Recruiting Software Developers? Don't ask What projects are you working on at home?

Bad advice often given to ask during an interview

In several articles aimed at recruiters looking for Software Developers, we have seen the following advice:

Ask the Developer "What projects are you working on at home?" It may have been a valid question 20 to 30 years ago, but ask it today and you run the risk of looking out of date.

It's the type of question that to comes from an age when computer programming was mainly a hobby and enthusiast activity.

Times have changed.

This question smacks of "Oh, they are a Software Developer, they must spend all their time coding when they are at home in the evenings and weekends". It also suggests an attitude that Software Developers are not Professionals.

If you were interviewing a Doctor, would you ask, "What patients do you see at home?"

If you were interviewing an Electrician, would you ask, "What sort of wiring do you do in the evenings at home?"

Would you ask an Accountant what they are currently working on at home?

No, then don't ask Software Developers what they are working on at home.

If a Developer is working on a project at home, then the techniques they are using are unlikely to be the same as required in a modern software development team such as Agile, iterations, dealing with business analysts, testers and business users, pair programming and code reviews and various soft skills.

As a Software Developer myself, if someone asked me what projects I was working on at home then I would seriously consider if that is the type of company culture that I want to work in.

Instead of asking 'what they are working on at home', here are some alternatives.

How do you keep up to date with the latest technology trends?

What new software development methodologies do you think would improve our continuous integration process?

Can you give us an overview of the most recent skill that you have learnt and how that fits in with your career plans?

If you use a recruitment service like UK Software Jobs, you can ask those questions as part of your vacancy advert. Here's an example.

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