Home » Software Developer Interviews: 15 Questions to Ask As a Candidate

Software Developer Interviews: 15 Questions to Ask As a Candidate

We’ve all heard it: You’re interviewing them as much as they’re interviewing you. I’ve been on both sides of the software developer interview and can say without a shadow of a doubt it’s true. I’ve landed 4 jobs in 5 years and knowing what to ask helped me acquire my latest (and most lucrative) positions. Here’s why:

Once upon a time, I had the joy of candidate screening within a smaller dev team. Many interviews later and I was left unimpressed… until one day I screened a particular candidate. He was a good developer. Not stellar, but good. He didn’t have any experience with the framework our applications were built with, but at the end of the interview, I was left blown away. Why was I impressed by such an average candidate? It came down to this: he asked me a ton of questions. It’s fair to say he absolutely grilled me.

Our conversation must have lasted an hour, concerning every single aspect of our software development team. I couldn’t remember the last time I had been so mentally engaged in an interview. I was questioning what we were doing, how, and why. After all, as an interviewer, you want to give competent answers, you want to make your team look good. In the end, I was left thoroughly impressed and it was no surprise when he got the job a few weeks later.

After this experience, I quickly learned that the single best thing you can do when being interviewed is to ask the interviewer really good questions. I wondered why this method was so effective. I came up with a few reasons:

You seem more interested in the job relative to other candidates

Generally, when interviewing someone I was asked zero questions at the end. This doesn’t look great on a candidate. If you’re enthusiastic about the job you’re a better hire. Take some initiative. Show you care. I promise the person on the other end of the table will notice.

You gauge the knowledge of senior management

Does the tech lead really understand the tools they use? In my experience, a fancy title can sometimes be just that. Don’t end up on a ship with a captain who doesn’t know what he’s doing. You develop bad habits by following the advice of a novice and I find it’s more difficult to be inspired by a leader that is still figuring out the basics themselves. What you want is to be the “dumbest” guy in the room. In the beginning, you are uncomfortable, in the end, you grow to fit your new surroundings.

You take control of the interview in a positive way

Asking questions allows you to set the pace of the interview. This is in sharp contrast to the person who is being questioned. The ball is put into your court and you set the expectation that they need to put in a little work as well. Remember, you’re deciding if this team is a good fit for you too.

You screen for red flags that indicate an unhealthy working environment

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve dodged a bullet simply by asking a few questions. Especially concerning work-life balance. Once, a development lead divulged their software team regularly worked 60 hour weeks. I politely withdrew my candidacy a few minutes later. Do your due diligence, you will save time, and thank yourself later.

It shows your attention to finer details

Small mistakes cost money. A lot of small mistakes cost a lot of money. Companies want someone who will do it right the first time and are willing to pay for it. Show your concern for that which is often overlooked and you will be rewarded.

You determine if the company is a good fit for your needs as an employee

It’s up to you to decide if you’ll be happy working with these people. Typically you will keep a software development job for 12 to 24 months. That’s a long time. Please don’t waste it being miserable.

Well, that pretty much covers it. So without further ado:

The Questions

  • What is your Tech Stack?
  • What local development environment do you use?
  • Why are you looking to hire a new developer?
  • What specifically would I be working on?
  • Do you test? What is your test coverage?
  • Do you use Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment?
  • What is the biggest problem the team is currently facing?
  • What project management methodology do you use?
  • How would you rate the work-life balance at $x?
  • Is 40/hrs a standard working week? Do you often work overtime?
  • Do you enjoy working for $x? What about it do you like?
  • Do you have a stipend for continuing education or developer resources?
  • How will my success be measured in this role?
  • Is there room for upward mobility within the team?
  • Does your team contribute to open source?

Personally, I focus on a good work-life balance and a tech stack that I enjoy developing with. Your needs will be different and that’s ok. Find out what is important to you, come up with questions that suit your needs, and ask away. What you should ask is dependent on you but I feel the above questions are a great starting point. Whatever you decide, just make sure, when the interviewer asks you, “Do you have any questions?”, you aren’t left without anything to say.

3 thoughts on “Software Developer Interviews: 15 Questions to Ask As a Candidate”

  1. Great points. One of my favorite questions to ask is “walk me through what my average day will look like.”. And then I branch all of my questions off of that, as we walk though the day’s tasks.

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