The proliferation of internet use in businesses and households has resulted in a dramatic increase in the demand for web development. As businesses continue to move their operations online, looking to develop a strong web presence, this has naturally led to an increase in demand for web developers who are able to create and maintain websites that are both functional and visually appealing.
Hiring trends have followed suit, with the number of job postings for web developers consistently growing. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), for instance, expects 19,000 more jobs in the sector by 2029. That’s an 8% growth rate — easily surpassing the 4% to 5% overall job growth rate in the U.S. To corroborate the BLS's findings, a LinkedIn report noted that the web developer role can expect to see 40% more job postings in the near future, and Hackernoon expects 853,000 web developer postings by 2024 — up from 135,000 in 2019.
Salaries have also risen, with the average annual salary for a web developer now easily exceeding $60,000. These job growth and salary prospects are continuously attracting new talent into the sector at an increasingly faster clip, but supply still can’t meet worldwide demand. Hence, there’s no shortage of competitors looking to dip their toes into the same talent pool you’re after.
This article will provide you with the fundamental information you need to know, some essential questions to ask, and detailed answers from experienced web developers. By the end of the article, you should have a solid grasp of the basics to make better-informed decisions when designing your interview process.
What Is a Web Developer?
Before going any further, it’s paramount to be absolutely clear about the roles and responsibilities of the position for which you’re hiring. Experienced developers are often frustrated by recruiters who simply reach out to them due to their profiles on LinkedIn matching certain keywords without understanding if it’s genuinely a good match at all. This is a good way to waste everyone’s time and plant seeds of distrust between tech recruiters and developers.
You should be crystal clear with a subject matter expert (SME) or your web development team lead regarding what you need, but below is an abridged, foolproof version.
Web development, simply put, is the process of building and maintaining websites and web applications. Web design, web programming, web publishing, and database management — you name it, they're all part and parcel of the web development process. The end goal, of course, is to create (and maintain) websites or web apps that look great and run smoothly both in terms of performance and user experience. The role of a web developer often encompasses this entire pipeline, though it can also be more specialized.
Therefore, web developers must have a good understanding of different types of web technologies and programming languages depending on the tasks they are performing and the platform they are using, including:
- HTML and XML
Back-end web development refers to the server-side development of a website. This type of development is responsible for the functionality of a website and how it works. It is also responsible for the security and performance of a website. Front-end web development, on the other hand, refers to the client-side development of a website. This type of development is responsible for the design and layout of a website.
Larger websites and web apps typically have separate teams for both ends, while for smaller-scale operations it wouldn’t be uncommon for them to hire full-stack web developers — devs who can work on both ends sufficiently well for their purposes.
Before interviewing, it's essential to create a compelling web developer job description that clearly states the type of developer you need, along with the required skills, experience, and expected responsibilities.
Web Development Core Concepts
One of the key principles of recruitment and hiring is asking the right questions during the interview process. This is critical regardless of the position or role. There are some general best practices when it comes to web developer interview questions, of course.
Many of these questions will be generic or basic to some degree, particularly geared towards web developers aiming for junior or entry-level positions. Let’s take a look at some more specific examples to get you started:
Basic Interview Questions for Web Developer
How much experience do you have with coding languages typically used in web development?
Can you comfortably work with different CMS platforms?
You should also inquire about their experience level when it comes to using various content management systems (CMS). Another important question revolves around front-end versus back-end development. Specifically, whether they are more comfortable coding for design purposes or handling server-side logic. Developers typically specialize in either back-end development or front-end development (or both). Your organization may have a distinct delineation between the two, but smaller, leaner teams may want to hire web developers who can juggle both.
Do you have a portfolio of web development projects you've worked on in the past?
Ask to see previous work or gain input on their contributions to past projects. Working on known projects is not a must but it helps give insight into the quality of work that can be expected from the potential hire. It also lets you assess how they might fit into your team if they have already had experience working with other developers on large-scale projects.
What is your problem-solving philosophy, and do you have a typical process?
Having solid problem-solving skills is key to being an effective web developer. After all, being a good developer means being able to identify and solve complex issues quickly and effectively.
How do you keep up with developments in the tech industry?
This is one of the most important questions you can ask. Potential hires should be able to explain how they stay current on advancements within the industry. Technology is always changing at a rapid pace, so it’s crucial that your developers are keeping up with the latest trends.
What would former team members say about you? How would you say you react when things go wrong?
Definitely make sure to focus on soft skills. Since web development can be a very collaborative process, it's important to find someone who communicates well and is open to working with other team members.
Junior Web Developer Interview Questions and Answers
Now, onto the specifics: there is a multitude of specific questions you can ask entry-level or junior web developers to ascertain skill and culture fit. In the section below, you’ll find some of the most common questions, and also an explanation why they should almost always be included.
“What are the key responsibilities and overall roles of a web developer?”
Note that there may be distinctions you want to hear specifically for the role (e.g. back end versus front end), but generally, you want to hear what they think in general and how they think this specific role’s responsibilities will look like. In doing so, you will also gain an understanding of their overall grasp of the roles required in the position and their general understanding of web development in general.
“In your opinion, what programming languages and tech stacks should web developers be sufficiently skilled in for this role?”
Of course, ask about technologies, programming languages, and skills that apply to the actual position. Potential hires should be able to give examples and explain their reasoning.
Ask this question for the same reasons as the one above, but also to gain a clearer picture of the candidate’s understanding of the specific requirements of the role for which you’re hiring.
Common Web Developer Interview Questions
At a minimum, what you want to ascertain are demonstrated skills and experience in:
- Tech stacks and frameworks for web development
- Responsive design
- Servers and databases
Version control tools
In light of this, some developer interview questions to ask would include:
- “What is your understanding of Cross-Origin Resource Sharing (CORS) and how does it work?”
- “Compare HTTP1.1 to HTTP/2.”
- “What are some ways to reduce page load time and loading time in general?”
- “Explain the difference between local storage and cookies.”
- “Explain the difference between <frame> and <div>.”
- “Explain the difference between HTML and XHTML.”
- “What’s Document Type Declaration (DTD)?”
- “Why is SVG used?”
- “What are the new features introduced in CSS3?”
You get the idea: simple, factoid questions relevant to the role, questions that can reveal how much they know of current iterations of relevant technology, and questions that would trip up candidates that are posing with more experience than they actually have.
A caveat here is that sometimes, despite how simple some questions are, candidates might be stumped. Ask your SME/web dev team lead which questions candidates have some wiggle room for, because they, of all people, can tell you that sometimes dev work is all about who can refresh their memories via Google or Stack Overflow the best.
As an extra, you can also ask things like:
- “What are your favorite HTML tags and why?”
- “What are the best web development courses you’ve seen and why?”
You aren’t really looking for right or wrong answers with these. Rather, your goal is to get some insight into how they think.
Recruitment Web Developer Coding Challenges
First and foremost, know that coding challenges are the bane of developers when they’re not a good fit for their experience or the role they’re applying for, so be sure to deploy them tactfully. That said, there are some simple coding challenges you can ask face-to-face — all you need is to put a laptop in front of your candidate.
Open your company home page for them to fiddle with and ask away. Of course, make sure the coding of your home page (or wherever webpage you show them) actually has what you’re asking. Some sample questions:
- “Can you point out a CSS ID selector in the webpage's source code and explain what it does?”
- “Can you show me the CSS3 grouping made on this webpage and give me your assessment of whether it’s a good approach?”
- “Can you point to the class selector used in this code and explain how it’s used and why?”
- “Can you briefly code pagination into this webpage using CSS3?”
- “Can you point out some areas in this webpage where z-index use would be a good addition?”
If you really want a full coding challenge, you can design one from scratch or go for multiple providers who have packaged coding challenges ready for your needs.
Culture Fit, Experience, and Soft Skills Questions
Some key questions apply to all roles, as mentioned earlier. These questions often involve digging deeper into relevant experience and personal insights. There are also soft skills questions, which when applied to a web developer interview are framed from the perspective of a team working on a website or web app.
“Describe your preferred development or team environment.”
Questions like this are key to understanding their professional preferences. Do their answers show them to be more individualistic or collaborative? Technical or creative?
Of course, you’ll need a checklist or some input from your SME or web dev team lead to interpret their answers properly if you're not so technically inclined.
Additional questions surrounding professional preferences can reveal some insights regarding culture fit. It’s pretty similar to questions you might ask in other roles, only they're framed for the specific job specs of a web developer.
“Could you walk me through one of your recent projects?”
This question allows the interviewee to go into detail about their role in a particular project as well as what technologies were used and what challenges were faced during its development process. It also gives an idea as to whether they prefer collaboration or working independently.
If the candidate explores anecdotes displaying technical skill, take note, but also try to steer it towards the soft skills and collaboration angle:
- “Were there instances when there was friction between team members?”
- “How did you work together with other team members towards [some specific web dev goal]?”
- “Did you receive feedback from your teammates?” Or “How do you think your teammates would have appraised your performance in that previous role?”
Of course, this same question can also be framed in a way that allows you to better understand their technical prowess, and it’s indeed recommended to do so. Try designing your interview process to revolve around one or two questions of this make, and spread out your angles of approach to cover both skill fit and culture fit follow-up questions.
“What interests you about this job opening?”
This question helps ascertain whether they have read and understood the job posting, which shows initiative and care beyond simply getting any old job.
Senior Web Developer Interview Questions
That does it for entry-level or junior web developers. Those questions can become completely incompatible when hiring senior web developers, so you’ll have to rely on a different set:
“What skills do you think are important for a senior web developer to have?”
This question determines if their mindset matches the profile you’re looking for. Good candidates will answer in a way that matches their current skill sets to those required in your job listing, adding a bit of information on why that’s important.
“How often do you update your skills as a senior web developer?”
Essentially, figure out how intrinsically committed a candidate is to this career path because it’s always easy to go with extrinsic factors like career paths provided by outside influences, like employers. Additionally, this question addresses whether they can keep up with the company’s changing needs as technologies advance. Ideally, candidates show they're dedicated to updating their skills through reliable means.
“Describe the relationship between back-end and front-end development.”
Give candidates the opportunity to share what is essentially generic knowledge from their perspective and based on their own experience. If they provide the “general knowledge” sort of answer, push them to explain how they would frame it from their point of view. This question also shows you their experience handling the nuances of the relationship between both ends.
“How would you decide the features to include in a new project?”
Answers to this question reflect strategic prioritization and decision-making. Push for examples from previous projects and ask for detailed explanations and justifications, making sure to see if you can identify — or indeed, if they can make it clear — what strategies or processes they rely on.
“How do you test new websites or apps before public release?”
This is a process question where you’re not necessarily trying to get a specific answer that fits your current needs — though that would be great — rather you want to get a concrete idea of a candidate’s technical problem-solving skills. Use what-if follow-up questions for more detail.
How would you design a back-end for specific requirements or a front-end for specific target audiences?
Either/or, depending on your needs: answers to this question reflect creativity and problem-solving skills that fall a bit outside of technical prowess and take quite a bit from previous experience. Of course, replace “specific requirements” with actual project specs, and “specific target audiences” with actual people, like “younger demographics.”
“How would you approach a situation where a client needs to use an unfamiliar tech stack (or part of it)?”
Answers to this question reflect not only how a senior web developer would approach challenges beyond what they’re equipped to handle at the moment, but also how they would deal with clients and develop strategies towards such issues.
“How would you approach negative client feedback on website or web app design?”
This question seeks to affirm how candidates approach the management of client expectations and communication. You can use variations of this question, such as adding for example that the deliverable was exactly on-spec and the client was actually at fault for not understanding what they asked for.
“How do you approach working with a team of developers for a single project?”
This seems like a question that may also apply to lower-level devs, but the context matters. Pay close attention to how candidates answer this based on their own experience and how they explain or justify their answer and you can gain some insight if they’re a good manager or leader.
“Say a junior dev made a mistake that rolled out in public release. How do you address this?”
This is a very specifically framed version of “Can you tell me about a time when there was a conflict in your previous team and you approached it?” That question is also pretty good, but there are times when the answers candidates come up with are a little too unimpressive by no fault of their own, i.e. the conflict was easily resolved or it was so easy to fix that you gain no insight into the candidate’s qualities.
Pushing a theoretical situation that’s pretty dire makes candidates dig deep into their previous history, regardless of how grave their past conflicts were, and work out a multifaceted solution because the situation you provided is complex.
Key Senior Web Developer Areas of Focus
Notice the pattern yet? Designing interview processes for senior web developers means digging deep into a few key areas:
- Personal and professional development
- Client engagement and communication
- Leadership and management of projects and teams
Your questions need to ascertain how well they fare in these facets. Feel free to ask your SME or web dev team lead how to put a more technical spin or frame on your questions, to make them double-edged and also get a deeper understanding of a candidate’s technical prowess. By and large, however, a technical skills test combined with a verified portfolio of previous projects can already give you a good skills fit assessment.
How We Can Help You Hire Web Developers
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