10 Interview questions to help evaluate software developers

November 15, 2017

 

For many recruiters, it is hard enough to find good software developers and often times even harder to make sure they are a good fit for you organization.

 

Many resumes are crammed with a litany of technical jargon which makes some candidates look very similar on paper.  In addition, many recruiters do not have a deep understanding of technology which makes it tough to successfully screen for technical talent.

 

When evaluating developers, it is always a good idea to open up a good dialogue rather than just check off the boxes for certain skill sets.

 

Here are a few interview questions designed to start a conversation and help determine if a candidate would be a good match for your open position.

1. Tell me about the most recent application or project you worked on - this is a fairly standard question, but it is open-ended and is a great starting point to get the candidate talking about what they have been working on most recently.

 

2. What did the application do? - this question helps give the recruiter a sense of the candidate’s business acumen.  Can they articulate what the application actually does and how it works?  


3. What tools were used to build the application? - this question can be asked of each of the applications they have worked on in recent years.  The answer to this one could get technical, but it is helpful to understand where and when they used certain tools.  A candidate may show they have 5 years experience working with “X”, but that may have been 8 years ago, and they haven’t touched it since.

 

Note:  Many developers don’t have a choice in what tools they are able to use as that is often determined by the company they work for, but it is still good knowledge to have.
 

4. How many users does the application support?  What kind of users? - this question will help give a sense of the scale of the projects they have worked on.  Developing an application designed for 500,000 users can be quite different that one designed for 500.
 

5. How long did it take to develop? - this is a straightforward question, but will help give a sense of the speed of environments that the candidate is used to.  A developer who has been working on large, enterprise projects that take 1-2 years to develop may not be the best fit for a scrappy start-up looking to get product out quickly.

 

6. How big was your team, and how was the work split up? - you may get a wide variety of answers for this question but it will help gauge the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses as well as what size teams they prefer working with.  The dynamics of working on team of 3 can be completely different than working as part of a team of 50.  Many times with larger teams, the development will be split up into smaller sections where each person may have a specific responsibility for the application.  Over time, this set up allows for developers to become an expert at a particular skill or area, however it may also cause them to be weaker in other areas.
 

7. On a normal work day, how was your time divided?  (ask for a % breakdown) - this question may help give you more insights into their preferred methodology for application development as well as their interaction with other departments, stakeholders, or clients.  


8. Tell me about an interesting technical challenge that you solved - this one will give you a sense on how well they think on their feet.  Many candidates are properly prepared with answers to many of the standard questions, but this one puts them on the spot and makes them think about problems that came up during one of their projects and how they solved it. The answer to this question can also be a telling sign of their technical strengths.
 

9. How do you keep up with new technology? - changes to technology are constantly evolving and the good developers are the ones that try to stay on top of current trends and new tools.  A few candidates might be lucky enough to work for companies that constantly stay current and always use the latest and greatest tools out there, but many aren’t that fortunate.  Good developers will often try to stay up to speed with the newest technology through forums like StackOverflow, podcasts, and eLearning platforms such as LinkedIn Learning or PluralSight.
 

10. What do you like to do outside of work? - as with many organizations, finding someone who is a great cultural fit is key to building successful teams.  This is where their guard may come down a bit and you can learn a lot about the candidates passions and hobbies.  

 

Ironically, many developers like to code in their spare time and work on pet projects on the side.  This is how many of them stay current with technology if their current company is slow to adopt the newest versions or tools.  


Bonus question:  If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, alive or dead, who would it be and why? - I’ll admit, I’ve only used this one a few times, but you would be surprised in what you learn from the answers.  This question is sure to open the door to some interesting topics.

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