As society learns to live with COVID and moves out of emergency mode, many companies are thinking about expansion. Any kind of growth these days requires you to update your digital infrastructure, which often means bringing in additional .NET developers.
To help you start interviewing candidates ASAP, we’ve prepared a cheat sheet of 16 essential .NET developer interview questions with background and sample answers, as well as a few other tips to assist in making your search more successful. And when you’re ready to make an offer, consult the Robert Half Salary Guide to learn the average starting pay for a .NET programmer in your area. You don’t want to lowball in this competitive hiring market.
Interview questions to ask .NET developers
First, a word about these top .NET interview questions…
If you’re interviewing a .NET developer, you should be somewhat familiar with programming. If you’re not, then bring in someone from your team who is. These conversations will get very technical, very quickly.
Also, keep in mind the following Q&As are intended to serve as a guide, not a bible. As a hiring manager, you may need to tailor these questions for the responsibilities of your specific job opening. You should also allow some leeway on candidates’ answers to reflect their individual backgrounds and experience with ASP and various frameworks.
1. What is OOP, and how does it relate to the .NET Framework?
OOP stands for object-oriented programming. A good answer to this question would point out that OOP languages such as Visual Basic.NET, C# and C++ are the core languages supported by .NET Framework. (There is also support for functional programming in the form of F#.)
As a technique, OOP allows .NET developers to create classes containing methods, properties, fields, events and other logical modules. It also lets developers create modular programs, which they can assemble as applications. OOPs have four basic features: encapsulation, abstraction, polymorphism and inheritance.
2. What is encapsulation?
Encapsulation is one of four basic features of OOP and refers to the inclusion within a program object of methods and data needed for the object to function. For .NET interview questions like this, candidates should mention that encapsulation helps keep data from unwanted access through binding code and data in an object, which is the basic, single self-contained unit of a system.
Another way of understanding encapsulation is to think of it as “hiding” the state of an object as private or protected. Under this principle of information hiding, the internal workings of an object are segregated from the rest of the application. This is useful because it makes it less likely that other objects can modify the state or behavior of the object in question.
3. Explain the concept of inheritance and how it works in .NET.
In general OOP terms, inheritance means that a class can be based on another class, with the child class taking on the attributes of the parent class. For example, coders can create a class called Vehicle, and then child classes called Truck, Car and Motorcycle — all of which inherit the attributes of Vehicle.
To demonstrate their understanding of the interview question and the framework, candidates may bring up how .NET supports single inheritance only, which means that a class can inherit only from one other class. Their answer may also touch on the transitive nature of inheritance — for example, the Ford class inherits from Car, which inherits from Vehicle.
4. What is the difference between an abstract class and an interface?
An abstract class is always used as a base class. It provides some abstract/virtual members that the inheriting entities must implement, as well as a partial implementation for a functionality. For extra credit, job candidates might mention that this class can also declare fields. Developers cannot create an object from this class.
An interface, on the other hand, can declare properties, methods and events only (no access modifiers). The developer must implement all declared members. In short, an interface designates a contract/behavior that implementing classes should have.
5. What is the difference between a class and an object, and how do these terms relate to each other?
A class is a comprehensive data type that is the primary building block, or template, of OOP. Class defines attributes and methods of objects, and contains an object’s behavior and data. An object, however, represents an instance of class. As a basic unit of a system, objects have identity and behavior as well as attributes.
Make sure candidates respond to the second part of this .NET interview question, addressing how these terms are related to each other. Answer: The relationship is based on the fact that a class defines the states and properties that are common to a range of objects.
6. What is a delegate in .NET?
A delegate is a type that encapsulates a reference to a method. Delegate objects can then be passed to code which calls the method according to the method signature, meaning the developer doesn't have to know at compile time which method is being invoked. A delegate can contain references to a single method or multiple methods. Delegates are similar to function pointers in C/C++ and have the advantage of being type-safe.
7. Explain the difference between a stack and a queue.
This .NET interview question tests candidates’ basic knowledge of collections. Along with stacks and queues in this category are hash tables, bags, dictionaries and lists. A stack keeps track of what is executing and contains stored value types to be accessed and processed as LIFO (Last-In, First-Out), with elements inserted and deleted from the top end.
A queue, on the other hand, lists items on a FIFO (First-In, First-Out) basis in terms of both insertion and deletion, with items inserted from the rear end and deleted from the front end of the queue.
8. What is .NET web service?
Web services are reusable components that allow developers to publish an application’s function over the internet to make it accessible and able to directly interact with other applications and objects online. Web services communicate by using standard web protocols and data formats — including HTTP, XML and SOAP — allowing them to connect across different platforms and programming languages. ASP.NET provides a simple way to develop web services. The .NET Framework provides built-in classes for building and consuming web services.
9. When should you use .NET Web Forms over ASP.NET MVC?
Traditionally, the .NET Framework has been based on Web Forms. This was essentially an effort to create web services using Microsoft’s existing Visual Studio Tools without forcing developers to learn new scripting languages. Web Forms still allows developers to create quick and simple applications, and some legacy systems may still run as Web Forms.
ASP.NET MVC is increasingly the standard for contemporary developers, however. In a .NET interview, a strong candidate should be able to highlight the advantages of the Model-View-Controller (MVC) architectural pattern. MVC’s most important feature is that it allows applications to be broken down into discrete models, views and controllers, making them much easier to test during development.
10. What is JSON data, and what is one way that .NET developers can work with JSON?
11. Explain the difference between managed and unmanaged code.
.NET interview questions like this allow candidates to demonstrate their understanding of Common Language Runtime (CLR), a crucial part of the .NET Framework. Code written in C# or Visual Basic .NET will, when compiled, run only in the CLR, which provides functionalities such as garbage collection and memory management. The advantage of this is that managed code is platform-independent because it runs in the CLR rather than the operating system of the machine accessing the application.
Code written in unsupported languages, such as Java, will produce unmanaged code, meaning developers can’t rely on the CLR to provide this kind of portability. Managed and unmanaged code are interoperable. Examples of unmanaged code used in .NET include COM components, ActiveX interfaces and Win32 API functions.
12. Define LINQ.
LINQ stands for Language-Integrated Query. This is a Microsoft programming model and methodology that offers developers a way to manipulate data using a succinct yet expressive syntax. It does so by instilling Microsoft .NET-based programming languages with the ability to make formal queries. It is part of C# and can be imported as a library in other languages.
13. Read-only variables and constants have many similarities, but what is at least one way that they differ?
Here are two possible answers to .NET interview questions of this nature:
- Read-only variables can support reference-type variables. Constants can hold only value-type variables.
- Developers evaluate read-only variables at the runtime. They evaluate constants at the compile time.
14. What do the terms “boxing” and “unboxing” mean?
This question can reveal how much candidates know about data types and OOP principles. The idea is relatively simple: Boxing is a process that converts a value type to an object type — by “boxing” the variable inside a dedicated object or interface. Unboxing extracts this value and stores it in a value type. Boxing was essential in some old Collection types such as ArrayList, and can still be used for accurate conversion of types — for example, from a double to an int.
15. What are three common acronyms used in .NET, and what do they stand for?
This one should be easy for .NET developer candidates to answer. The question allows them some flexibility in choosing terms with which they are most familiar. Three frequently used acronyms in .NET are IL, CIL and CLI:
- IL stands for Intermediate Language, which is an object-oriented programming language that is a partially compiled code that .NET developers will then compile to native machine code.
- CIL stands for Common Intermediate Language, formerly known as Microsoft Intermediate Language (MSIL). This is another programming language that .NET developers use, and it represents the lowest possible level for a language that humans can still read.
- CLI stands for Common Language Infrastructure. This is a compiled code library that Microsoft developed as an open specification. Developers use CLI for security, versioning and deployment purposes.
Other acronyms commonly used in .NET include JIT (Just-In-Time) compiler, which uses the target machine’s CPU architecture to perform a .NET operation; OOP (object-oriented programming), defined in Question 1; CLR (Common Language Runtime), defined in Question 11; and LINQ (Language-Integrated Query), defined in Question 12.
16. What’s the difference between .NET and Laravel?
This is one of the more straightforward .NET interview questions you can ask. Most web developers will at least be familiar with alternative frameworks such as Laravel and should be able to discuss some of the differences between those platforms and .NET. This conversation will allow you to dig down and discover where candidates’ interests lie and how they view the role of .NET developer. For example, they may focus on:
- Languages (e.g. C# support in .NET versus Laravel’s support for PHP)
- Processing overheads
- •NET’s integration with Visual Studio
- Third-party libraries
- Open-source community support
Factors to consider along with .NET developer interview questions
As well as specific technical questions, there are a few other areas of discussion to cover when evaluating .NET developer job candidates:
- .NET project portfolio — Ask candidates to show you examples of their past work, whether that’s a dynamic web page or some other kind of web application. If they don’t have any examples of professional work, take a look at some personal projects they’ve tackled.
- Software development methodologies — It’s useful to know how candidates have interacted with team members on other projects. Most professional developers will have extensive experience with Agile environments, so you can talk about whether they find this approach supportive or if they find Scrums distracting. Some developers may have experience of newer working methodologies such as DevOps.
- Soft skills — Technical abilities aren’t the only feature of an outstanding employee, so don’t forget to explore candidates’ soft skills and initiative. Communication and collaboration are essential for developers who are required to work with people in non-technical departments, while organization and time management are important for those who operate alone. Attributes like adaptability and resilience come into play if your company is moving from a remote to a hybrid or office-based working culture. Additionally, if developers will have access to sensitive data, make sure to assess them for ethics and trustworthiness.