In our previous post we discussed the best sources for finding Software Developers.

Today, I would like to discuss how to interview candidates in just 3 minutes. This definitely works when it comes to interviewing candidates in the IT industry, yet also may be applicable for other industries as well.

Interviewing candidates can be a HUGE time waster if you’re not asking the right questions or not asking them at the right time.

How many times have you had a conversation with a candidate for 20 minutes just to realize that they’re not a fit? I know I have A LOT in the past.

Now, let’s take those 20 minutes and multiply them by at least 5 interviews per day. That’s 1 hour and 40 minutes that you’re losing daily. I know you might say: “well, what if there’s an opportunity for this candidate in the future?” And you’re right, there might be, but A – you need someone now and B – it shouldn’t take you 20 minutes to understand if the person is a fit or not.

So what is preventing us from qualifying the candidate faster?

Asking the right questions before the interview

First of all, before you even attempt to talk to the candidate on the phone you should send a list of questions over the email to make sure that the candidate is a match to the requirements of your Client.

Below, I’ve included these questions as your first step. They may be expanded depending on the Client and position that you’re trying to fill.

Work Authorization Status

U.S. Citizen, Green Card Holder, H1B, EAD, F1 Visa, CPT/OPT, etc.


Contract or Permanent or Contract To Hire. Does the duration of the contract work for the candidate? If Contract to Hire, what’s the tenure period? Is the candidate fine with that?

Is it a part time job or a full time_ How many hours per week can they work if it’s a part time job? Are they open for overtime? How much of overtime can they do?


Is your Client looking for locals only? If not, is the candidate willing to relocate? Is the Client willing to cover the relocation expenses or is the candidate willing to relocate on their own? How much time will it take them to relocate once they’re made an offer?


What’s the salary/rate the candidate is willing to take if given an offer? Does that number fit into your Client’s range? Is the candidate seeking bonuses? Additional perks? Stock options? Flexible hours? Health Insurance for their whole family? Which of these can your Client provide? Can the candidate work 100% of the time onsite or they’re looking for partial telecommute options?

Has the candidate previously applied or been submitted to the Client/Position you’re trying to fill?

The importance of asking the right questions

I know what you might be thinking: “But they’ll just go an apply directly themselves!” In the upcoming posts I will show you a cool trick on how to reveal your Client’s name to the candidate, yet at the same time not worry about losing the candidate.

Again, these questions should be sent over the email PRIOR to your conversation with the candidate. Imagine you’re talking with a candidate for 20 minutes or more and they tell you: “Oh, it’s Amazon? Another recruiter has already submitted my profile.” What a frustration!!!

Or you get down the very last part of the conversation just to realize that they are Green Card Holders and the Client is looking for U.S. Citizens only. Bummer 🙂

These questions are simple, yet highly effective if they’re asked at the right time.

Now, let’s say you got these out of the way with your candidate, they are a match and you set up a time to speak. This is where the second step comes in.

What to ask in 3 minutes

What do you ask them? Do you talk about their experience? Their personality? How many years of experience they have with a particular skill?

Here’s where many recruiters fail over and over again. They ask questions that provide very little information about the candidate’s true knowledge of a particular skill or technology that they have. Typically, I hear recruiter asking questions similar to these: “How many years of experience do you have with Java? How would you rate yourself on this skill? When was the last time you applied it? Do you have Java certifications?”

How are these questions going to help you know if the candidate knows Java? You can’t take their word for it and just the fact that they have 10 years of experience with that technology doesn’t make them a good Java Developer! Also the fact that they work for a fancy company name or make more than $150k/y also doesn’t make them a strong developer or at least it doesn’t make them the right fit for YOUR CLIENT’S requirements.

I’ve seen Tech Leads fail basic development tasks. Whereas, they might not be that hands on anymore, your Client might be looking for a Tech Lead who IS hands on.

Technical Prescreen

So you absolutely MUST have a solid system for interview questions that will challenge them technically. Whether you’re speaking with a developer or an accountant. You MUST challenge them or else you have no idea of who you’re actually submitting to your Client and end up wasting everyone’s time (including yours).

So you asked them the necessary questions over the email (prior to the call) you got your technical interviewing system in place, now it’s time to let them know in advance that this is going to be a phone interview with a technical prescreen involved.

This way they will not give you an excuse of being unprepared or in a bad spot or not having a pen and a paper nearby.

Then, as you call them at the assigned time and date make sure to go straight to the technical prescreen. If they take the lead and start selling themselves on how good they are, you’re in trouble.

You absolutely must jump straight into the prescreen part. This way when you’ll ask several technical questions that they are not able to answer you’ll save around 80% of your time on unneeded chatter. Instead of talking 20 minutes about peripheral issues, you’ll spend 3 minutes on the essentials and understand whether you should invest more time or thank them for theirs.

Failed Technical Challenge

A word of caution here. If the candidate failed your screen for a particular position, that doesn’t mean they should be completely disqualified. This means you shouldn’t invest more time in them for this particular position, rather make the necessary notes in your Applicant Tracking System and get back to them when another more relevant position comes out.

How should you challenge your candidates during the interview? We’ll make sure to address that in our upcoming posts.

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