Because computer science and IT are very popular topics of study in colleges and technical schools, employers have a wide range candidates for entry-level programming positions. There are many requirements of a good programmer beyond technical skills and specific certifications.
Though personality traits like persistence and creativity are valued much higher in a programming position than even common job skills like communication and respect, a well-rounded programmer who has all of those traits (and more) is the most sought-after kind of employee.
There are two main approaches to interview questions for programming positions: practical and personal. Practical questions may include the prospective employee solving a problem during the interview. This method can convey the ways the programmer approaches communication and solving problems in a stressful situation.
The other method of interviewing is more traditional. Instead of testing prospective programmers outright, the interviewer asks them to explain their methods or to tell a story about a time when they were faced with a similar issue or task. Here are five examples of common interview questions.
Common Interview Questions for Programmers
1. What programming languages can you work with? Describe your experience with them.
This question emphasizes technical skills without making interviewees demonstrate what they can do outright. So instead of writing a line of code in C#, an interviewee can describe an example of a simple game he or she made using a programming language. This shows that the programmer has a sense of the bigger picture of programming.
2. How do you approach high-pressure situations when everything goes wrong? Give an example from your experience.
In this example question, interviewees have the opportunity to talk about the level of skill they have concerning not only programming, but also problem solving. Programmers are often asked to work with high-pressure timelines that include a wide range of variables and influences that can dramatically affect their work.
3. What do you do first when creating something new?
Being able to assess, prioritize and plan out a project affects a programmer’s success drastically. The ability to see a whole project from start to finish and to visualize what the in-between stages look like requires a deep understanding of programming. Visualization and practice are essential to success.
4. How do you keep up with current trends and advances in this field?
Because of the rapid evolution of technology, a programmer must also be an eternal student. Participating in continuing education, keeping current on certifications and networking with other programmers who work in similar fields can be very helpful. Employers also look for potential employees who are open to debate, discussion and critique.
5. What is the ideal work environment?
This is one of the more traditional questions for any job in any field. However, it is worth mentioning here because a programmer works best in an environment that is conducive to his or her style of work. If the prospective employee prefers to work alone in the dark, then a company with an open office layout is probably not going to be a good fit.