I think independence and the ability to work on their own and figure things out on their own are also important. When confronted with a challenge, some people's first inclination is to schedule a meeting or find someone to explain it to them. In the technical space, people always need to leverage new approaches and those who can do that on their own are very valuable. In a startup, we need people who can wear a lot of hats and people who don't need a pre-defined corporate procedure for each thing they need to do.
They've got to be intelligent, obviously. But not necessarily super-skilled in the area we're working in, because if they have those other skills I described, they'll come up to speed.
We'll also have a prima-donna conversation before somebody starts. We're not going to have prima donnas, and I'll tell candidates that directly. I'll also ask questions to help me understand how well they work well in teams.
7. What are some of your favorite interview questions or techniques to elicit information to determine whether a candidate will be successful at your company? What sort of answers send up red flags for you and make you think a job candidate wouldn't be a good fit?
The main technique I use is to get people talking about the projects that they've worked on and ask them a lot of questions and then drill into one of their projects where I may have some technical expertise in that area, and then I ask them some questions and try to figure out if they're going to B.S. and pretend to know things they don't know. If I can't find a way to get someone to say "I don't know," that's a red flag for me.
As for questions, the first one I ask is what they think the differences are between working at a big company or a small company or a startup. Depending on if they've worked for a startup or not, I'm looking for different kinds of answers. I want to hear, "I get to wear a lot of hats and do a lot of things and influence a lot of things." A bad answer would be "I get to bring my dog to work" or "I don't know the difference."
I also ask people how they organize their workday, if they have a system to stay organized or if they're just winging it. I don't really care what the system is (as long as it makes sense), I just want to know that they've got one.
I ask them how they got into software development in the first place. Passion for this work is important and how they got into this career can help me gauge that.
The last question I ask is how they like to handle disagreements about technical points of view. I might ask them if they've ever had a heated discussion around a technical issue. This will help me to understand if they're a prima donna.
8. What is it about your current job, at this particular company, that sets it apart from other chief technology positions?