10 questions software developers should expect in a job interview

Software developers are in high demand. Here are some tips on how to answer the common developer interview questions and land the right job.

How to improve the technical interview At Code PaLOUsa 2018, Josh Greenwood, a software developer at consulting agency Test Double, explained why the traditional tech interview process is broken, and how to fix it.

Software developers—including full stack, Python, Java, and JavaScript developers—are among the most in-demand tech jobs of the year. With so many companies actively seeking developers to hire, those in the field must know how to prepare for an interview to land the right job with the highest salary.

"In general, when preparing for an interview as a software developer, candidates should try and get an understanding of the languages and technical stack of the company they're interviewing with," said Jim Halpin, team lead for technology recruiting at LaSalle Network. "For example, if knowledge of C# is in the job description, there is a high likelihood that the organization is a Microsoft shop since C# is a Microsoft language. Read over the job description thoroughly for any clues into the technical skills to prepare for. If a candidate is working with a recruiter, they can also ask them for any insight into the technical stack of the organization."

SEE: Interviewing guidelines policy (Tech Pro Research)

Here are 10 questions software developer job candidates should be prepared to answer on a job interview.

1. What kind of development are you currently doing?

Employers are looking for a candidate who can clearly outline the set of applications and technology stack they have worked with, Halpin said. And more than that, they want a potential employee to understand and be able to explain the business reasoning behind those applications.

"Candidates should showcase their understanding for how their role fits into the bigger picture and helps the company grow," Halpin said. "For example, if a candidate works at an ecommerce organization, they should understand how the application they work on allows orders to be processed and helps track customer information."

2. Tell me about a tough software development problem and how you solved it.

This is a good opportunity for a developer candidate to dig deep into a software development problem they have faced, and how they solved it, said Patrick Circelli, recruiting manager at tech staffing firm Mondo.

"Show how your collaboration helped make the project successful, because all of software development involves teams," Circelli said. "Most organizations are looking to see if you are a good fit for their team, and if you can write great code. Also talk about timing, ROI, and where you had the most influence in on solving the problem."

SEE: IT Hiring Kit: Programmer (Tech Pro Research)

3. Can you describe the development methodology that you're familiar with?

Hiring managers are looking to understand how a job candidate would fit into their organization's work environment and process, Halpin said. For example, if a candidate comes from an agile background, it will likely be easier for them to adapt to a waterfall or hybrid development methodology.

"If a candidate hasn't had experience with a specific methodology and is interviewing for a position that uses agile or waterfall, it won't necessarily be a deal-breaker, but the candidate should be able to overcome that objection and explain how they will familiarize themselves with the methodology required," Halpin said. "There are meetups, certifications and books that can help tech professionals learn these."

4. Tell me about a time you had a conflict with another employee.

Software development positions could be team-based or individual, depending on the organization, Halpin said. If it is a team-based work environment, the interviewer will likely want to understand how the candidate works with others, and their interpersonal skills, he added.

"To answer this question, candidates should describe a specific situation that happened and explain their thought process and approach in coming up with the solution to the conflict," Halpin said.

5. How is/was the QA process handled at your company?

Developers at one organization may have a broader scope of responsibilities than those at another, Halpin said. For example, a smaller startup may not have a separate group responsible for testing or fixing bugs in code, and will be seeking a candidate with a thorough understanding of the QA process.

"If a company is asking this question, they most likely are looking for a candidate's level of knowledge to see if they would be capable of taking on testing," Halpin said.

SEE: Job description: Java developer (Tech Pro Research)

6. What is your process to test and find bugs in an application?

"Every candidate will have his/her own process and favorite debugging tools," Circelli said. "Highlight how much you are invested in writing great code, and that you make sure debugging is part of the process."

7. What do you know about object-oriented programming and object relational mapping?

With a question like this, a developer job candidate should be honest about their previous roles and projects, and how they contributed to each, Circelli said.

"If you didn't have a hands-on role with designing the architecture of a product, let the interviewer know that and instead talk about what experience you have with object-oriented programming, or object-relational mapping, and in what parts of the projects you contributed," he added. "Great programmers organize code well, so it's important to highlight how you logically organized code around a certain parameter. Also highlight how you develop code that can be easily maintained and documented."

8. What obstacles have you run into in a software development project, and how did you deal with them?

It's okay for a developer candidate to admit that they have faced obstacles and experienced failures in development projects, Circelli said. "What is most important is to stress what you learned from failures," he added.

9. Are you working on a passion project?

Employers want to see job candidates who are passionate about their work, Halpin said.

"Candidates should showcase their passion for development and talk about any projects they're working on outside of work," he added. "For instance, any projects or snippets of code stores on a Github account are great examples to bring up."

10. What are your career aspirations?

This is a chance for a developer job candidate to be honest and reflect on what they are looking for in their career, Halpin said; there is no right or wrong way to answer.

"If a candidate wants to move into management, but the organization they're interviewing at is looking for someone to be an individual contributor and isn't focused on developing someone into management, it's better to know that early on instead of waiting to find that out after starting a job," Halpin said. "Some companies may be looking for someone that wants to move into management and be a team player and others want someone who will come in, put their head down and work independently."

To learn more about common interview questions for full stack developers, check out this TechRepublic story.

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By Alison DeNisco Rayome

Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.