Over the years I have been part of the hiring process of some 40 to 50 software developers, as with most engineers, the majority of my interviews were at first very technical in nature and one thing I slowly learned was how to probe for team and company fit.

Of course, with a quick google search you will easily find question lists on core values. Take the questions below taken from one of those lists for example:

“What would you do if you had to work with a person you didn’t get along with?”

Isn’t that make you cringe a little? The kind of question a candidate would have a pre-thought answer ready. The goal should be to understand the person better, for that you need a more in-depth discussion with the candidate. To that end, I wanted to share some starter questions that can help in creating a discussion around culture and values.

1. Tell me what you know about our company.

This is usually an excellent conversation starter; as a bonus, it also helps determine what the candidates know about the company. Great candidates will already be informed about the company because they actually want to work there.

It also provides a great way to complete to candidate knowledge, talk further about the open position and try to get some momentum going.

2. Talk to me about something you taught yourself in the last year.

There are many ways to answers this questions, most will think about some process, framework, or programming language they learned lately, but they could also go the opposite way and talk about how they learned to play a song on the piano.

We live in a knowledge economy; engineers always looking to learn more can come quite handy. Developers eager to pick new technologies can provide more value in the long term as they are more prepared for change.

This can also tell quite a bit about the curious nature of the candidate; this is something Eric Smith, CEO of Google, found to be a necessary quality of successful employee’s.

“The combination of persistence and curiosity is a very good predictor of employee success in a knowledge economy,”

3. Two years from now, if you’re part of our company, how will you judge if your time here has been a success?

This is a variation of the famous question, “What are your goals for the next 2 years” but framed specifically around their position in the company. It reframes the candidate thoughts which would normally be only around only his personal goals, to align them side by side with the company.

The goal is to dive into what kind of career the candidate is looking for, often this will revolve around mastering technical skills, but sometimes this also leads to talk about management, that can help you understand what would be the medium-term candidate path within the company.

4. Why have you decided to pursue software development [or insert computer science, etc], regardless of your school or occupation?

This may take the candidate somewhat aback; candidates need to dig through quite far away in their past.

It can lead to other interesting discussions, for example, you could ask which part of computer science the candidate liked the most in school, or if they ever thought about doing some personal projects.

Last Words

The intent with those questions is to have a meaningful discussion around the candidate values; this provides with a better understanding of the values this individual would embody, and which company values he would lack the most.

There are more resources about culture fit hiring if you look around, it’s a hot topic, and it has also been debated quite a lot, some say that culture based interviews can also lead to diversity issues on the long run. One last thing, stay away from tacky questions!