Pay Close Attention to These Warning Signs when Interviewing Software Engineers

October 27th, 2021

Evgenia Kuzmenko KITRUM Brand ManagerEvgenia Kuzmenko

With over 26.9 million professional developers worldwide, hiring a software engineer in this decade may seem easy, but it isn’t until you start hiring. That’s why firms usually find out about unfit candidates after onboarding. 

Unfortunately, recruiters, CEOs, and CTOs often overlook the fact that technical skills are only one aspect of job requirements. According to the State of Software Development Report, more than half of companies recruit tech workers who don’t meet their core job requirements. 

Other non-technical qualities make a complete professional, not just the engineer’s technology stack or knowledge-base of the engineer. The truth is if you are not careful or you focus too much on the paper (CV.) during the interview stage, you would miss out on other important red flags and character flaws a candidate possesses.

We decided to talk to professionals and other successful employers, and we have compiled a list of red flags or warning signals you should watch out for during the interview.

Top red flags that warn you not to hire a software engineer

Any mistakes or negligence at the interview phase of hiring would pile massive losses for the company- it would cost you time, money, and some productivity. 

One of the most commonly quoted sources, the United States Department of Labor, estimates the cost of a failed hire at 30% of annual income. A human resources consultancy estimated the cost to be around $14,000, whereas one recruitment organization estimated a total expenditure of $240,000, including recruitment, salary, and retention costs.

So, to save you from any such trouble, here are common red flags you should take note of while interviewing to hire a software developer. 

If they are less enthusiastic about the product or the team

How enthusiastic is the candidate about the position and the team? You want a programmer who is genuinely concerned about the workplace, colleagues, and current initiatives. You’re looking for someone knowledgeable and enthusiastic.

If the candidate is not forthcoming with questions, he most likely is there for the paycheck; such a person can be detrimental to the workflow and team collaboration already in place.

If they are less concerned about the process

Beyond knowing about projects and teams, a smart candidate should be concerned about the work process and systems available to carry out his duty if employed. Usually, each candidate’s questions would be unique to their background and role. The most qualified prospect would ask precise questions; because they want to work in conducive environments and on exciting projects.

No proactive position

The demand for software development is such that a developer must be proactive to be efficient and productive. A proactive person is normally self-motivated, a problem solver, and always looks out for solutions and new opportunities before complaining. There is no subjective way to determine if a candidate is proactive; however, you can ask certain questions that depict a problem or pay attention to how they approach the question.

A glimpse of distractions and not 100% focused on the interview

The interview process of every recruitment process is as important as getting the job, and a candidate’s disposition says a lot about their work ethic. A good prospect should be focused and attentive to every detail, question, and information during the interview. A lack of focus is turned off

No plans for discovering new tech/frameworks/ approaches in the future

According to Michael Henderson, CTO of Talent Inc, there are 2 major drawbacks of staying in one place too long — the risk of limiting your exposure to new approaches and a downsized network. 

Professional laziness and stagnation are a big turn-off and should not be condoned by any employer or company. When you realize a candidate is lazy about advancing their knowledge or growing their skills, they should immediately be disqualified.

Haven’t done any research on the potential project/service/platform

Basic grammatical errors, inaccurate dates, and other careless oversights do not reflect a serious professional. Furthermore, the candidate must have researched the firm and its products and checked the Online profiles of those they would likely encounter. The ability to conduct research and prepare is necessary.

Long working years with no career advancement

Technology and software development is a fast-evolving industry requiring professionals and stakeholders to update their knowledge and develop themselves constantly. So when you find a software engineer with long working years but no significant growth, you’d be sure he is the wrong person for you because he is outdated. When you find a candidate with long working hours or years logged in, you should expect some growth, refresher courses, certifications, etc.

Super long introduction with a lot of buzzwords

Sometimes, too many words in a CV or introduction, especially when filled with buzzwords and inconsequential statements, is unnecessary and could mean a lack of requisite skills. Because they are trying so hard to convince you to hire them despite not having the basic requirements, they go on a voyage of discovery saying too much and too meaningless.

An over-bloated or exaggerated resume with technologies they don’t know

Candidates are fond of exaggerating their skills and adding technology they are not familiar with to their resumes.

Typically, software engineers work with or have extensive familiarity with two or three major programming languages. The idea of claiming to be an expert in multiple coding languages passes off a lack of proficiency in any of them. A decent engineering CV should only include the technologies that a candidate excels at and address in-depth questions.

Asides from having them do demo jobs or testing their claims, you can also look through their social media handles, especially LinkedIn; it always reveals or gives a clue to the truth.

A “know-it-all” 

A candidate that creates the impression of being a “know-it-all” is one thing that can rapidly derail an interview. This is a huge red flag, especially if someone creates the impression of knowing how to find answers to concerns or difficulties that they have never experienced before. Your purpose as an employer is to identify a candidate’s abilities, not to unearth a superpower who knows everything. 

Inability to maintain composure when faced with stress or problem

A software engineer must be composed and creative when faced with a problem or a question they don’t know the answer to. Their line of duty entails a lot of problem-solving and encountering unknown challenges. How they answer unfamiliar questions during the interview says a lot about their creativity and composure.

They were unable to articulate the projects on which they are presently working or have previously worked 

Some programmers have an in-depth understanding of the subject. They can write the code. They are capable of carrying out their plans. However, they are unable to discuss their problem-solving ideas with anybody else.

Regardless, you need a developer who can interpret abstract concepts into understandable English, such as algorithm functionality.

Communication Is key in any work setting, especially as a programmer who must collaborate with other experts to deliver a job.

Lack of relevant expertise for the position

Because a programmer responds to your recruitment advertisement does not guarantee that he possesses the competence you want. It would be best to ask specific questions that emphasize his experience as it is relevant to the opening.

Lack of confidence

Why would you trust and believe in someone who doubts his ability? You may encourage such a person and maybe recommend therapy sessions or other solutions that can help build their confidence. But for the sake of work efficiency, it would not be wise to employ such a person.

Who Is the Ideal Engineer? 

It takes more than a glance through a pile of applications or a glamorous cv. to find the right software engineer. Software developers have a high demand and also have demanding tasks. So, to find the ideal software engineer, you’ll need to go through a comprehensive recruiting process that aims to find someone with the right skill set and ideal personality for a productive working relationship.

Looking for Elon Musk in the development world? For proactive, confident and experienced engineer?