Interview Preparation Tips for Web Developers


It is that time again, you are back on the jobs market and beginning your search for new opportunities. You have scoped out possibilities in your own personal networks and scrolled through numerous job boards. That application has been made for your dream job. The phone rings and you answer to hear the voice of a recruitment consultant asking for a few minutes of your time.

Now whatever your own personal feelings are over the recruitment world – lets put those feelings aside for a moment. Like any service provider some do their job well and some not so well. (The same truth can be compared to web developers). If you have the opportunity to work with the right technical specialist they can put roles in front of you that you would not normally have access to. The right specialist will also have strong relationships and know who recruits your skill set and know who may want to see you even if that company is not hiring. The right specialist will recognise what your strengths are and work with you on an equal footing to help you obtain your next relevant role.

When working on a vacancy, a lot of time has been taken to take a detailed job spec and understand the purpose and function of the role. What are the current development project being worked on? What development methodologies are used? What programming languages do their developers use? What version are they currently working with? Within the next 12 months what plans does the company have? Hows the organisational setup within the company? What technologies do they use? What´s the culture within the workplace. What are the benefits and remunerations you would receive? Why do other employees like working there? What are the companies unique selling points? What makes them different? Why would any one want to work for them? … get the point.

A good recruitment specialist will not put you forward for a role they do not have a full understanding off.

On the flip side a recruitment specialist would not dream of putting a Web Developer forward to their clients or even work with you without understanding your skill and a bit about your personality. What is it that you do? What skills do you have? You will need to be prepared to be interviewed.

What to expect:

To provide some insight, if you applied for a role that I had advertised, I would speak with you three times before your CV even went to my client. Let me break this down and provide some examples of the questions I may ask and explain why.

Situational Call

This call would last between 10-15 minutes. The sole purpose of this call is to understand your current situation, a brief overview of what you are looking for and effectively what your personal search parameters are. This information is then used to see what roles are relevant. Example questions may include:

  • What is your current situation?
  • When does your contract end?
  • What is your current salary / day rate? (This is asked to measure against the next question. If your day rate was £200 in your last role and your expected rate in the next role has risen significantly I would be asking why? What has changed and for you to explain the reason for now wanting such an increase)
  • What is the minimum salary / day rate you are looking for? (There is no point putting a role in front of you that you would not consider based on the pay rate).
  • Why are you looking to leave your current role?
  • What did you enjoy about your last role?
  • In your next role, what would you not want to do that you did in your last role?
  • What is your realistic maximum commute time? Will you relocate?

Telephone Interview

A 30 minute telephone interview will be conducted in a biographical format with the Web Developer. The purpose of this is to understand exactly what you have been doing, your level of experience and exactly what you can and can not do. What may be included as an example:

  • Tell me about what you do on a daily basis in your current role?
  • Why are you looking to leave your current role?
  • What do you like about your current role?
  • What parts of your current role, if you had a choice would you not want to do in your next role?
  • If I asked your employer what would they say was the best development project you completed while at the company? Why would they say that?
  • What Web Standards did you use?
  • What development software did you use? (This is designed to understand if you can code yourself or if you are using tools to do this).
  • (JavaScript) Is that object orientated or was it plugins and libraries?
  • How did you ensure the site was responsive
  • If the project was developed using an open source platform, what steps did you use to ensure security of the site?
  • If you were to leave the company today, how easy would it be for someone else to add new features or functionality to that site.
  • How did you test this project? Did you do this or did you use a team of testers? What testing tools were used?
  • What are your favourite development tools and why?
  • What’s your favorite development language and why?  What other features (if any) do you wish you could add to this language?
  • What Web browsers do you use?
  • What are a few personal web projects you’ve got going on?
  • What industry sites and blogs do you read reguraly?

These question would all be tailored to what I was looking for. For example- if I was looking for a web developer who could test their own work but my candidate has had a team of developers do this for him for the past 5 years then he is probably not the right fit for the company.

I would now be asking to see a portfolio of their work, examples of their work or examples of their code. If all has gone well, depending on your location I would invite you for an face to face. If this was not feasible then a call would be scheduled.

Competency Behavioral based Interview

This may seem long winded. Why don’t I just pass your CV to the client? This process provides a real understanding of what you do, your skills, and matching not only against what the client is looking for but also what you are looking for. In the event the client decides against taking you forward for a face to face interview, I can now potentially overcome their objections and secure you an interview as I am more prepared, and have a level of understanding greater than what is just detailed on your CV. This is the final stage, full business attire is needed.

There are hundreds of competency questions, and I would normally pick 3 or 4 that have been hand picked to address certain key things the client is looking for within their job matrix. This interview should take one hour. Here are a few examples:

  • Give me an example of a project where you disagreed with the client’s / companies direction and tell me how you handled it?
  • Tell me about a situation when something you developed was not delivered as intended? Do you know why it happened? How did you react? What did you learn? What do you do to avoid such situations?
  • What projects have you worked on where you have had to liaise with third party vendors to develop and integrate API?
  • Describe a situation where you had to get people to work together?

These questions are designed to to be uncomfortable and they are asking for very specific situation examples. The danger here is to waffle and never actually answer the question. If a client is looking for a Senior Developer who need to lead a team then these questions will demonstrate to me that you can do this.

Answers to competency based questions are very structured, to help I would recommend the STAR Technique, describing

  • the Situation
  • the Task required as a result
  • the action you took
  • the result of that action

Hopefully this will help you with your future interviews. Best of luck and thanks for taking the time to read this.

Pic: © racorn

Brendan Cross-Williams

Brendan Cross-Williams , IT Recruitment Consultant. Focusing on finding the best talent: IT & Telecoms, Finance, and Legal.

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