Web developers play a vital role in building your organization’s digital brand. When you’re hiring for this position, you want someone with strong tech skills, a good understanding of design and a security-first mindset.

You also need someone with consummate soft skills. Your new web developer will be working closely with designers, analysts and business stakeholders to create a first-rate digital experience. Communicating complex ideas to a non-tech audience could be just as important as fluency in any given programming language. Follow these general guidelines when formulating interview questions for developers.

With that in mind, here are 16 web developer interview questions to help you identify the right person for your team.

1. What was your favorite project, and how did you approach it?

Web developer interview questions like this one help you learn about the candidate’s work style — how they solve problems, manage user feedback, interact with quality assurance and collaborate in a team setting.

2. How would you explain a concept like _____ to a colleague with no tech background?

Your newly hired web developer will need to interact effectively with their non-techie colleagues in departments like sales and marketing. Test their ability to communicate in jargon-free language on topics such as:

  • MVC (model, view, controller)
  • Responsive design
  • Commonly used cloud platforms, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure
  • APIs
  • Microservices architecture

3. Tell me about a time you had to give a presentation.

IT plays a strategic role in many companies, and your web developer may be asked to attend meetings and provide progress reports to leadership. Good candidates don’t have to be extroverts, just comfortable speaking in front of others. Follow up by asking how applicants dealt with questions from the audience and what they learned from the overall experience.

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

This web developer interview question gauges the candidate’s level of interest in good web design and their problem-solving abilities. A good answer is one where the candidate does 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.

5. Talk me through the steps you take when an application stops working.

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

6. Tell me about a time you had to respond to negative feedback.

Web developers must deal with feedback from beta testers and actual users, which can be negative and thus discouraging. The ideal candidate for the web developer position needs to know how to take that feedback, analyze it and turn it into action. Listen to how the candidate walks through an issue and reaches a solution.

7. Tell me about a time you thought you were unfairly blamed for an error and how you handled it.

This is a challenging question for a web developer, but it’s a good way of assessing 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 will work toward a solution.

8. 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 understand how data is structured, what functions are available, how APIs are called and how web services are configured. This interview question will help differentiate between a developer and someone who is more of a designer.

9. 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.

10. 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 also should be able to explain how to call API functions and integrate results into their design. Seasoned professionals may have helped to develop and document their own APIs. They will be able to talk about how they worked with the development team to create secure and useful interfaces.

11. What excites you about the future of web development?

This is an open-ended question, and candidates may talk about technologies like Web3, advances in artificial intelligence (AI), 5G and edge computing, the metaverse, or any other hot topics. You can follow up on this question by asking how the candidate hopes to develop their skills. This can lead to a conversation about your company’s professional development program, which can help you and the candidate set long-term expectations about working together.

12. What are your preferred content management systems?

Most candidates will have experience with a popular content management system (CMS) like WordPress or Joomla. If so, ask them to tell you about any themes or modules they built. Some candidates might have experience with headless CMS, which does not have a front-end interface, or decoupled CMS, where the front-end and back-end communicate through an API layer.

Experience in headless or decoupled CMS sends a strong signal that the candidate has advanced web development skills.

13. Do you have any SQL experience?

Web developers may not interact directly with a database, but they must understand how data is structured. Any practical SQL experience, such as working as a database administrator, can be highly valuable.

14. What’s the biggest difference between developing for mobile and desktop?

Mobile-friendly design is essential for all web projects. Over half of all web traffic is delivered on mobile, and Google search rankings favor websites optimized for phones and tablets. A suitable candidate for the web developer role should know how to optimize for all platforms. They also should be able to sound off on crucial differences, such as screen size, touch input, limited multitasking and the variation in browser plug-ins.

15. Can you find the error in this code?

It’s common practice to ask candidates to write code on the fly during an interview, which isn’t an ideal setting. An alternative is to provide the candidate with a piece of code — such as a Java class and the JavaScript that invokes it — with strategically placed errors and ask interviewees to debug it. This is a quick way to establish both a candidate’s technical knowledge and attention to detail.

16. Can you describe how you handle tight deadlines on the job?

Web development is highly deadline-driven, and the pressure to deliver a high-quality project on time and on budget can often be intense. This type of open-ended interview question about deadline management can help you get insight into how the candidate handles stress on the job, how they schedule their time and what their general work ethic is like. Encourage the candidate to share examples of how they have overcome obstacles in the past to meet critical project deadlines.

Asking these web developer interview questions should help you identify candidates with impressive technical skills and strong interpersonal qualities — exactly what you need to help your company deliver a top-class digital experience.