Choosing a good software outsourcing partner is a many-step process. Analyzing the pros and cons, estimating the cost, conducting the screening, and more. When it comes to the screening process, it matters what to ask and what to listen for. So, we’d like to help out by providing a detailed interview agenda on this blog.
Interview questions that can hit the nail on the head are what SME and start-up owners should focus on. In details, the process can consist of the following:
Tell me about your company, as well as the specific team I’ll be working with?
This question is a good way to get an overview of the company’s style, vision, and business philosophy. Look for years of experience, certifications, and industrial ranking. And then, ask the candidate about their team members’ skill set and characteristics.
Which industries do you specialize in?
So often, SME and start-up founders may worry about the accuracy of the offshore team’s business domain knowledge. How to test that out? The listener must grasp keywords that highlight the candidate’s insights about the industry and its operation.
Tell me about your experience completing projects like mine?
A proven track record of similar projects is assuring for clients seeking a new software outsourcing partner. Beyond the industry knowledge, the interview must look for the similarities between his/her project and past clients. So, ask about the business’s size and focus, the management style, and as importantly, the product features and tech stacks.
Can you provide references?
It is nice and all having information showing that the candidate is promising. Yet, SME and start-up owners should double-check the successful track record. So, make sure to ask the candidate to provide permission to interview the referrals.
What are your software design and development process and why? What is the software development method you plan to apply to my project and why?
A good development partner is one who uses a reliable process that not only supports quality control but also adds value to the project. SMEs and start-ups can first start with the following and ask for the candidate’s consultancy:
- Agile approach
- Research (UX/UI)
- QA testing
- Evident-based milestones
What technology stack do you propose to use for my project?
Whether it’s off-the-shelf or customized, the offshore team’s expertise shines when they can propose a suitable stack for the project. The interviewer should ask the respondent to include all the following with rationales in their answer:
- Programming languages
- Front-end frameworks
- Back-end technologies
- CI/CD, DevOps
- Cloud Provider
How will you handle the hosting, security, and maintenance?
How do you ensure the code quality as the source code is an important asset?
Good code does a lot: doing what it should, following a consistent style, easy to understand, testable, endurable, and well-documented. Bad code? Everything but the above. To ensure that the source code provided by the offshore team is high quality, SMEs and start-ups need to discuss with the candidate a set of metrics and later use them as standards:
- Defect metrics
- Complexity metrics
- Coding standards
How is the QA process handled at your company? What is your process to test and find bugs in an application?
Quality Assurance (QA) makes sure that the right processes are in place during development. And as a result, the software meets the market standards and fulfills its set goals. To inspect how the candidates will undertake this essential part, the interviewer should ask for:
- Type and level of testing they will apply: manual testing, automated testing, unit testing, integration testing, system testing, and user acceptance testing
- Methods and tools they will use to find defects and why
How many revisions can you provide?
Changing on the fly is only possible if the two parties agree on how big the room is for modification. During interviews, the interviewer should ask the offshore team the following:
- How flexible they are to changes
- How to apply change management to avoid conflicts later
What happens after my product has been delivered and in case of bugs or issues?
A successful launch is only the first part of a software’s life cycle. And SMEs and start-ups need to think about the post-launch process, too. Besides discussing maintenance, the interviewer should request an answer about ongoing support and improvement.
What has your experience been like as part of an agile software development process, if any?
“Embracing Agile” can be the motto of every software development company nowadays. But, actions speak louder than words so SMEs and start-ups should ask the candidate to share their genuine experiences. It can be successful applications, failures, and lessons learned.
How will you ensure that you understand my project’s requirements?
The gap between expectations and reality can be serious without mutual understanding. To avoid that, the offshore team must verify their comprehension of the business issues, timeline, budget, and market goals with the interviewer. Thus, these below measurements have to be clear between two parties during interviews:
- Proof of concepts
Any screening process cannot be complete without this step. A practical task or an MVP is an all-around way to test out the candidate’s capability. Upon receiving the result, the interviewer should score their satisfaction based on functionality, design, speed of delivery, and communication.
Describe your experience working with remote clients?
Remote working is part of every software outsourcing partnership. So, it doesn’t hurt to see whether the potential is a veteran in the field by examining how the candidate overcomes communication barriers. Besides, pay attention to their preference about remote working and seek similarities.
How do you manage conflicts when working remotely? Please describe a situation where you’ve successfully resolved a conflict.
Conflicts happen even in the virtual office so what matters is the offshore team’s ability to help resolve them. While discussing the example, the questioner should expect to hear the offshore team’s method(s) to identify the causes and solutions.
What involvement will be expected from me throughout the process?
It is the SME and start-up owners’ duty to take ownership of the software development. During interviews, the interviewer should discuss with the offshore candidate the following:
How are we going to communicate throughout the project? How and when will you communicate with me?
To achieve transparency in communication, SMEs and start-ups need to talk with the candidate about:
- Primary and secondary point-of-contact
- Communication triggers (what kind of issues)
- Tools (Slack, Jira, Skype, etc)
- Format (instant messages, notes, comments, video calls, or else)
- Timing (upon the happening, at a certain hour or else)
Pay attention to the candidate’s answer and make sure all the above are in the response.
What tools for collaboration and remote work do you propose for our project?
Among dozens of tools for communication these days, which one is right for what kind of project? While asking the candidate about similar projects, the interviewer should look for the candidate’s best practices of the tool.
Can you give some advice on the engagement model (fixed price, time & material, dedicated team)?
This is a question that can hit two birds with one stone. Not only can the questioner check the respondents’ consulting ability but also see if he/she indeed knows what they want (for the project). In the interview, he/she should listen for the pros and cons of each option and the respondents’ reasoning for their choice.
What happens after my product has been delivered?
Technical aspects aside, SME and start-up owners should give a lot of care for the legal outlook. They’d better ensure that the legal partnership ends or continues on good terms, and on both parties' favor. So, here’s what the interviewee should mention:
- Contract Termination
- Contract Amendment
- Contract Renewal
Besides, to avoid providers holding hostage, SMEs and start-ups should have terms and conditions allowing them full access and ownership of all following project artifacts:
- Source codes
- Documents about requirements and design
- Further assets hosted in third party tools like Jira or Trello
What options do I have regarding the billing process?
The payment method should tick off: convenient, profitable, and reflective of the project’s milestones. Thus, the client must pay close attention to the options and analyze their benefits and drawbacks with the candidate.
Outsourcing is a great way for SMEs and start-ups to optimize their software development. But, what’s more, important than finding a company that can get the job done is seeking the one that fits their unique needs and keeps their best interest in mind.
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- Richard Bellairs, What Is Code Quality? And How to Improve Code Quality, perforce.com, 2019.