Bots for Business

Hiring a Bot Developer? These Top Interview Questions Can Help!

Want to make sure your bot developer really knows their stuff? We’ve put together a list of interview questions to help you hire the right bot developer.

December 18, 2018

By 2024, the bot market is expected to exceed more than $994 million. Businesses all over the world are using chatbots to improve their customer service, automate tasks, reduce costs, and increase their profits. Now is the perfect time to get started with chatbots. You know what kind of bot you want for your business, and you’re ready to hire a bot developer.

As with any new hire, you want this developer to really know their stuff. But how do you make sure you’re hiring the right candidate? We’ve compiled a list of job interview questions to help you hire your next bot developer with confidence.

Technical bot developer interview questions

Technical interview questions give you a deeper understanding of a prospective bot developer’s skills, experiences, processes, systems, and tools. Their answers to your technical questions let you know whether they can execute your vision.

What’s your experience with natural language processing (NLP)?

Natural language processing (NLP) allows computers to understand what the user is trying to say, and it makes your chatbot seem more human. If you want your bot to be conversational, the developer needs to be familiar with NLP.

Which programming languages have you worked with?

Bot developers work with an array of languages and technologies, so being multilingual is an essential skill. They don’t need to know every language, but they should be familiar with a few of them, like Python, Node.js, PHP, Ruby, Clojure, jQuery, Java, Angular, NoSQL (Amazon DynamoDB), SQL (Amazon Aurora), and JavaScript, along with Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) for machine learning.

How would you create sequences that make sense to users?

The ability to branch and link sequences in a logical flow is critical to connecting various streams of conversation. And knowing how to use them will go a long way to retaining conversational consistency while developing a bot.

Venture capital investor and tech blogger Chris Corbishley explains the need for logic and connected sequences for your chatbot. “It is really important to sketch out the logic underlying your chatbot. To get there, try analyzing previous interactions with customers, or sketch out hypothetical scenarios to predict what questions might come up and when.”

He continues, “Once you have analyzed different strands of the conversation, put them into ‘buckets’ or modules, which will eventually form the flow of your conversation. AI (or natural language processing) comes into the equation when you want to match specific inputs or combinations of inputs (words and questions) with a suitable response.”

How would you use AIML to simplify the way a bot models conversations?

Artificial Intelligence Markup Language (AIML) is a flexible and universal language that bot developers use to write patterns and response templates. It empowers developers to match words and phrase patterns to keywords, with high accuracy, so bots can more intuitively converse with users.

Can you describe your experience with Markov Chains?

A Markov Chain is a mathematical model that is commonly used to build Twitter bots. A bot developer who knows how to manipulate Markov Chains can build correct and coherent responses for bots.

What’s your experience with message bot development and/or voice bot development?

This question lets you know what the bot developer can or can’t do. A look at the bots that they’ve developed in the past can give you a good sense of their abilities and whether they can create the kind of bot you want.

User empathy interview questions

Usability.gov defines user experience as “having a deep understanding of users, what they need, what they value, their abilities, and also their limitations.”

Chatbots should be built with the goal of creating an excellent experience for the user. The more people want to use your chatbot, the more successful it will be. And people don’t stick with technology that is difficult to use. Creating a great user experience begins with empathy.

Give an example of a time when you put the user first and improved their experience.

A bot developer who wants to acquire and retain users must know how to think through and plan for user workflows, messages, and touchpoints. They should be able to tell you how they approached building a bot with the user in mind, giving specific examples of how they made the bot more accessible, easy to use, pleasant to interact with, and trustworthy.

Do you have a background in psychology?

In a ThinkGrowth article, Dharmesh Shah, Founder and CTO of HubSpot, writes that “building a great chatbot is equal parts about technology, psychology, and copywriting-ology.” A bot developer who is equipped with an understanding of human behavior and the human mind has valuable insight into how to create a better experience for your users. When they use research as the guiding light for the direction of the project, the end result should be more in tune with what your users want and need.

Do you have experience creating a dialogue for a specific persona?

All bots—whether they’re an informational bot, a task bot, or a conversation bot—need to use conversational language, which helps them to intuitively answer your customers’ questions. It also enables your customers to relate to them. No one wants to feel like they’re talking to a robot. Knowing how to write creatively for a distinct personality is an important asset for a prospective bot developer.

Collaboration interview questions

Knowing how to communicate effectively may be a soft skill, but it’s an important one for your bot developer. Developers who know how to collaborate are less likely to shy away from challenges that involve other team members. They are much more likely to help move projects further along.

How do you collaborate with other teams?

A great chatbot is not built in a silo. A bot developer needs to know how to work closely with business teams, marketing teams, sales teams, customer support teams, and more, to build the bot with their goals in mind. The answer to this question gives you insight into whether the candidate sees projects as tasks to cross off their to-do list or as part of a bigger vision.

Give a specific example of a time when you worked with other members of your team toward the same goal.

It’s not enough that your prospective bot developer says that they’re collaborative—they need to describe a time when they put this skill into action. Their answer should reveal how they communicate, how they cooperatively address problems, and whether they’re willing to prioritize a team goal over their own ego.

Problem-solving interview questions

The role of a developer requires persistent problem-solving. When you learn about how the candidate tackles problems, you see whether they have the drive to rise above the challenges to see a project through.

How do you approach learning a new skill?

Traditional education isn’t a strict requirement for a bot development role. Because technology is always evolving, what matters is that your bot developer can quickly learn new skills and adapt. Someone who’s always learning new skills has an easy time answering this question and can give you a few examples of their methodology for learning new skills in the past.

Do you enjoy working on projects that require constant iteration?

A chatbot is an endless work in progress. You’re continually iterating to make sure the new version of your chatbot works better than the last one. A prospective developer needs to be excited about the opportunity to test and continue to improve the chatbot.

How do you set long-term goals for your projects?

You want a bot developer who is thinking, from the very start, about the different ways your chatbot can evolve. This means that they’ll put the necessary processes and technologies in place to allow your chatbot to scale.

Industry interview questions

A bot developer who isn’t in tune with what’s happening in the software industry has a hard time building a relevant bot. Their answers to industry-related questions can tell you whether they’re curious and whether they’re a self-starter.

How do you stay on top of emerging chatbot and software trends?

This industry moves at a fast pace. If the developer is on top of current and emerging trends, they likely have a modern approach to developing bots. Their answer should include specific examples of blogs, magazines, books, podcasts, industry groups, and more that help them to stay current in the industry.

Tell me about something you taught yourself in the last six months.

This question allows you to see what they’re passionate about and how they improve their technical skills in their free time. This could be a side project or an example of a bot that they’ve been working on to test their own skills.

Summary

Job interviews give you the opportunity to get to know the person behind the resume. Just because someone looks good on paper doesn’t mean that they’re the best fit for your company.

But if you ask the right questions of a prospective bot developer, you can get a good sense of what they would bring to your project and the value that they could bring to your team. Keep these interview questions in mind the next time you’re looking to hire a bot developer.