Web developers obviously need strong technical abilities. But when hiring a web developer, candidates’ soft skills can be just as important as their tech prowess.
During a time when many IT professionals are working at home, abilities like communicating clearly and tactfully with colleagues within or outside of the department who are also remote can determine whether someone flourishes or flounders on the job.
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, the first 10 of which relate to soft skills.
1. Can you tell me briefly about some projects you’ve worked on and the approach you took from start to finish?
Web developer interview questions like these will help you learn about the candidate’s work style — how they gather requirements, solve problems, manage user feedback, handle QA and collaborate in a team setting. You’ll also gain insight into whether they pay close attention to user experience.
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 interact effectively with their non-techie colleagues in marketing, sales, corporate communications, and other areas of the company. Ask candidates to expound on a topic all web developers should be familiar with, and look for their ability to communicate in non-jargony terms. Here are some concepts to choose from:
- MVC model
- Responsive design
- 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 a web developer who is comfortable presenting. 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. 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 a candidate’s ambitions and values, helping you decide whether they’d be a good or poor fit for your company culture.
5. 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.
6. What do you do when an application stops working?
Problem solving is at the heart of web development, so listen to how candidates talk about fixing things that go 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?
7. 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.
8. 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 an interviewee is quick to throw colleagues under the bus, that’s a red flag. You want to hire a diplomatic web developer who doesn’t get frustrated quickly and who will work toward a solution.
9. What are the biggest challenges of working on the front end of an application?
Web developers work closely with the rest of the development team. They need to understand how data is structured, what functions are available, how APIs are called, and how web services are configured. Candidates should be able to discuss the entire development lifecycle, and show an understanding of where they fit in. This question will help to differentiate between a web developer and a web designer who knows a little Java.
10. Tell me about the projects you’re working on (or have worked on) in your spare time?
Technology moves fast. When hiring a web developer, you’re looking for someone who invests some of their own time in growing their skills and staying on top of emerging trends. Candidates should be able to discuss some personal projects, either past or present, and possibly even show you their work.
11. What APIs have you worked with?
All candidates should have worked with APIs for well-known commercial services, such as those offered by Twitter, Slack, Dropbox, and the suite of APIs offered by Google. Candidates should be able to talk about how to call API functions and integrate results into their design. Advanced candidates may have helped to develop and document their own APIs, and they will be able to talk about how they worked with the development team to create secure, useful interfaces.
12. What do you think will be the biggest trends in future web development?
This is an open-ended question, and candidates may talk about technologies like Motion UI, AI-powered customer service chatbots, voice search, Google’s improvements to their Accelerated Mobile Pages technology, emerging cybersecurity threats, or advanced analytics techniques. Whatever they focus on, ask them how they think this will improve user experience, what challenges the technology presents, and how they think they might integrate the new technology with their current work.
13. Which content management systems have you worked with?
Some of the most popular CMSs are WordPress, Joomla and Drupal, all of which are open-source systems written in PHP and based on a relational database like MySQL. To elicit more information, ask interviewees if they’re involved in the relevant open-source communities and whether they’ve ever made any contributions.
14. How are your SQL skills?
Web developers may not interact directly with a database, but it’s important that they understand how data is structured. Any practical SQL experience, such as having worked as a database administrator, is highly valuable.
15. What’s the biggest difference between developing for mobile and desktop?
Most people browse on mobile, but the majority of development work happens on a desktop. A suitable candidate should know how to develop for both, and they should be able to sound off on crucial differences, such as screen size, touch input, limited multitasking, and variation in browser plug-ins. They should also understand how to create a great user experience on any platform.
16. Can you find the error in this code?
Asking these 16 web developer interview questions should help you narrow down your list of candidates to those with not only the best technical skills but also strong interpersonal qualities. Having both has been a great way to get ahead for IT web developers in recent years.
If you need to hire a web developer, Robert Half Technology can help you find top talent fast.