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Key Technical Skills to Assess When Recruiting Software Engineers
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Jan 23, 2024

Key Technical Skills to Assess When Recruiting Software Engineers

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Locating and recruiting premier technology professionals presents a significant challenge in the current competitive landscape. As a recruiter seeking the best software engineers for your clients, you need to be able to effectively assess candidates' technical skills during the recruitment process.

But with so many programming languages, frameworks, and other technologies out there, how do you know which specific skills to evaluate in aspiring software engineers? What particular competencies indicate a strong developer who can adapt to different roles and responsibilities?

In this post, we’ll explore eight must-have technical competencies to test for when assessing software engineering candidates.

Core Programming Proficiency

Whether candidates will be working in application development, machine learning, game programming, or other software engineering fields, they need mastery of at least one core programming language like Java, Python, C++, or JavaScript. 

During interviews, use coding assessments to analyze how precisely and efficiently candidates can solve problems using code. Look for those who demonstrate strong fundamentals like variables, data structures, algorithms, and object-oriented programming. Solid programming skills signify engineers who can get up to speed quickly and tackle complex development projects.

Software Testing & Debugging Abilities

Quality assurance is crucial for releasing sound software applications and systems. Skilled engineers should be able to thoroughly test their code to identify bugs, then methodically debug issues until the program runs correctly.

Using real-world code samples during interviews, evaluate candidates’ testing approaches and processes. Can they explain various types of tests at the unit, integration, and user acceptance testing levels? What debugging strategies do they implement when tests fail? Top-notch testing and debugging practices prevent messy, expensive code fixes down the road.

Cloud Computing Know-How

Global public cloud spending has been projected to experience significant annual growth, potentially reaching figures in the vicinity of $500 billion in the near future.

Whether they specialize in SaaS development, DevOps, back-end programming, or other niches, software engineers should demonstrate cloud fluency. This includes grasping core concepts around public/private clouds and being able to code apps suited for cloud-native architecture using platforms like AWS or Microsoft Azure.

Database Management Skills

Virtually all modern software relies on databases to store, organize, and query essential data. Engineers who know how to properly structure, normalize, and manage databases using SQL or NoSQL technologies can ensure system optimization and seamless scalability. 

During interviews, pose hypothetical scenarios about building or migrating a complex database. Ask candidates to explain considerations around security, efficiency, redundancy planning, and more. For bonus points, they should be able to discuss the pros and cons of SQL versus popular NoSQL alternatives.

Familiarity with Scrum Methodology

Scrum, recognized as a popular agile framework, focuses on iterative delivery, continuous testing, collaborative cross-functional teamwork, and quick adaptation to changing requirements.

Engineers don’t necessarily need official scrum certifications. But they should understand core scrum concepts like user stories, sprints, daily standups, retrospectives, and burndown charts. Additionally, evaluate their willingness and ability to actively participate in agile scrum teams. This ensures they can keep up with rapid development cycles.

Proficiency Working on Teams

While great individual coding skills are a prerequisite, software engineering inevitably involves significant teamwork. Engineers must communicate clearly about technical concepts and collaborate across roles ranging from product managers to UX designers and fellow developers.

In interviews, it's beneficial to inquire about candidates' experiences working in engineering teams. Ideal candidates often exhibit emotional intelligence and a tendency to contribute positively to team dynamics.

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Security Mindset & Experience

Due to the frequent occurrence of cyber threats, it is essential for software engineers to prioritize security. This includes incorporating measures such as encryption, role-based access, and input validation in line with established best practices, like those suggested by the OWASP Top 10 and SDL.

Probe candidates’ familiarity with common web application vulnerabilities and attacks like SQL injections, cross-site scripting, and denial-of-service. Do they grasp CIA principles and concepts like authentication and authorization? Though not all engineers need specialized cybersecurity expertise, they must understand how to avoid basic security pitfalls.

Business & Product Sense

While mastering the programming nuts and bolts, engineers also need some business acumen and product thinking. This means envisioning how software systems will achieve desired business outcomes and delight end-users.

During interviews, describe a fictional product and ask candidates how they would approach building it to balance feasibility, customer experience, and company goals. Look for reasonable judgment integrating user perspectives with technical and business constraints. This sense fosters better ideation, priority alignment, and product execution.

Mastering these eight areas indicates software engineers who can not only excel technically but also deliver significant business value. Assessing them thoroughly ensures the talent you supply hit the ground running. But juggling full candidate screening and evaluation on top of your other recruiting duties is enormously taxing. 

That’s where software engineer recruiting platforms like Weekday Works come in. Our dedicated sourcers handle candidate outreach while our staff machine learning engineers assess technical competence.

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