One Question You Should Always Ask Every Tech Candidate

We sat down with 5 Tech leaders and found out the one question they ask in every interview
Nov 13, 2019
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Mark Slocum
Partner - Technical & Executive Recruiting
Tech Guy

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Recruiting top talent can be difficult, especially when looking for professionals who are truly passionate about the work they do. Those candidates make the perfect addition to any organization and contribute greatly to a company's success. We asked several  clients what question(s) they ask candidates to gauge their passion. Check out their responses. 


"I like to ask candidates what they do to learn about new technologies: who they follow and what sources they read.  You can learn a lot about how they respond and that leads to follow on discussions which really allows their passion to come through, which makes for a high quality gauge that’s hard to fake.

Also, I always make sure to ask about their salary history . . ." [He's joking - obviously he's seen our flurry of content regarding the new Illinois Salary History Ban!]

Ryan Horner | Managing Director, Technology 

One North Interactive

** fun fact- Ryan was one of the first placements in Hirewell history.



"My favorite question to gauge a candidate's passion for technology is, 'What technology has recently come out that you'd like to learn or have recently learned.' If the candidate doesn't go into why on their own, I'll follow up with, 'What excites you about it?'


I enjoy learning more about what motivates people, and the unique tech people are learning. There isn't a wrong answer to this question unless a candidate can't answer it or tells me about new features in some out of date version of a framework from years ago."

Nick Petrovits | VP of Engineering 




#1, I ask about their personal projects, or to tell me about some interesting tech they have read about recently.   If they don’t have any, or can't think of any, then that is an indicator that maybe they don’t have this passion.

#2, Rank yourself between a number of areas (typically frontend, backend, db, UI, etc.)  you get 30 points. Mainly this helps me to quickly get to know where they see their zone of genius, and where I should expect to see holes - it saves me from asking questions where they aren't strong, or at the least, helps me understand why certain responses aren't strong.   This question builds empathy for the candidate through the rest of the interview.

Kevin Meinert | VP of Engineering 




"I always like to ask 'How did you first get into technology, and what's kept you going in the field over the years?' Some people always wanted to go into programming, some people fell into tech accidentally, some people volunteered for a task and discovered they had a talent for it. It gives them a chance to tell me the superhero origin story for their career. It reveals their motivation and what they find rewarding, whether it's skill development, meeting new challenges, or the sense of accomplishment in building something with a team, I get a glimpse into their personal growth as a professional."

Scott Sexton | Head of Engineering 




'What didn't you like about our online application process, and how could we make it better?'

Most people that are passionate about technology have strong opinions about technology that they find themselves using, whether it's their iPhone, their DVR, an ATM, a self-check-in kiosk at an airport, or... you guessed it... an online job application.  If a candidate says that there was nothing at all that they would have wanted to improve about our application process, that raises concerns for me. Instead, I love it when candidates pick apart the experience telling me what they observed, how it impacted their perception of the process, and what they think would have made it better.


A question I ask quite frequently is 'What market segments do you think are especially likely to adopt our solution?'.

In preparing for an interview, I find that candidates often have well thought out answers to questions that relate to their own background or experiences, but I like to take the conversation towards their opinions and insights about the company that we're looking to hire them for.  Whether the candidate is applying for an engineering position, a sales position, or a technical support position, I like it when they are able to show that they truly understand what we do -- by thinking out loud about what types of companies would most benefit from it.

Phil Leslie | CEO



We'd love to hear from you.  Do you have any tips you'd like to share or other questions?  I'd love to hear from you -

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Mark Slocum
Partner - Technical & Executive Recruiting

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