How to Interview a Web Developer and What to Look For?
Web developers play a critical role in delivering the services and resources a company provides. The decisions a full stack web developer makes and the frequency with which they make them are more visible and impactful to users than any other service you’re likely to deploy.
When it comes to web development, hiring the right candidate is one of the most proactive steps you can take to ensure the future of your firm and its services. Finding out precisely how to find, hire, and manage these developers coming into your business is where we come in: just tell us what you need. We can do the work for you and connect you with up to 5 companies within 72h that match your needs—all for free!
This article takes a close look at the hiring stage and how it applies to full-stack web developers. We’ve already shown you the best practices for Hiring Web Developers. Here, we help you to evaluate the web development skills and experience that makes a strong candidate stand out from the crowd. Our guide is here to allow you to create an interview that will both find and highlight the right applicant for the role and provide candidates with a positive first impression of your firm.
The Right Interview for the Right Role
As with every stage in the hiring process, being clear about precisely who you want to hire and the role they will play within the firm is the most productive thing you can do.
Developers with various levels of experience and knowledge will require a different kind of interview from those that have only newly graduated or those simply new to the field of web development. An interview for a relative newcomer should focus on questions that can demonstrate skills and knowledge of the field over practical experience.
Giving a new graduate a chance to demonstrate they have the knowledge necessary to succeed in the role will give you an idea of their potential to grow and flourish in the firm. Additionally, this kind of interview allows candidates to see themselves being successful in the role and growing as a developer and a professional during their time at the firm.
The interview for a highly experienced developer should look more closely at previous projects and problems tackled in similar roles. Questions focusing on past projects gives senior developers a chance to see you value their experience, knowledge, and skill in the field as something you want to bring into your business.
For both candidates, approaching the interview in this way provides a chance for them to present their best side and gives you a better opportunity to see what they are truly capable of.
Skills Questions for Web Developers
While these questions are ideally suited to newly qualified developers, or those without an extensive portfolio to demonstrate, they can be used effectively in almost any interview. These are questions to give you a broad sense of how much a candidate knows in detail and their ability to communicate technical topics to a team or to a non-technical audience.
What coding languages are you familiar with? Which ones are you still learning? Which ones are you interested in pursuing in the future?
An experienced engineer is likely to have a broader skillset that may include Python, C#, or Java, amongst others. Taking an interest in the language a candidate intends to pursue in the future can give you an idea of where they’ll fit into the firm and what projects they will be most interested in undertaking.
- Keep an eye out for candidates interested in learning new languages, difficult skills, and related technologies
Broadly, what is the W3C?
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is the international standards organisation for the web. A strong candidate should know of the organisation and their efforts to create robust standards and specifications for the modern web.
Can you explain CSS to me in a way a non-technical person could understand?
Candidates with any experience at all in web technologies will have experience and knowledge of Cascading Style Sheets. For most, this question will seem relatively trivial. It’s designed to give candidates a chance to show off their communication skills in presenting a technical topic to a lay audience.
A successful web developer will have to face similar challenges in talking to team members, colleagues, and clients. Someone who can complete these tasks well is a valuable asset to hold on to.
- Successful candidates should avoid technical jargon, use simple terms, and communicate the core ideas in a way that is easy to understand
Experience Questions for Web Developers
Broader than skills-based questions, these are likely to invoke strong answers in both highly-experienced developers and relatively new ones. Someone with a background made up primarily from education and study should be able to talk about projects undertaken through that time instead.
These questions should give you a better understanding of the development qualities valued by a candidate and provide a small window into their working practices.
Tell me about your favourite development project to date. What stands out about this particular project for you?
Across any area of work, some projects will stand out as more exciting and exceptional than others. This could result from the subject matter, technologies employed, or the way they overcame a particular set of problems or challenges.
This question can highlight what kinds of problems a candidate values highly and what kind of challenges they are particularly good at tackling.
- Look for a passion for the field and enthusiasm about the work they have done in the project they choose
- A strong answer will highlight the areas of work they enjoyed most and reflect on why they enjoyed it
Tell me about a project that didn’t work out or disappointed you with its results; how would you overcome similar challenges in the future?
For developers in any field, continual assessment and evaluation are critical skills to continue forward progress. Knowing a candidate can identify what went wrong and honestly assess both their own mistakes and those of others is a valuable skill set.
What is your workflow and/or working practices for testing?
Web development projects are required to support several browsers, multiple systems, and a staggering array of screen sizes and devices. Testing is critical to project success.
High-quality web developers value testing and robust QA processes. While they can be painful to undertake, particularly for new developers, they ultimately save time and effort.
Practical Interview Questions for Web Developers
Practical interview techniques, those that ask candidates to solve problems and tackle challenges close to real-world conditions, are some of the most valuable insights you’re likely to get during the interview process.
Here at Pangea, we have a slew of developers who we guarantee will answer practical questions with ease; just tell us what you need. We can do the work for you and connect you with up to 5 companies within 72h that match your needs—all for free!
The kinds of challenges that might be chosen for a full-stack web developer could include:
Fix This Code
Provide a candidate a page or two of code, ideally from your own codebase, deliberately broken with one or more relatively visible issues. Asking a candidate to talk through what the code does and provide a solution to the problems introduced is a great insight into their coding and problem-solving abilities.
Implement The Feature or Page
Ask a candidate to write a small piece of code either starting from scratch or from an initial working template. The task should be relatively encapsulated (a click counter or simple home page) and not overly complex so as to waste time.
A simple test of coding ability, should give you a glimpse as to how well a candidate can pick up a challenge and get right to work. Ideally, this task would be done in a development environment already set up, but pen and paper could be used in a pinch.
Design a system that does X and also Y
Ask the candidate to sketch out a high-level design for a system that achieves several desired goals. Ideally, this would be a small system or subsystem that’s already in use within your company.
This type of design is typically done on pen and paper, making this interview question ideally suited to being solved on a whiteboard as part of a team. This approach provides a great insight into a candidate’s high-level design skills, problem-solving ability, and confidence in communicating as part of a team.
Soft-Skill Questions for Web Developers
How do you keep up with the latest coding developments and programs?
Web development is one of the fastest-changing fields in the software industry. Concepts and ideas from just a few years ago are now obsolete and well on the way to being forgotten about entirely. Even today’s most fresh and relevant skills will be outdated in a few years time.
Knowing a candidate is committed to learning new things and staying up to date on skills and technologies is critical to future success. Continuous learning should be thought of as an essential part of the role, a candidate’s answer to this question can help you test for it.
- Developers passionate about their work and committed to improving their skills will talk about their favourite websites on the topic, authors they follow, and people they admire in the field
- Another great answer may talk about pet projects they undertake to understand and get to grips with unfamiliar or new technologies
What’s the most important soft skill for a web developer?
Candidates are likely to mention a skill that they themselves have practised to some success. As a follow-up, ask for examples of how they’ve demonstrated these skills and abilities in the past.
This question gives an insight into both a candidate’s aptitude and how they view their role within the team.
- Answers that align with important values you are looking to add to your teams can be a huge boost
- Typical good response might include things such as teamwork, listening, co-operation, and patience
What are a few personal web projects you’ve got going on?
Many developers maintain some personal projects they work on during evenings and weekends. This is another great way to get an idea of a candidate’s aptitude for personal development and learning.
Giving a positive impression of the overall interview, it’s a fun, interesting, and easy question to end the interview with.
Questions a Successful Web Developer Technical Interview Should Answer About a Candidate
At the end of an interview that spans 90-minutes or so, you should begin to have a strong impression of who a candidate is and whether or not you could imagine hiring them into your firm. Some of the questions you should be able to answer about a candidate from their interview should include:
- Can they write good, clean code if they join the team?
- Can they discuss their code, including the benefits and drawbacks of any given solution, and participate in an active way?
- Are they actively curious about the work the company does?
- Do they have a capacity and interest in continued professional development?
- Are they a good fit for the working practised established here?
- Are they someone you would enjoy working with?
A good, well-planned interview will tell you these things and more about your candidates. A well-executed interview will give you an impression of their personality and people skills too. These things combined will help you find the exceptional individuals who will go on to complete your team and see it excel to new heights. For tips on how to manage your new hires, take a look at our piece The Do's & Don'ts of Managing a Remote Web Development Team.
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