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I have been asked to be on an interview board in the next few days as a tech guy to try and get a feel for if the candidates are a good fit technically for our position. The only problem is, the interview questions are set (they cannot be changed or appended to) and none of the questions are technical questions.

It doesn't feel right to give a technical opinion on someone I have not been able to ask a technical question to. No matter who does this interview, the parameters will be the same. Because of that, I would rather not step down as the next person will have to do the same thing I am doing anyway.

Because this is my first time on an interview board, I was wondering if there is anything else I can look at to try and a sense of if they are competent?

This interview process is a bit different than what most people would consider normal, so I will explain the process a bit.

The candidates have already done several tests and interviews with other people throughout this process. All of their credentials (such as schooling) have all been validated up to this point. So that means, they have the necessary experience and schooling to get the job. We have to deliver an interview of set questions and following a marking rubric for each candidate to determine if they will make into a pool that can be hired from at a later date. Because this process is very strict, no questions can be changed. Most of the question revolve around explain to us how you solve a problem or how you interact with clients.

closed as too broad by Dukeling, Mister Positive, gnat, Snow, DarkCygnus Oct 19 '17 at 15:42

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • Are you allowed to ask follow-up questions? I know some larger companies have a strict set of questions they can start from, but once an interviewee responds you are allowed to ask "Can you tell us more about the widget you mentioned?" – David K Oct 19 '17 at 12:59
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    If you're allowed follow-up questions, this basically comes down to trying to bring whichever question back to a technical discussion. If you're not allowed follow-up questions, you can only judge their technical competence based on the answers they give (if the answers are in no way technical, then you're out of luck). We can't really provide an answer for how to do either, apart from listing examples, which would be too broad. – Dukeling Oct 19 '17 at 13:12
  • because this interview only gets them into a hiring pool, we are unable to ask additional question. Whoever picks the candidate from this pool would then be able to ask them some questions at that time. – SaggingRufus Oct 19 '17 at 13:12
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    If you have the option, decline the invitation and make it clear that the established process makes it impossible to do the job they're asking you to do. – Blrfl Oct 19 '17 at 14:55
  • I don't find it really that broad, but maybe you should reduce the scope of your question by giving more details about what kind of post you want to judge those technicals skills (junior,mid,senior, technical architect). – Walfrat Oct 20 '17 at 7:18
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What an asinine interview process! Assuming there aren't any questions on the set list of even a remotely technical nature then you're going to struggle.

You'll be able to comment on anything the candidate says, either in an answer to one of the set questions or freely volunteers I suppose but that's just pot luck as to whether they say anything useful.

If you are able to explain this to the other members of the interview board and they are sympathetic to your view on this then they could maybe help steer a candidate in the direction of giving technical answers - for example if there are questions on the list asking the candidate to give examples of stuff they have done "Describe a time you overcame a particularly challenging problem at work" or something like that then you could get whomever does the introductions of the board to say something like

This is Sagging Rufus who is our technical expert

and then have you ask the questions that could have technical answers - this should lead a candidate to the expectation of giving a technical answer.

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It doesn't feel right to give a technical opinion on someone I have not been able to ask a technical question to.

It isn't right. And it doesn't seem very smart.

Because this is my first time on an interview board, I was wondering if there is anything else I can look at to try and a sense of if they are competent?

You can only base your opinion on what you can see, hear, and read.

If you are only able to form your opinion based on what you heard in response to a pre-determined set of questions, you could judge them based on the technical thoroughness of their responses, the technical jargon they use (do they use it in the right context with the right meanings), etc.

If at the end of the interviews you haven't gotten enough information, then hopefully the rubric allows you to answer "Not Applicable" as much as necessary.

On the other hand, if you can read what this candidate has written outside of the interview process (blog, technical papers, Q&A forums, etc) you might be able to give a much better assessment.

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This is very dependant of the type of post and their requirment, but if you're searching for mid level developer or above, I would say that you can avoid a raw technical test. This is my point of view as someone that went through them and I really think the most relevant part of my interviews wasn't there.

Let's say one of your top requirements is that they master the framework X. IMHO, the best way to test them is to ask them a problem and have them answering how they would structure their code using the framework.

Another way, a bit more generic, ask them how they would handle a specific problem (ex : a problem about designing the database) but stay vague in the requirments. What I would expect from someone with enough experience is either :

  • They ask you more details (any specific requirments ? volume of data, ....).
  • In the answer they describe one way while precising that it might not fit depending on specifics requirment.
  • In the answer they describe multiples ways depending on specifics requirments.

This is what I do when I'm described a problem that is not specific enough.

Basically, they show that :

  • They're aware that there is no silver bullet can adapt to specific situation where generic pattern doesn't work.
  • They show that they understand the mechanics of the techologies you used, not just how to write working code, but how to think with them.

Of course, this way needs that your questions tailored to allow multiple good answers depending off the problem.

Finally, I'am not really not found of technical tests, but some basics checks like if they can understand recursivity, data structures, complexity, inter process communication are always worth.

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Chances are there probably is a question along the lines of "Describe to me a time when you ran into problems with a project and how did you resolve it?" To me, that would be a good question to gauge their technical abilities. The interviewee will probably go into some level of detail on the project and then perhaps describe a technical aspect of it that he ran into a problem with and explain how he resolved it.

But at the root of it, there's no way of gauging someone's technical skills without asking them or making them show you.

  • there are question like that, but I am worried that there are no questions about the technologies that we use or really anything to do with coding. – SaggingRufus Oct 19 '17 at 13:13

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