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I work for a small company that has a very small development team. Before I joined the company was just the one senior developer who has been at the company for almost 10 years and designed and built the website. The website is business critical and it is how we make 99% of our income. I am a junior developer fresh out of college and this is my first job. I have fit in well and enjoy the work. Today I found out that the senior developer will be leaving in two weeks which has put me in the drivers seat of essentially everything from developing our new site and making sure the old one continues to work, to controlling the AWS server, local server, exchange server and a bunch of other things that I am not sure how to handle all on my own.

The owner and I have of course started discussing how we are going to replace the senior developer and since I am the only one who knows anything about development I am going to be conducting the interviews and looking at candidates. I feel like I am not even remotely qualified for the position that I have been put in. How do I go about conducting a technical interview when I myself am still learning not just our system but what it means to be a developer? I am hoping that we can fill the position before the senior developers last day but I want to be prepared for the likelihood that it will not happen since the pay at this company is pretty far below the averages for our area and many senior software developers wont want to take this sort of pay.

marked as duplicate by enderland Sep 16 '14 at 1:54

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  • Do you have an HR department or do you work with a recruitment company (or something else)? – Telastyn Sep 16 '14 at 0:32
  • No HR department. All I know is how I was hired which was through craigslist. I knew the job was low paying for the work I do but took it cause I am still living at home and just wanted the experience. – Source41 Sep 16 '14 at 0:38
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    Duplicate? workplace.stackexchange.com/q/12901/325 – Monica Cellio Sep 16 '14 at 1:50
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    Hi Source41! Like Monica said, this is the same as the linked question - if there are details which make your situation different, go ahead and edit your question to make it clear how your situation is different. – enderland Sep 16 '14 at 1:55
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    Paul Graham would say you just can't. – ely Sep 16 '14 at 12:31

There are many management consultants around who are 'engineering managers for hire'. Amongst other roles, they can assist in hiring. Good ones are very clear about getting the job of putting themselves out of a job by hiring someone permanent.

You and the owner are probably qualified to evaluate such a consultant; you can ask hard questions and check references without fear of a techno-snow job.

  1. Why can't you start the interviews while the senior developer is still around, and presumably available to back you up? Why do you have to wait until he totally takes off before you start the interviews?

  2. If you are by yourself, then have yourself two rounds of interviews. In the first round of interviews: explain to the interviews what the firm wants done - the senior developer should have filled you in on that, right? And ask the candidates how they intend to get it done. Basically, the first round of interviews is for you to get educated by the candidates. Have you have some sort of a fix on what the most likely answers are, schedule a second round of interviews using questions derived from answers given by the strongest candidates in the first round, make your selection from there and hope for the best. You are quick to hire, but you'll have to be quicker to fire if they don't perform up to expectations.

  3. Decide what your criteria are for selecting from the candidates. I suggest that while technical expertise is important, the candidate's ability to communicate effectively with you is even more important. Because you also want the candidate to be able to train you and bring you to senior level. Preferably fast. A candidate who is technically super proficient but can't communicate worth a damn as to what he is up to is not as appropriate for you as a candidate who is somewhat less technically proficient but whose communication skills are good enough that he can train you.

  4. Have the senior developer write down a series of questions to ask and his answers to the questions before he takes off, if it's impossible to schedule any kind of interviews before he takes off.

  5. @gnasher729 comments that "As a senior developer, if I left the company on good terms I might very well be persuaded to help out doing some interviews. Or I might not, but asking the leaving developer could be the simplest solution."

  • I am hoping that we can get some interviews setup before the senior developer leaves but I just want to be prepared. Your suggestions are very helpful as to how to get setup with some questions for the interview. – Source41 Sep 16 '14 at 0:43
  • @Source41 Thanks for getting back to me - I added to my answer because you just gave me an idea :) – Vietnhi Phuvan Sep 16 '14 at 1:11
  • Items 2 and 3 are exactly the sorts of things that can't be done well without an experienced developer guiding them. – ely Sep 16 '14 at 12:33
  • @EMS On item 3, the OP is perfectly capable of deciding on their own whether the candidate can talk to them and make themselves understood. Item 2 is a "best effort" from the developer:one round to get a feel for what the solutions could be like and a second round to pick the brains of the strongest candidates and have them compared the solution alternatives. The OP is not necessarily looking for the "best"candidate but a candidate who combines technical ability, soundness of judgement and communicates most effectively with the OP. If the "best" candidate is accidentally passed over, so be it. – Vietnhi Phuvan Sep 16 '14 at 12:43
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    @EMS You keep arguing for the "best", even when the "best" is not available. Your argument is exactly why the "best"is the enemy of the "good". That's not a recipe for success, that's a recipe for martyrdom. I learned my trade by fighting in the trenches and dealing with reality and often enough, unpleasant reality, not by reading books with pie in the sky concepts written by management consultants and others. – Vietnhi Phuvan Sep 16 '14 at 15:44

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