How to technical interview programmers software developers

Do not underestimate the importance of a technical interview.  It is your company’s opportunity to find a diamond in a pile of resumes.  If interested in hiring a great tech professional, consider that the questions asked during the interview are more important than the candidates themselves. Ultimately, every company needs to hire exceptional employees.  So, after reviewing hundreds of resumes, how can one decide who is the number one candidate?

It starts with the technical interview and selecting the best questions to gain insight to skill level, and communication ability.  The interview stands as the single most important stage when considering an employee. During the interview cover the basics so no unnecessary questions are asked. It is the interview questions that determine the success of the hire. Solution39 has determined 9 Essential Job Interview Questions to ask any tech candidate.


1. Question: Are you able to meet task timelines?

The technical interview allows for the opportunity to find key skills.  All software or web development projects have tasks that are met on a timeline. At Solution39 we like to call them milestones. As a company, we cannot get paid until each milestone is met. Payments are released at each milestone. Therefore, it is always important for our software developers to meet task timelines. There is a fine line between balancing the financial needs of the company and meeting objectives on time.

  • Things to listen for: Project management skills. Are they confident about their ability to meet your milestones? What’s their approach to juggling multiple projects?
  • Follow-up question: “Is this timeline realistic?” An experienced programmer should know whether you’ve allocated enough time, missed key steps, or aren’t leaving enough “buffer” for challenges that are likely to arise.
  • Look for leadership qualities in individuals who point out the weaknesses of the timeline, goals and objectives of the project described.

2. Question: In your opinion, what are the three core skills needed for this project?

It all starts with a job posting. The tech job posting must be written with great detail to include the core technical skills needed. If a candidate submitted a cover letter it is likely they have already mentioned how their skills match the job requirements.

  • Things to listen for: Understanding. Do they really understand the project? Core skills aren’t necessarily technical skills, and it’s possible a freelancer will list skills that aren’t reflected in the description or the proposal. Make sure everyone is on the same page by verifying the three most important core skills.
  • Follow-up question: “Of the three, which would you describe as your strongest skill? Your weakest?” This is the time to find the diamond in the rough. Listen carefully.


3. Question: Can I see your portfolio or samples of your technical work?

An experienced technical professional will bring samples of their code from other projects. Web developers and software developers often have a list of websites where they built large sections if not the entire project. An exceptional candidate will bring an email from a University Registrar or a copy of a Diploma to prove they have acquired a Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree.

  • Things to listen for: Quality. Does their work represent the skill level and attention to detail you’re looking for?
  • Follow-up question: “What was your approach to this project?” This question will help give you more insight into how they collaborated with others, addressed the client’s needs, met challenges, or exceeded expectations. Listen carefully here because this is how to identify the top technical talent.

4. Question: Tell me about a recent software or web development project you’ve worked on that you’re proud of. What about this project made you most proud?

Different people thrive in different situations. What elements of this recent project helped them excel, and how can these key skills be applied to the current project?

  • Things to listen for: Work style. Are they able to work independently? Are they good at prioritizing? Consider how their preferred work habits fit your project.
  • Follow-up question: “Is there anything you missed on an important project that provided a learning opportunity?” Are you interested in learning new technology? Any candidate that answers no should probably not be considered.

5. Question: What feedback have you received from previous employment?

Do you have any emails or correspondence from a previous employer or client where they praised your contribution to the team? Do you have any accolades from your previous employer? Has the tech candidate ever been terminated from employment?

  • Things to listen or watch for: Highlighted qualities. Does the programmer deliver quality work? Do they communicate effectively? Are any problems identified? Working relationships aren’t always flawless, but you should feel comfortable that any issues were isolated or have otherwise been addressed.
  • Follow-up question: “What are your top strengths and weaknesses?” or “What worked well and what did not work well in past projects?” This classic interview question gives programmers an open-ended opportunity to be genuine while also positioning themselves as a great fit for your work. This is the time to ask for references from co-workers and employers. Always contact ALL references – this is the opportunity to fact check the interview when possible.


6. Question: Do you have time to take on additional work?

Not all programmers are available on a more than full-time basis. Many programmers have their own pet projects they work on in their free time. They often do not like over-time for this reason. Most programmers are also on salary… another reason not to like over-time. It is important to know the candidate’s feelings about over-time. Many programmers have successful freelance businesses in addition to other employment. This is the time to find a committed tech candidate.

  • Things to listen for: Time management. Confirm that they can meet your deadlines and communicate in a timely manner.
  • Follow-up question: “Would you be willing to work over-time?” “How many hours per month are appropriate?” “Would you quit if asked to work over-time?” “Do you prefer an hourly wage or salary” This is the time to find the right fit for the project. Most software or web
    development companies hire salary for full time programmers, but hourly is not unusual. This is the time to decide the basics for the compensation package.

7. Question: If we hire you for this project, what will you do on the first day?

This question is less about specific tasks and more about how they approach and prioritize the work.

    • Things to listen for: Organization and consistency. Their response should reflect your earlier discussion including their project management skills, understanding of your project, and ability to prioritize.
    • Follow-up question: “Given your understanding of the project, are there any potential problems we might run into and how would you address them?” Listen for analytical ability to quickly diagnose a problem and provide a resolution. Analytical and problem solving skills are absolutely necessary on every technical project.

8. Question: What do you feel are the keys to success when working remotely with a client?

Everyone has a different approach to getting work done, particularly when you aren’t working face-to-face. Are your priorities in sync? At Solution39 we always work remotely. We have statistical tools that we utilize to keep track of each programmer. Each person is tracked by I.P. Address and every upload and download to the server is logged. Every step taken in a directory is logged and a wide variety of information is tracked. We can see the work being done in real time so there is no need to confirm each task.

      • Things to listen for: Communication style. Does their response reflect an understanding of remote work? For example, collaboration, good communication, and accountability can be critical in any programmer / client relationship. How do they manage these challenges?
      • Follow-up question: “What tools do you use to manage your work?” Ask if the candidate understands their work progress will be tracked by a statistical software analyzer? Ask if the candidate objects to this level ofmonitoring, or do they understand the need to track work progress by I.P. Address.

9. Question: What additional questions do you have about the project or our organization?

This is a standard way to close an interview, giving the programmer the opportunity to ask any questions not yet covered.

      • Things to listen for: If you’ve communicated your needs well, or if the project isn’t very complex, they may not have any follow-up questions. Even so, questions about your organization or your next steps in the selection process show an active interest in your project. The best candidates will definitely show an interest in moving forward, and be able to articulate mutual interest in moving forward for the selection process.

One last tip: It is suggested that interviews are done in person. If an interview is not in person due to geographical reasons, then consider using video conferencing software to conduct the interview. If you do not have access to video conferencing, then try Skype.


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