Questions To Ask a Candidate in a Software Developer Interview

Consider my post last week about questions you may want to ask when you’re interviewing for a software developer position, you can also be on the other side of the table, interviewing candidates to work for the place you currently work at.

Depending on how interviews are structured at your company, you might have a hard time thinking of questions that can give you a good feeling of whether the person you are interviewing is a good fit for the company.  One of the overarching things you should be trying to discover in an interview is whether this is a person you would like to work with in the future – whether this person is someone that would be on your team, or whether this person would become a peer you would work with.

Here’s a few questions I’ve used over time that have helped me determine that:

What has been your experience in both jumping into projects in maintenance mode vs. working on a project from start to finish?

This is good to get a feel of what experience the candidate has in the full software development cycle.  You’ll be able to see the difference between someone with a bit of experience that has been through the major phases of releasing an application.  Developers that work solely with maintenance issues may struggle with being able to explain how to actually get a project off the group, especially considering that a good amount of the work up-front is not just coding, but determining a solution to the problem at hand.

In previous projects, what technical limitations did you work under that you would have liked to change to improve the quality of your work?

This question gives a good feel of issues that a developer would have experienced in the past that they may be passionate about to fix.  Things like having a poor build process or branching strategy can be good candidates, or things like having the developers not be involved in the design and planning of the features to be implemented into the project.

Are there any emerging technologies that are coming up that you’re interested in learning?

This can be a good question to get a feel of the things they are interested in.  Maybe something like machine learning, or a new framework that the developer is interested in trying out.  In particular, this is a good question to get a feel for what kind of stuff the developer truly wants to do, and whether it’s a good fit for the company you work at.  It may shine a light on the fact that the candidate would like to work on data science focused issues when your company focuses on web development, for instance.

What is the best trait a developer can have?

Alongside the questions above, this one gives a feel for the types of traits they value in the development team.  You might get someone to answer that they should be focused on having high code coverage for the projects they work on, or they may say that a developer should be able to communicate well with all business units.  In particular, it’s nice to hear a specific trait, as opposed to hearing that they are simply very good at software development as a whole.

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