For companies hiring software developers today, remote interviews are the new normal in technical interviewing. Companies across the world are moving from in-person onsites to remote interviewing to preserve the health and safety of their teams, and their candidates.
At HackerRank alone, we’ve seen a 200% increase in use of our remote interviewing tool, CodePair*. To that end, we’re sharing some of our best practices for CodePair* users undergoing this transition. In this post, we’ll share tips on how to best prepare both interviewers and candidates for a remote technical interview. Plus, we’ll walk through best practices for getting the most out of your CodePair* sessions.
Devote time to defining interview questions upfront
The goal of the onsite interview—or in this case, the remote interview—is to get an in-depth look into each candidate’s skillset. The more accurately you can evaluate their skill sets, the more likely you are to be able to ensure you’re choosing the candidate best suited to the role.
Leverage internal experts to define a question library
One way you can ensure thorough evaluations is through standardizing your questions. And that starts with forming an internal expert panel.
First, you’ll have to assemble a team of internal interview experts. When forming your expert panel, the goal isn’t necessarily to choose the most senior developers, or even the most tenured. The key is to look for developers at the organization with the most interviewing experience. They not only have in-depth knowledge of your engineering org; they also have an in-depth understanding of the company’s hiring process.
Ultimately, the goal is to work with the expert panel to create a library of interview questions that can be shared with the rest of the organization. By providing standardized questions across the org, you’ll not only make interviewers’ lives easier in the long run—you’ll also help to ensure you’re upholding a consistent bar of requirements when evaluating candidates.
Don’t forget about CodeScreen* questions
Assessments can also be a huge help when identifying interview questions. If you’re using an assessment tool like HackerRank CodeScreen*, the remote interview is a great time to build on that. Consider starting the interview by pulling the candidate’s CodeScreen* assessment into a live CodePair* session.
Try referencing their assessment to ask questions like:
- How did you arrive at this solution? What was your thought process when approaching the problem?
- Can you share some pros and cons of the solution you provided?
- If you had to improve upon the imperfect parts of your solution, what would you do differently?
By building off of the code they’ve already submitted, you can start to understand their problem solving skills off the bat. It’ll also give the candidate a chance to give context to the choices they made during the assessment.
Invest in prepping both interviewers and candidates for a remote interview
In a lot of ways, a remote technical interview might not seem like a huge shift from a traditional onsite interview. But there’s more to think about than you might expect, especially for those used to face-to-face interactions and whiteboarding sessions.
Prepare your (physical) environment
First thing’s first: like any remote interview, it’s key that both interviewers and candidates prep their physical environment for a remote interview.
Here’s a checklist you can share with your panel and candidates preparing to conduct a remote interview:
- Test your internet connection for stability 30min before the interview. Hardwired internet is ideal, but any stable internet connection will do.
- Make sure you’re in a comfortable, professional space. Dress like you would for an in-person interview.
- Be prepared to use video chat. Working together in the shared integrated developer environment (IDE) might be the crux of the interview, but it’s important to give the other person a chance to connect face to face.
- To enable video chat, ensure you’re using either Chrome or Firefox, and have enabled camera and audio access to your browser.
Spend time in CodePair* before starting a remote interview
In addition to preparing your physical environment, it’s equally important to familiarize yourself with the CodePair* platform. That means spending time learning how it works—and that looks slightly different for both candidates and interviewers.
- Check the languages and libraries offered. While HackerRank supports over 30 languages, available libraries are intentionally sparse to help interviewers better evaluate your raw technical skills. Make sure you know what tools you will (and won’t) have access to ahead of time.
- Get some practice in using HackerRank’s community challenges. The HackerRank Interview Preparation Kit not only is a great resource for brushing up on common interview topics—it’ll also give you a chance to try out the HackerRank platform hands on. The community experience is a mirror of the one you can expect in a CodePair* interview.
- Start by taking a look at the Introduction to CodePair* support page. It details the key features you’ll need to use while interviewing remotely with CodePair*, and a brief video tour of the platform.
- Spend time in the CodePair* interface. If you can, practice key tasks like loading questions into the IDE and reviewing the candidate timeline. You can get started with this how-to article, or spin up your own session to practice in.
- Prep your interview questions ahead of time. If your organization has defined a standardized content library, make sure you know which questions you’re expected to use during your interview. If you’re creating your own questions, you’ll need to set them up ahead of time in order to pull them into a CodePair* session.
- Take advantage of all question types. Remember: CodePair* supports both coding and diagram questions.
Conducting successful remote interviews
Especially when it comes to technical roles, remote interviews aren’t always easy—but they are doable. If you’re transitioning from an in-person interview process to a remote one, remember to be patient with your team (and yourself) as you adjust.
And if you have any questions as you’re using the platform, don’t hesitate to reach out to your customer success manager, or our support team at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re happy to support you in any way we can as you transition to remote interviews.
*Disclaimer: This blog post contains messaging around the "CodePair" and "CodeScreen" features which are now called "Interview" within the HackerRank product as of 10/06/20.
John Sim has been a Senior Solutions Engineer at HackerRank since 2014. As a part of the customer success team, John leverages his technical background to enable hundreds of customers to use the HackerRank platform to its fullest. He’s passionate about helping customers solve their biggest hiring headaches—and get back to the work they care about most.