5 Interview Questions for a Backend Developer

A backend developer is the backbone of any good software application. Always at work behind the scenes, they are responsible for server configuration and maintenance. To make sure you’re getting the right candidate, check these 5 questions off your checklist to avoid your servers crashing.

As a company, you want to hire the best people for your team. When interviewing potential candidates, it is important to ask them questions that will help you determine if they are qualified for the position and how well they would fit into your culture. You don’t want to spend time training someone who doesn’t have what it takes!

Backend Developer Interview Questions you should ask

What technologies do you use? 

We like to get things off to a start by asking applicants about the technologies they use. This question is open-ended and can lead to great discussion, which is why we like it.

What we’ll be keeping an eye out for is evidence of strong knowledge and understanding of the technologies themselves, as well as some insight into how they’re used in their current role. 

In their reply, we’ll be itching for them to cover the following: 

  • What they use and why. 
  • Their degree of proficiency with the technologies, as well as their understanding of how to apply them to solve problems. 
  • Their experience with the technologies, including whether they’ve worked on projects that use them or helped develop enhancements for existing projects.
  • Their familiarity with the technologies’ relative strengths and weaknesses, as well as their ability to evaluate new tools that come out on a regular basis.

We’ll also want their response to answer the following questions:

What backend specific programming languages are they proficient in? 

We are interested in any programming languages that are specific to the backend and our project as well, as opposed to generic front-end ones. Plus, evidence that the applicant understands how these languages fit into a project, and what they’re being used to create. 

What’s their experience with version control? 

We’re interested in knowing how they use version control, as well as what their workflow is. It’s a good sign if the applicant knows about branching and merging strategies, as well as how they’re used in a project. We also want to know what kind of tools they use for version control, and which ones they prefer.

How about project management? 

We’re looking for evidence of the applicant’s ability to handle the more non-technical aspects of a project.

Like we said earlier, this question is an open-ended question that leads to further discussion. Overall, it provides a good indicator of the applicant’s overall knowledge and understanding. 

What’s your biggest accomplishment so far as a backend developer? 

This question or a variation of it is favorite among many hiring managers.

What we want to get from this question is a sense of how the applicant thinks about their own success, and what they consider important when it comes to their professional development. 

We’ll be looking for them to give an example of something they’ve done that is significant, and why it’s an accomplishment. In their explanation, we’ll be looking for them to use a few of the following words: impactful/significant, responsible, significant, innovative, created/built.

Smart candidates understand that this is an opportunity to hoot their own horn a bit, and will take it. They do this by:

  • Highlighting how they took ownership of a project or challenge, and saw it through to the end. 
  • Explaining ideas they’ve contributed to a project, and how it helped improve it. 
  • Discussing metrics that show how they’ve made a difference and how it impacted the client’s business.

In the end you just want to be sure that the applicant has hands-on experience with the technologies, and has developed their skills to solve problems – which equates to value they’ll bring to the table.  Top freelance marketplaces understand that – and this is why Hiremotely is an exclusive club, limited to top software developers who pass the strict vetting process.

Tell us about your biggest technical mistake, and how it was fixed?

It happens to the best of us – you’re working on a complex piece of code, take your eyes off the screen to check something in another window, and just like that – it’s ruined.

So, when an applicant gives you a story like this, what are they really saying? 

First of all – it means they’re human. Second, it tells you they have enough experience to troubleshoot problems by themselves – which is good! 

We want to see how they handle mistakes, and what steps they take to solve them.

We want to know if the mistake was a result of an oversight or mistake on their part. If they were debugging, we want to know if it was a bug in the code or something else (like incorrect data).

How did they go about troubleshooting the problem?

Did they have to ask for help from a colleague or mentor? 

What was their thought process as they went about solving the problem?

Did they learn anything new that might help them solve future problems more easily? 

Sometimes, it can be easier to ask for help than to figure it out on your own. But, if you see someone who is able to go through the process on their own – it’s a good sign.

It also shows that they’re proactive and take initiative, which we like! 

What was their biggest take away from it all? 

Answers like these give you a glimpse into how the applicant thinks and acts under pressure, and what they’ve learned from their own mistakes.

What interests you outside of programming and why does this interest you?

What we want to find out is what’s important to the applicant.

It helps us understand how they spend their free time, and also gives us a glimpse into their personality and interests. 

Also, it gives us an idea of how likely they’ll be to stay with the company long-term.

Most importantly, we want to avoid conflicts of interest. 

What is the best way to structure backend code for longer term maintainability?

Every company and project is different.

There’s no one-size fits all solution, but we want to discuss approaches that allow for efficient development and testing.

It’s also important to look at code reuse, and a framework that will allow future developers on the project can come in with less training required.

This question would provide an insight into how they work, and how they will approach your project. Plus, it gives you a yardstick to access their knowledge and in line with industry standards and best practices.

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