16 Web Developer Interview Questions Every Hiring Manager Should Ask

By Robert Half September 25, 2018 at 8:00am

Hiring a web developer can be tough in today’s employment market. Talented professionals are in high demand, and it’s difficult to find people with the right technical skill set and work experience. It can be tempting to overlook a candidate’s interpersonal abilities. However, these qualities can actually determine whether someone flourishes or flounders on the job.

Of the managers polled for a recent Robert Half Technology survey, 95 percent admitted they’ve made a bad hire in the past. Of those, 38 percent said the problem was due to the individual’s lack of technical skills. But more interestingly, 57 percent blamed it on personal attributes. A further breakdown: Twenty-nine percent said there were interpersonal issues with those failed hires — either their soft skills weren’t up to par, or they caused conflict with colleagues or customers. And 28 percent said the problem had to do with a mismatch with the corporate culture; they simply weren’t a good fit for the company or work environment. 

To avoid the high costs of a bad hire, you may want to reexamine how you vet job candidates. Here are 16 of the best web developer interview questions.

1. Can you tell me briefly about some projects you’ve worked on and the approach you took from start to finish?

This is a good web developer interview question to start with because you can learn about their work style — how they gather requirements, solve problems, manage user feedback, handle QA and collaborate in a team setting. Their response will also show you their level of enthusiasm for web development.

2. Pretend I’m a tech novice. Can you explain what ________ is in plain English?

Your newly hired web developer will likely work closely with other departments, which means they’ll need to communicate effectively with their non-techie colleagues in marketing, sales, editorial, accounting and human resources. Ask candidates to expound on a topic all web developers should be familiar with, and look for their ability to speak using non-jargony terms. Here are some concepts to choose from: CSS, PHP, plug-ins, responsive design, W3C, version control or microservice architecture. You could also ask them to compare and contrast related terms, such as UI vs. UX or front end vs. back end, for a lay audience.

3. Have you ever given a presentation?

IT plays a strategic role in many companies, so public speaking is a good skill to have in a web developer. You’ll want to hire someone who has presented in front of their team. Bonus points to those who’ve given presentations to large non-IT groups. Follow up with questions on how they gathered and organized information, and what they did to keep the audience’s attention. 

4. What is namespacing in JavaScript?

This is a basic JavaScript question that should be easy for experienced web developers to answer. In brief, a namespace is a global object with a unique name that holds methods, properties and other objects. It’s used to increase modularity and reuse of code in web applications, and to prevent naming conflicts.

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5. What’s the difference between SOAP and REST?

These are two web service protocols that developers should know. One of the key differences is that SOAP uses XML while REST also supports text, JSON and other formats. Web developers may have strong opinions about which one is better, but they should demonstrate an understanding of both. 

6. List some of the input types that are new to HTML5.

HTML5 has been around for several years now, so a good candidate should be able to name at least a few of the following: color, date, datetime-local, email, month, number range, search, tel, time, url, week.

7. Which CMSs have you worked with?

Some common open-source content management systems (CMSs) are WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. To elicit more information, ask if they’re involved in the relevant open-source communities and whether they’ve ever made any contributions. 

8. How are your SQL skills?

Database expertise may not be listed in the job requirements, but most web developers will need to work with SQL Server or MySQL during the course of their duties. Any practical experience, such as having worked as a database administrator, is highly valuable. 

9. Who is your role model in the world of tech?

Do they admire innovators? Talented engineers? Great designers? Entrepreneurs who’ve made billions? People who do good in the world? The answer to this question can tell you much about what the web developer values, which is another data point in whether they’d be a good or poor fit for your company culture.

10. Name a website or app that annoys you. What’s wrong with it?

This web developer interview question asks about the candidate’s awareness of current issues in web development, as well as their own problem-solving abilities. A good answer is one where they do more than just gripe about someone else’s work. Skilled web developers will offer real solutions to practical issues, such as how to improve load times or optimize the user experience. 

11. Do you have any projects that you work on (or have worked on) in your spare time?

Web technology moves fast. Even if your company provides extensive skills development training, top developers spend a significant chunk of their own time tinkering and staying on top of emerging trends. Candidates should be able to discuss their personal projects, either past or present, and possibly even show you their work. 

12. What do you do when an application stops working?

Problem solving is at the heart of web development, so listen to how the candidate talks about fixing things that goes awry. Do they break down the situation and analyze potential causes? Do they know when to ask for help and where to go to find answers? How do they respond if their first idea for a solution doesn’t pan out? 

13. Tell me about a time you’ve had to respond to negative feedback.

Web developers have to deal with a barrage of comments from beta testers and actual users. The ideal candidate for this position needs to know how to take that feedback, analyze it and turn it into action. Listen to how they walk through the issue and arrive at a conclusion. 

14. Have you ever been blamed for something that wasn’t your fault?

This is a challenging question, but it’s a good way of gauging the candidate’s attitude toward teamwork. If interviewees are quick to throw people under the bus, they likely will make for a terrible colleague. You want to hire a developer who doesn’t get angry quickly and who will work toward a solution — and hopefully clear their name in the process. 

15. Can you find the error in this code?

It’s common practice to ask candidates to write code by hand during an interview, which isn’t an ideal setting. Plus, unless you’re a coder yourself, you won’t know whether they’ve done it properly. An alternative is to print out a piece of code — some JavaScript will do — with strategically placed errors and ask interviewees to find them. This is a quick way to establish both technical knowledge and their attention to detail.

16. Which perks of this job are you most excited about?

This is a chance to find out a little more about the person you’re interviewing and their work-life balance. Maybe they really want that free gym membership to help stay in shape, or perhaps the flexible hours will help them juggle personal and work responsibilities. This is also a good opportunity to sell the company as a top employer. Perks can sway a candidate who has received several job offers, and this question allows you to follow up with all the advantages of joining your organization. 

Asking these 16 web developer interview questions should help you narrow down your list of candidates to those who will most likely be the best technical and cultural fit for your team. 

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