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Reference Check Questions for Software Engineer Positions

In the digital era, software engineers have never been as important or coveted. Companies have dozens and sometimes hundreds of third-party SaaS applications, internal systems, and proprietary technologies that help them run their businesses.  

If you’re managing data or rely on software for your day-to-day business needs, then you need trusted software engineers with a proven background managing your sensitive data, software, and digital ecosystem. 

Below we’ll look at how the right reference check questions can help you land a quality software engineer.

The Importance of Reference Check Questions for Software Engineers Positions

The only way to ensure you’re hiring the right candidate for your open position, or any position for that matter, is to have a vigilant hiring process. This means taking a holistic hiring approach and implementing cutting-edge solutions every step of the way, including sourcing, screening, candidate assessments, interviews, and, as we’ll discuss below, reference checks. 

For software engineers, this means emphasizing both technical hard skills and the necessary soft skills required to work alongside a team of engineers. 

Reference checks aren’t a one-stop solution to finding the best candidate, but they are an effective and essential tool to verify information on your candidate, identify any red flags, and implement a more objective measure of quality of hire and soft skills. 

Reference Check Questions for Software Engineers Positions

Would you hire _____ again? Why or why not?

This is one of the most important questions you could ask anyone for a reference check, regardless of what position. It’s a polarizing question that asks the former employer/manager to identify any red (or green) flags. It also allows them to expand on their reasoning, which can help you learn more general things about the candidate.

Can you describe ______’s technical skills and expertise as a software engineer? How did they apply those skills in their previous role?

Software engineering is a technical job, so you want to get an understanding of the candidate’s technical skill set. This is a great question that allows your reference to assess the technical aptitude of your candidate and provide examples of how those technical skills contributed to a project.

How would you describe _____’s ability to communicate complicated technical concepts to other team members, stakeholders, and managers? 

Especially if you’re hiring a lead or senior software engineer, you will likely need them to provide presentations and report on the progress of software-related projects. This is an opportunity for your reference to explain why the candidate is or is not an effective communicator, especially in high-stakes situations.

How is the _____’s leadership skills, and how well did they interact with other team members? 

Most software engineers have to work with a team of developers to meet deadlines and complete projects. This is a good question that helps you gain insight into how well your candidate does in group settings and, if you’re hiring a lead position, their leadership style. 

What did _____ do to stay updated with emerging technologies and innovations? How did they strive to improve their skills and knowledge within their specific field?

SaaS and software development are continuously evolving and growing. This is a great question that will assess whether or not a software developer is committed, driven, and aware that effective development requires continuous growth in the field. 

For this particular position, we need the candidate to excel at [insert the important quality/skillset you’re seeking]. How well do they fit that description? 

This is a great question to help you tailor the reference question to your specific needs. Some positions require your representative to travel often to meet clients in person, others might ask them to focus on cold calls and cold emailing. Whatever skill set you’re looking for, you can highlight it here.

Can you describe one challenging development project ____ worked on. How did they overcome the challenges? 

Problem solving and analytical skills are an essential skill set for software engineers. The best way to assess that skill set in a reference check is to assess how they use their problem solving skills to get through challenging projects. 

Should You Conduct Reference Checks at the Beginning or End of the Hiring Process for Software Engineers Positions?

We recommend conducting reference checks during the earlier stages of the hiring process. If you go through an entire hiring process and have very negative reference check experience, you will have wasted countless hours on sourcing, screening, and interviewing before having to let the candidate go.

Additionally reference check answers will be handy during the interview. If there are any inconsistencies between a reference’s account of a candidate’s work history and a self-reference report, you can bring it up directly in the interview. You can also expand on reference check answers to help improve your interview process. 

Automating the Reference Check Process for Software Engineers Positions

Traditionally, reference checks involved team leaders and HR managers contacting references one by one in a long, manual process that wasn’t great at identifying future success. Today, advanced hiring platforms, like Crosschq, can gather automated candidate reports within 48 hours and provide your team with a new source of qualified and active talent. 

Automated reference check technology, like Crosschq, allow you to:

  • Nefit from IO Psychologist vetted surveys
  • Streamline your efforts directly from your ATS
  • Aggregate data on candidate skills, strengths, and weaknesses
  • Compare reference check scores with self-reference scores
  • Reduce your overall hiring turnaround time by 85 percent

The Importance of Reference Checking Software Engineers Positions and Quality of Hire

Software engineers need drive, technical skills, problem solving abilities, communication skills, and much more to excel at their roles. Most development teams have tight deadlines to meet and projects to finish, so you want to make sure your candidate can hit the ground running as soon as possible.

Crosschq’s 360 digital reference check technology can help you measure candidate impact, soft skills, hard skills, strengths and weaknesses, and other key qualities that determine quality of hire. Want to learn more about how to measure quality of hire with reference checks? Download Crosschq’s Quality of Hire “Q” Report

Our “Q” Report looked at 24+ million pre-hire and post-hire decisions we’ve helped leaders make, along with the radical insights from those data points that can help you hire, retain, and develop talent. And if you want to learn more about how Crosschq can help leaders and hiring teams attract, retain, and measure the performance of top talent, sign up for a demo today. 


Mark Ko

by Mark Ko

Content Writer

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