The process of hiring a remote software engineer to work on your projects can be difficult, especially if recruitment is not your primary area of expertise. However, it is important for any CTO to be the driving force behind the recruitment process. Otherwise, the person selected for the role may not have the required skills, attitude or knowledge.
Here we provide some examples of good interview questions to ask a software developer. These questions will focus mainly on remote work. We recommend asking them during a final interview with CTO. This is because they highlight important strengths in potential candidates and also help to weed out those who would not be suitable without wasting too much time.
Note: Of course, there will usually be a much more in-depth and specific section of the interview dedicated to technical questions. However, these general questions can be equally important, so it’s essential not to forget these basic CTO interview questions.
Make sure to create a list of CTO questions for your remote interview which will highlight important strengths in potential candidates for your remote or distributed team.
What tools for collaboration and remote work you have experience with?
An answer to this question will give you an idea of how the candidate communicates with the team, no matter if it is remote or co-located. A toolbox of an ideal candidate for remote work would include a video conferencing tool such as Zoom, a time tracking tool such as Time Doctor, a project management tool such as Trello, and sometimes a time zone management tool such as Time Doctor.
Even if your company uses tools that are other than the candidate’s tools, it’s not a problem – all you need is to make sure that the candidate has the relevant experience. If they can distinguish between the time tracking and project management tools – then it’s a good sign.
How do you manage conflicts when working remotely? Please describe a situation where you’ve successfully resolved a conflict.
This question will reveal how good is the candidate at communication with colleagues. While communication is important in co-located teams, it is critically important in remote teams. The reason is that in co-located environments people communicate naturally, e.g. have a small talk near a water cooler, while in a remote setting it should be done deliberately.
Therefore, it is good to know that the candidate does not hush up any conflicts – and it’s quite easy to do when you’re far away from each other – but knows how to efficiently get out of a conflict situation.
Do you use any special techniques or life hacks to stay focused when working remotely?
When working from home, it is very easy to get distracted, especially when you have a big family. In the office too, but in the office, you have a certain level of “live” supervision and thus cannot afford distractions that are too long. However, no one can see what you’re actually doing at home, and, as spying on remote workers is not allowed, some employees can abuse this “invisibility.”
Asking a question about the techniques that the candidate uses to stay focused will help you figure out how serious they are about their work. It will also show you whether they treat their home office as seriously as they would do with a “real” office.
What working hours are most comfortable for you?
People choose remote work mostly because of flexible working hours. However, different organizations can have different requirements. Moreover, as your team grows, you may be getting new team members that are located in different time zones.
Therefore, everyone should sync their working hours to get a certain overlap between the time zones to hold meetings, for example. Therefore, you have to find out if the candidate can adjust their schedule to fit the needs of your business.
How good are you at written communication?
According to Wade Foster, founder and CEO of Zapier,
“Most communication in a remote team happens via text—email, team chat, or one-on-one private messages. If someone struggles to write clearly and concisely, they’ll struggle in a remote team.”
Therefore, you have to make sure that your candidate can clearly communicate their thoughts and concerns via writing, because not everyone is available for a call 24/7. You can see that already at the pre-screening stage when you chat before the call.
Can you work independently and/or with minimum guidance?
Being able to work independently is crucial for any remote worker. Independent self-starters have a mindset that will fit the remote team setting. As the team members may be scattered across several time zones, the employee will have to wait until they wake up to get help, losing valuable time that they would have spent working.
It is easier to constantly guide and supervise a new employee in a co-located setting than in a distributed one because the entire team is in the same building most of the time. Therefore, being autonomous is a must for any remote team member. At this stage of the interview, you can also ask your candidate how would they solve a particular problem on their own, without having any access to their teammates.
Do you feel comfortable working with people whose faces you don’t see daily?
Remote work isn’t for everyone. So if the candidate mentions that they feel lonely and isolated while working remotely, they may not be the right fit for your remote team, no matter how good their tech skills are.
The reason is that the feeling of isolation may impact their productivity and eventually lead to a burnout, which is not good both for you and the candidate.
What experience do you have working remotely?
An obvious and vital starting point is to establish how much past experience the candidate has of managing themselves and working remotely with employers.
This is usually essential for the person to succeed in your role. The extent of the individual’s experience is an important thing for you to understand and keep in mind as the open interview questions are asked.
How do you manage your daily schedule?
Anyone who can effectively work remotely will need to be using systems to keep track of their time and the software development outsourcing services delivered. Ideally, a candidate answering this question would talk about several different methods and distinguish what they use each one for.
What is your work environment like?
This will provide an interesting insight into how the candidate goes about their work. You might ask them to describe their home office setup, or if they prefer to work with other people in a shared, co-working office or public space, how they manage the possibility of distractions.
How often do you have to prioritize your own tasks?
In almost all remote work, there will be frequent occasions where the engineer is expected to juggle multiple tasks and deal with different people who all need something done urgently. It’s up to them to take control over the situation and prioritize things effectively, so you need to know how they would go about this.
How do you manage your work-life balance?
Depending on people’s personalities, they can react very differently to long periods of remote working. It is inevitable that there will be some downsides, and sometimes working alone with only online communication with colleagues can cause a reduction in productivity.
You want to make sure that your candidate is capable of self-managing their personal life with their professional duties to maintain a healthy and stable balance.
What are the biggest advantages/disadvantages of remote work for you?
It’s important to understand the person’s perspective on working remotely, so asking them what they consider to be the greatest benefits and the biggest concerns is always good. You will be able to compare different interviewees’ answers to understand their outlooks better and to hire dedicated developers. If the employer and employee share concerns about the same potential problems, these will be easier to manage in the future through collaboration.