The Last Question I Ask in an Interview

When I interview developers I ask a lot of questions.  They tell me about the developer’s background, their aptitude and their ability to fit culturally within the team.  There’s one question I always save for last because it tells me more holistically what that developer is all about.

What’s the question?

“How do you know when your code is ready for production?”

Simple right?

You would think this would be an easy, gimme putt kind of answer and on the surface it is.  However, I’m looking a bit deeper into what the candidate’s answer says about them.  Specifically I want to see three things represented: capability, a proactive approach, and a cultural fit.


Developers that answer, “When QA says so.” or “I don’t know.” are missing key experience when it comes to software development.  They’ve likely either had someone else taking care of these details for them or have worked in a shop that is full of Cowboy practices.  I’m looking for an answer that includes understanding of Unit Testing, Integration Testing, Demonstrations to Product Owners and that the code meets agreed upon acceptance criteria.  Answers like that show a maturity in the candidate and an experience that will lift the throughput of my team.

A Proactive Approach

Developers that don’t mention Unit Testing in their answer give me pause.  They are either doing it but don’t think it’s important or they don’t implement it in their approach to development.  Unit Testing to me is the foundation of quality and efficient development practices.  These tests insure that regression errors are kept out of new code and builds trust with the QA organization that they don’t have to completely regression test a product with every change.

Unit Testing leads to cleaner code and a more efficient organization.  If I don’t hear this concept mentioned in the candidate’s answer and a demonstration of how they’ve implemented it I am going to wonder what kind of code I will be getting from them.

A Cultural Fit

The way the candidate answers this question tells me a lot about how well they will fit into the culture of the team.  If the team tends to be reserved and a candidate’s answer indicates they have a domineering personality I’ll know that when they join the team they’re are going to have significant sway over the team’s decisions.  If the reverse is true, the candidate is reserved and the team is full of hard pressing personalities I know it is going to be hard for the candidate to make themselves heard.

As a manager I’m not always looking for the same answer to this question.  I’m looking for the answer that indicates the candidate is going to be the right fit for the team.  In some cases this will be a junior candidate with the potential to develop in others it will be a candidate with a strong leadership persona.  Each situation is different and requires me to truly understand the capabilities and personality of the candidate in front of me.

Question: Tell me about yourself. 😉


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