Tips for Interviewing Engineer Candidates With a More Technical Background Than You

As a hiring manager or member of an HR team, it can be stressful when you must interview engineering candidates. If you don’t have a highly technical background, it can be challenging to know what to look for or even to parse out what a candidate is saying. If you are responsible for interviewing engineering candidates, but you aren’t an engineer yourself, use these tips to evaluate candidates.  

Determine The Skills You Are Looking for in Advance  

Sit down with the direct supervisor of the role and key members of the team. Put together a list of skills you are looking for in your ideal candidate. Not just skills related to specific tasks or experience, but holistic skills that determine whether someone can do the job well like solving complex problems, innovating, managing people, etc.  

Develop a Standardized List of Questions  

Every interview will have its own flow and conversations will take different turns, but it’s important to have a list of standard questions that every candidate must answer. This will help you evaluate potential engineers objectively and it will also ensure you’re asking the right questions. Don’t simply Google, “questions to ask in an engineering interview.” Instead, work with the role’s supervisor to determine the most important questions to ask and the types of answers an ideal candidate would provide.   

Lay Your Cards on the Table  

You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you have no idea what the candidate is talking about. If you’re speaking two different languages, you can’t properly evaluate their fitness for the role. Tell the candidate upfront that you lack their expertise and ask them to explain things as if they are talking to someone who has no technical background – which is true. This will also test their ability to communicate well with other non-technical members of the team and can provide a glimpse into their soft skills like empathy and patience.  

Avoid Asking Leading Questions 

Try to avoid asking candidates whether they have used your specific software programs or if they subscribe to your organization’s preferred methodologies. Leading questions tell candidates what you are looking for and can tempt them to fudge the truth. Turn yes or no questions into open-ended questions by asking candidates to list technologies they are familiar with and describe their approach to projects and problems.  

Are You Looking For Top Engineering Talent?  

If you are looking for talented engineers who can help your organization achieve its goals, contact the experts at PEAK Technical Staffing today. We are a national leader among engineering recruiting firms, and we can remove the burden from non-technical members of your hiring team by handling the sourcing, matching, screening and initial candidate evaluations. We look forward to helping you find the right fit for your engineering team.  


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