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4 Technical Recruiter Resources for Great Candidate Knockout Questions

Many IT hiring managers, as we’ve detailed, complain about technical recruiters’ lack of technical knowledge. One reason for this complaint: in many cases, too many clearly unqualified candidates advance to the technical interviewing stage, which can result in:

  • Wasted time for technical interviewers
  • Longer time to hire
  • Lower quality of hire

As a technical recruiter, you can improve your reputation and relationships with hiring managers by consistently screening out clearly unqualified candidates during pre-screening. One method is asking effective candidate knockout questions.  This is possible even without strong technical knowledge. You just need to ensure:

  • The questions cover skills that are highly relevant and meaningful to the job.
  • You have the ability to evaluate candidates’ responses (as a result, questions with right or wrong answers are ideal, while questions requiring candidates to write code are ill advised if you lack coding skills)

In this post, we offer four recruiter resources that should help you with this effort.

  1. Hiring Managers

In a perfect world, hiring managers will provide you with the knockout questions and answers for particular positions during effective intake sessions. Encourage them to do so. Since they are the ideal people to create questions that weed out weak candidates before the technical interviewing stage.
Unfortunately, you’re not always dealing with a perfect world, and hiring managers may be unwilling or unable to provide you with knockout questions (for example, they might not have the time). In this situation, you’ll need to identify questions yourself. However, it’s important to provide your questions to hiring managers to ensure that they approve them. If they don’t, it might prompt them to identify questions they believe are better—which is, of course, ideal, and also educational for you.

  1. CareerCup and 3. the balance

Be realistic about your ability—or lack thereof—to have complex technical discussions and evaluate candidates based on them. If you aren’t a former tech professional, chances are this is outside your skill set. As a result, if you find yourself needing to identify questions, we don’t recommend trying to come up with questions in your head. Instead, take advantage of outside resources. Tech professionals often discuss technical interviewing questions online, and you can beg, borrow, steal, or modify those that are appropriate (i.e., whose answers you could evaluate) to use as knock out questions.
Two great places to find great technical interview questions that you can use are CareerCup and the balance.

CareerCup, founded by leading technical interviewing expert Gayle Laakman McDowell, helps IT workers prepare for technical interviews. It includes questions sorted by company, technical topic and job title. Examples of questions we found include:
For a Quality Assurance Engineer:

  • A bug was found in production, but not in QA. What are two possible reasons it wasn’t caught in QA?

For an Android Engineer:

  • Tell me about one Android API that you had difficulty using in a project. How did you resolve that issue?

For a System Administrator:

  • What is firmware? What is a device driver? How are they related and how are they different?

The balance, meanwhile, is a financial advice site but has run several articles on technical interviewing questions. Examples of questions we found there include:

  • Define authentication and authorization and the tools that are used to support them in enterprise deployments.
  • What is ETL, and when should it be used?
  • Describe the advantages and disadvantages of dynamic memory allocation vs. static memory allocation.
  • What is a VLAN?
  1. Google

Google can be your ally in finding questions that are relevant and meaningful, because targeted searches enable you to find questions that are appropriate for particular roles. For example, what if you were trying to find a security analyst? When we Googled “technical interview questions for security analysts,” we found an InfoSec Institute piece by Kurt Ellzey titled “Top 50 Information Security Interview Questions [Updated for 2017].” Many of the questions have right or wrong answers, which is awesome. And we know they’re relevant to security analysts. Awesome again!

Of course, be smart with Google. Vet the reputability and quality of the source. And, of course, run any questions by the hiring manager to ensure that they are appropriate.

Setting Expectations with Candidates
While the primary purpose of this post is to offer resources for knock out questions, we’d be remiss if we wrapped up this post without mentioning the importance of setting expectations with candidates when you ask them your knock out questions.

The reason you need to set expectations is because top candidates enjoy demonstrating their skills and experience, and want to be asked challenging questions. Giving them a quality candidate experience is one reason we recommend technical interviewers ask tough questions.

  • Acknowledge that you’re not a technical expert
  • Let candidates know that they might find your questions simplistic or rudimentary.
  • Explain that this is not a technical interview, but rather a preliminary round the hiring manager has asked you to conduct to help ensure only qualified candidates receive technical interviews.

By pairing effective knockout questions with this communication, you’ll be able to weed out weak candidates while keeping stronger candidates interested in the job.
photo credit: Club Paf Paf Boxing Gala 10.9.2016 via photopin (license)