You've been invited to an interview for your next software development role. But what should you expect? As the role of software developer has increased in complexity, so too has the interview process.
In addition to the face-to-face interview, you should also expect various types of technical testing, online assessments, take home tests, and more.
To help you put your best foot forward and better understand what to expect for your next software developer interview, we have put together this guide that gives you an overview of the people you will meet during the interview process, what their expectations are, along with covering some of the more technical tests you might expect as part of the interview process.
Let’s first look at the 3 types of people you might meet and what they are looking to hear: The Recruiter, The Technical Leader, and the Business Leader.
1. The Recruiter
Whether you are meeting an internal recruiter, an agency recruiter, or a HR person, this person wants to understand if your career experience and expectations match those of the Technical or Business Leader. They will also be assessing how you might fit with the team and keep an eye out for any concerns or red flags in your background.
The recruiter is assessing you on the following areas: -
- Does your experience match the Technical/Business Leader’s brief?
- Do you have the necessary qualifications?
- Do you have the necessary software experience?
- What are your motivations for changing roles?
- Would you be a good fit for the team?
- Does the salary/hours/location match your expectations
- Are there any red flags in your work history?
- Are you telling the truth about your background and experience?
As the recruiter is going to be partnered with the Technical or Business Leader, their first concern is around how closely you fit the job brief and/or position description that they have been given.
They are assessing you on your overall experience, qualifications, expectations, and motivations in changing roles, and their questioning will reflect this.
While the recruiter doesn’t tend to do an in-depth technical interview, don’t be surprised when a skilled recruiter has knowledge of the various programming languages and development environments. Experienced technical recruiters will often have a few key questions that they use to gauge your level of technical experience. Here at Spark we regularly have lunch and learn sessions with Technical Directors and attend various IT industry events to help all of our recruitment specialists better understand the technical requirements of the roles we specialise in recruiting.
What are some questions to expect from a recruiter?
- Tell me about your current position?
- Can you tell me about your experience with XYZ software?
- Why are you changing roles?
- What are you looking for in your next role?
- What interests you about this particular company/role?
- What motivates you?
- How would your last boss/team describe your work style?
- What are your salary expectations?
- Do you have any references I can contact should you be a successful in this interview process?
2. The Technical Leader
The Technical Leader may include people such as the CIO, CTO, Technical Services Director, Head Of Engineering, Head of Software Development etc. While definitely interested in your business and team fit, the Technical Leader will have a much greater focus on your technical suitability for the role than others during the interview process.
When you are interviewing with a Technical Leader they are assessing you on:
- Your ability to solve complex technical challenges
- Your level of competence within specific frameworks and languages
- Whether you “code clean”
- How you test your code
- How you optimise your code
- How well you collaborate when developing in a project team
- How well you provide documentation on your code
The Technical Leader rarely relies on interviewing alone, as the above questions are best answered in a more practical setting. For this reason the Technical Leader will often have a combination of interview questions combined with more technical screening including methods such as: -
Online Programming Test – Some employers may choose to initially send candidates an online test prior to interview (such as the HackerRank testing employed by ROKT and Tripadvisor.)
Whiteboard Test – You are given a coding problem during the interview and asked to develop a solution on the whiteboard in front of the interviewer or a small team of people involved in the interview process. This allows the interviewer to not only see how the developer is constructing code but also to see how they interact and respond to feedback.
Pair Programming Test - Together the driver (code writer, in this case interviewee) and a navigator (the interview as the navigator/observer) will work on a development challenge together, allowing the interviewer to see how the driver communicates, solves technical challenges, and collaborates
The Take Home Test – The interviewee is given a coding challenge following the interview, with a set amount of time to complete it and return to the organiser
To learn more about what to expect from technical testing, you should definitely check out our most recent article here
Some useful resources to practice for coding tests include:
During the face-to-face interview with the Technical Leader you can expect much more in-depth technical questions and specific details about your programming languages, how you collaborate with others in solving challenging technical problems, and more.
What are some questions you might expect from a Technical Leader?
- Tell me about a challenging project that you worked on?
- What development tools have you used?
- What languages have you programmed in?
- What source control tools have you used?
- Tell me about the most challenging bug you have discovered? How did you overcome it?
- Provide an example of when you found an inefficiency in someone else’s code, and how you addressed it
- What are your technical certifications?
- How do you keep up to date with emerging technologies?
- What new technologies are you learning currently?
- How do you ensure the quality and accuracy of your deliverables?
- What side projects are you working on?
Nb. You can also expect questions that specifically relate to their technology environment and software in greater depth, and these will vary depending upon the software they are using.
3. The Business Leader
If you are interviewing for a senior role, or within a small start-up environment, it’s likely that you may have an interview with the Business Leader.
This person might be the Managing Director, General Manager, Owner, Founder etc. They may also be overseas. While the Business Leader shares the same interests as the Recruiter and Technical Leader, they will place an emphasis on your ability to help to business achieve its goals.
The Business Leader is assessing you on:
- Your ability to drive positive commercial outcomes
- Are you able to help grow their business?
- How will you positively contribute to the culture?
- Can you meet deadlines?
This means that when meeting with the Business Leader you can expect more behavioural questions around the outcomes you can help achieve for the business.
Typical questions you might expect from the Business Leader include:
- What type of culture do you thrive in?
- Do you prefer to work on your own or collaborate with others?
- What did you achieve that you were most proud of in your last role?
- What gets you out of bed in the morning?
- What would you need from us to be successful?
- In researching this business, what would you do differently if you were the CEO?
- What would you improve about our product/service?
- Tell me about the last time that you failed at something and what you learned?
- How would your boss from your last job describe you?
- What is the hardest challenge you have overcome? How did you overcome it?
The modern developer should best prepare by being able to discuss how they can help create a positive commercial outcome for the business.
4 golden rules for answering interview questions:
Now that you know what to expect from the Recruiter, Technical Leader, and Business Owner, how should you respond to their questions? Here's our biggest tips:
Always talk about past employers in a positive manner.
If you discuss past employers in a negative way, potential new employers will see this as a red flag – no matter how bad your previous experience might have been. Try to find the positive elements of your past role – or simply stick to the facts about the projects you worked on and technologies that you used.
Always be honest about your experience.
There can be a temptation to embellish your experience during an interview, but this rarely works out well for you. As an example, if you are asked about your experience in Java 8, and you are proficient in Java 7, you might simply answer “Right now I am highly capable in Java 7 but not 8. I am very interested in upgrading my skills and I am focusing on this in my spare time”.
Use practical examples as evidence.
When asked questions about how you like to work and your technical skills, use practical examples from your background to help demonstrate your proficiency. Talking about live examples helps give you credibility, makes it easier to talk about the type of work that you have done, and helps you stand out from other job applicants.
Always have some good questions of your own prepared
Some well-prepared questions about the business, team, and technology will help show that you have done your research about the company and that you are taking the opportunity seriously. Make sure that your questions are not just about "what's in it for you" as this has a tendency to have the opposite effect.
For more information about preparing for an interview please click here
As the role of being a developer has become more complex, the interview process has also become more challenging. During an interview process you can expect to meet various different types of interviewers, each with their own particular area of focus.
The Recruiter’s role is focused on how your past experience and future motivations fit the position, the Business Leader is focused on the positive commercial outcomes and business improvements you can create, and the Technical Leader will have a greater focus on your skillset.
For the modern developer interview, don’t just expect a face-to-face interview. Online assessments, pair programming testing, whiteboard tests, and take-home tests are all a common part of the interview process for developer jobs.
Embracing (and practisng) your ability to quickly think through complex technical testing questions during an interview will help you successfully win your next role.
Can we help you find your next role in software development?
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Our team of dedicated specialists understand the technology and have good insight into our client's businesses. They also have regular training to keep up-to-speed with industry trends.
We're always keen to hear from Developers and can provide you with market insight and advice. You can get in contact with us here.
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