I've been tasked with interviewing several offshore consultants in sequence for proper job skills, and given a short amount of time to prepare. I've got 6 candidates to interview. I get a half hour per interview. The call is monitored by an onshore consultant who is coordinating the call, and an offshore consultant monitoring from their end.

I have no way to assure these candidates aren't sitting near each other by the phone, answering questions while on mute between my questions. No video.

I use a series of 12 basic technical skill questions that are obfuscated enough that they might not get targeted in an online search, and I have 2 follow-up tests (generalized as (1) is there a problem with this code sequence and (2) investigate this error trace for me) that I e-mail out directly to the interviewee.

I start interviews by asking technical questions about their prior experiences per the information listed on their resumes. Then I try to get them to answer any of my 12 questions by framing them through that prior experience. The 12 questions are in a sequence of increasing difficulty, which I only break based on application to prior experience. I finish with asking outright any of the 12 questions that haven't been answered, and follow-up with walking through the e-mailed questions, with phone-based (non-typed) answers.

I feel I cannot customize the e-mail-based questions on a per-candidate basis to my satisfaction, and I will, but prefer not to, add additional, brand new, qualifying questions. And yes, I do realize that I took some of the increasingly short time I have to put together new material to write (and edit) this question.

How can I best qualify these offshore consultants?

  • 1
    12 technical questions plus an intro is a LOT to cover in half an hour. Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 15:32
  • 1
    The resumes are short; these are close to entry-level people. Many of the tech questions are equivalent to "what does this keyword do" or "what utility would you apply to this" and have single word or single sentence answers.
    – JoshDM
    Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 15:36
  • 2
    Why do you only have 30 minutes/interview? You're the one doing the hiring. If you need more time, ask for it.
    – user8365
    Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 15:50
  • @JeffO - I'm the one asked to do some qualifying, not the one doing the hiring. These are the unchanging parameters I've been given; I'm trying to work it so that it's at most 3 clients over 2 days and 45 minutes (really all anyone would need for those questions), which would work better.
    – JoshDM
    Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 16:49
  • Who to hire is one of the most important things a company can do. Whoever put you in this position hasn't done anybody a favor. The interview would really be more on you, have some other people with you for both breadth and depth. In 30 minutes you're talking about 2-3 questions with really meaningful answers. Don't ask about jargon or buzzwords. They don't always translate 1 to 1. Ask one question to find out where the candidate feels they are strongest, their decision. Then ask a question that probes deeply into that field. 30 minutes? You've got your work cut out for you.
    – System 360
    Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 5:09

1 Answer 1


The trick to qualifying someone over the phone is to have a discussion rather than a QA. It's important to go on a tangent after each question, as this will reveal whether the candidate is truly knowledgeable.

YOU: (prepared question) What is a type of database language?

THEM: One kind is MySQL.

YOU: (moving into a trickier kind of question) What's another?

THEM: Another would be noSQL.

YOU: (this is the real question) Could you please contrast these two, with examples on where you would use each, and close with your favorite?

THEM: (if they are qualified, a sensible answer will follow. If they are not, or cheating, odds are there will be a long pause followed by an answer you don't really buy.)

The best way to hire them is by making sure the interviewer has all the skills you want to find in the interviewee. As they say, it takes one to know one.


  • Make sure the interviewer is very knowledgeable on the skill
  • Keep the pace of the interview fast, ask random questions
  • If you are concerned they are cheating, watch for long pauses
  • Ask for their opinion on what is better / worse often, as this is hard to look up
  • Yes, follow up questions are where you separate out the truly qualified folks. Anyone can sound good with minimal studying if you are basically giving them a fill in the blank sheet. When you make them write an essay, things get interesting.
    – shenles
    Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 20:02

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .