges they faced and how they overcame them. This will give you great insight into what motivates them, their abilities and their working style.

3.    Tell me about the last new piece of software you had to support. How did you prepare for it? How long did it take you to get up-to-speed?

Similar to the first question, IT is about being mentally agile and constantly learning new technologies. Therefore, it is critical to find out how quickly the candidate mastered the new piece of software and their attitude and strategy toward supporting that new piece of software.

4.    Where would you like your career to go? What skills do you need to develop to get there?

This is a question to find out if you can retain the person you are going to hire.

LinkedIn research found the top reason people switch jobs is because of career opportunity. In other words, if people don’t think they can be what they want to be within your organization, they’ll go somewhere else.

Hence, it’s good to find out what this person ultimately wants to become, and see if you can accommodate that. If so, than there’s a much better chance of you being able to keep that person.

If not, well – even if the candidate is great, probably best to move on.

5.    If we polled 10 people who worked with you, how many people wouldn’t like you? What would those people say about you?

Soft skills in IT are nearly as important as hard skills, and IT leaders said the most in-demand soft skill is collaboration. This question aims to get at the heart of that.

You’d be amazed at how honest people will be with their answers to this question. Some people will wear the amount of people who don’t like them like a badge of honor (hint: those are the people you don’t want to hire). Conversely, the people you want to hire will likely be far more humble in their answer, and give a thoughtful response to what they need to do better from a soft skill perspective.

6.    Don’t ask another question. Give them a task.

In an exhaustive study that analyzed 85 years of research, college professors Frank Schmidt and John Hunter found that the quality of a relevant work sample was the best indicator of how well a person will do at an advertised job.

So, give the candidate a real-life scenario of something they’d face. Perhaps that's a faux security threat or even solving a difficult computer issue that the candidate would face. According to Schmidt and Hunter’s research, the insight gained from those types of tests is worth more than the rest of the interview, combined.

*Image by HSGTalents, Wikipedia Commons