Everyone wants to make a good impression, which can make it difficult to find out if a co-worker is an ideal fit for your team. Ask these questions to find out what you really need to know.
There are no lone rangers in IT anymore – teams have long been the preferred mode of delivering software. Even if you’ve got a bench full of superstars (and who doesn’t want to be a superstar?), if you’re a team lead then you’ve got to find a way to channel all that energy in the same direction. Which is far from simple, but there are practical steps you can take to facilitate the process.
It’s a crucial decision task: with more and more companies assigning specially designed teams to empower essential clients to reach their long- term goals, the process of actually assembling a team has all the more riding on it.
Many people, however, seem to think this process is a one-way street: team leads and department heads pick programmers that seem like a good fit. But the opposite is, in fact true – if you want to make sure your team is committed to a specific client for the long haul, you need to make sure that it’s just as good a fit for them as it is for you. Everyone involved has to be bought into the vision.
But don’t expect HR to do this for you. Experienced software engineers are often expected to keep an eye out for co-workers who would make a great addition to their team (and who will feel at home there). This can be a hard task when you’ve already got a lot on your plate: if you just saunter up to colleagues for an informal interview, they may get anxious and try to make an impression that won’t give you the best idea of whether they’d be the ideal fit. You have to create an atmosphere where everyone feels comfortable enough to assess each other properly.
There are plenty of ways to do this right. So here at UpTeam, we’ve put together a list of casual questions to ask your colleagues that will help you figure out if you are a solid fit for one another. Remember to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and try to communicate the value of your team in a way that makes them excited to work with you closer.
So if you want to assemble a happy, qualified and (most importantly) eager dream team, here are some questions you can ask your colleagues:
1. What’s the latest tool, framework or piece of tech that you or your team has put to use on a recent project?
This question is easy enough to ask your co-workers – you’re just talking shop, after all. What you should be listening for, though, is how innovative or proactive your colleague is (and how innovative they’ll expect you to be). Are they looking to optimize their systems and bring in the best new tools, or are they content using well-worn options until they’re prompted to really think hard to find an alternative?
2. How do you make choices on the fly when you have different tasks and projects that need to be prioritized?
The software engineer’s life cycle is broken up into “seasons”: the storm, the calm-between-the-storms and then (you guessed it) another storm. The project cycle of successful companies means that there will never be too long a period without important deadlines or two dozen important decisions that need to be made now. Swapping horror stories (or heroic victories) with co-workers will give you a sense of how they operate under pressure, how they make decisions at critical moments and, importantly, how they react to some potential conflict under intense circumstances. Share your own experiences to give them a sense of what your experience has taught you as well as what you may expect of prospective team members.
3. Are there any programming mistakes that are really unforgivable?
Get ready for more horror stories when you ask this one, but don’t forget to listen closely. As you listen to your co-workers’ stories, you’ll be getting a sense of what their standards are – both for themselves and for other members on their team. But don’t assume that “high standards” translate to “perfect team member.” A scrupulous programmer who tries to correct everybody’s perceived mistakes can be not only a major downer but a major drag on valuable resources like time, attention and patience. Mistakes happen, so try to gauge your colleague’s relationship to error – as well as how likely they are to bounce back after a misstep to make things right again.
4. Have you ever had to work in a multi-disciplinary team?
It’s interesting to know a co-worker’s history with different teams, both tech-savvy and otherwise. Do they have patience when they have to explain technical work or tasks in everyday language? Are they able to bring newbies up to speed? Do they have a sense of entitlement that makes them avoid having to work with people who know less about programming than they do? Listening to their response is going to give you a better idea of how much they’re a team player than asking about that directly. By asking this question, you’ll also be communicating to your co-worker your own dedication to thinking outside the box.
5. What do you think it would be like, being part of our team?
Here’s where you might really start blowing your cover – asking co-workers about specific team roles is going to drop major hints that you’re on the hunt for talent. Which is fine. If they ask what your deal is, tell them. But don’t let them avoid the question: having them share about what they think a role like this would look like will give you a good idea how knowledgeable they are regarding the tasks you’re hiring for. If they only have a vague idea of what the position would bring with it, that’s okay too – this gives you an idea of the resources you’d have to invest in the training process. If you’ve got the right person, training them up will be far from the hardest task on your plate. Throughout the conversation, indicate that you welcome similar questions from their end. They’re here to learn about you just as much as you are about them.
Don’t forget – if you’re asking them questions, they’ll probably have questions for you. Be honest, clear and forthcoming with your answers. Building rapport and trust is one of the best things you can do when looking to assemble a team that’s ready to work together on a project for the long haul.