As an extension of our previous blog post “interview questions for a frontend developer”, I have put together a helpful list of 5 interview questions for a backend developer.. Being a member of the talent rep team at Honeypot, I know from my own experiences how difficult it can be to figure out where to start a conversation with a backend developer. There are just too many topics, language and tools - not enough time!

What is your favourite programming language? - and why?

I find that when it comes to backend developers - particularly experienced ones - this is a “safe” opener, as it is a fairly simple question and a nice way to ease into the conversation. Furthermore, it gives the developer a chance to freely talk about their work experience and preferences, and more importantly; it gives you a chance to judge how enthusiastic they are about what they do. In my experience the best developers are the ones who can go on-and-on about the languages and frameworks they use, and passionately explain to you why PHP or Ruby or Elixir might more suitable for certain tasks than others.

How would you describe the software lifecycle at your most recent position? What did you enjoy the most? What would have you liked to change?

Today most companies will claim they have adopted an Agile methodology in relation to software development, a circular process where each step is constantly revisited, inspected and improved. However, in reality the software lifecycle often fit somewhere between Agile and the previously popular Waterfall approach, which is more of a progressional flow, where each stage is fully completed before moving onto the next. Therefore it is super relevant to ensure that the person you are interviewing will be a right fit not only for your organisation, but also within the development team, by ensuring workflow compatibility.

What is the largest web application you have ever worked on? - and what coding were you responsible for?

I suppose this question is pretty self explanatory, but the reason I tend to ask it is that it allows me to gain a deeper insight into the work of the developer. Sometimes you will come across CV’s, GitHub profiles etc. that contains truly amazing work, but you might not necessarily be able to grasp the role fulfilled by the developer in question. I don’t consider this question a “test” to make sure the interviewee is being sincere, but rather a way of unearthing their abilities to function in a team, handle complex tasks or just generally gain a better understanding of workflow processes.

What is your understanding and experience with object-oriented programming (OOP)?

Object-oriented programming can be a hard topic to explain in just a few lines, however understanding the interviewee’s relationship and experience with OOP is highly relevant in order for you to get a better understanding of what kind of software developer you are dealing with. Since the late 90’s OOP has been the general practice when organising code, which is a way of generalising and objectifying certain groups of code and making it possible to apply them to various situations. Alternatively developers might use “procedural programming” where the organisation of code is more focused in action rather than object. Therefore asking this question will allow you to delve deeper into the mindset and routines of the developer you are talking to.

Have you ever experienced OOP go wrong? - and what elements of OO design are most prone to abuse and misuse? How may this be prevented?

This question serves as an extension of the previous, and encourages the developer to express him/herself more freely regarding OOP, but also allows you to determine to what extent the developer is comfortable critiquing and challenging the tools and processes they operate within. Whether that means limitations within programming languages, classes or methods is not important. Ultimately you want what is best for your business, and you want to be able to progress and make logical changes, and in order to do that you need people around you who are problem-solvers. Personally I have come across several developers working in within organisational structures that inhibit them in evolving and becoming better programmers, and in these cases years of experience loses out to work morals and attitude.

The examples of questions used in this post are designed to be broad and applicable to most backend developers, regardless of programming language. For more in-depth tech-driven questions refer to Kate{mats} & GitHub Repository, and if you are looking for more language-specific questions check out these YouTube videos giving examples of Java and PHP-related questions.

Backend development is an immense topic and the list of relevant interview questions is endless. Having a few solid ones in the back of your mind is very useful for me when venturing into a new round of interviews - I hope they will be for you as well.

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Kathrine Nicolaisen

Kathrine Nicolaisen

Kathrine is Marketing Manager at Honeypot. Originally from Denmark, she spent 4 years in London focusing on art, fashion and business, before moving to Berlin to explore the tech and start-up scene in the city.

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