Chapter 46. Interviewing Engineers: Going Beyond Technical Skills

Alicia Liu

As an engineering manager, one of your key responsibilities is deciding who to hire into your organization. Engineering interviews tend to focus heavily on technical assessment, but for you to build an effective team, soft skills are equally important to evaluate. So-called soft skills are not soft at all; they’re fundamental to teamwork. It doesn’t matter how well an engineer can code if their code is unusable because they’ve neglected to communicate with coworkers. At worst, their behavior causes others to avoid working with them or even to leave your team. Every new team member changes the team dynamics, and you want to ensure that change is for the better.

First, decide what key attributes you’re looking for in candidates. Communication skills are critical to assess, of course, but so are other skills key to collaboration and teamwork: being able to take and give feedback, to adapt, to effectively disagree, to self-reflect and admit mistakes. You might also want engineers who are great at mentoring, leading projects, or negotiating with external stakeholders. Discuss and articulate the nontechnical skills and attributes that are important to your team, that reflect your team’s values, and that would strengthen your team.

After your team has agreed on what you’re looking for, form a shared understanding ...

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