The 7 Questions Junior Developers Should Ask In Any Interview

One of the skills you need to develop, regardless of being a software developer, is how to ask the right questions in an interview that will get the most honest answers, and give you the information you're looking for. The questions have to be direct enough to focus the answer, but also not make the other person feel defensive. If they feel defensive, they will craft their answer accordingly.

Here's a quick guide to questions, or topics of discussion, that you can ask, and what the answers will actually tell you.

Describe your development and deployment process

The answer to this question will tell you how mature the development team is. Not their individual maturity, per se, but I guess if they use words like YOLO, or bitchin' in the response, that could point to that person's level of maturity. No, I'm talking about how mature their development operations process is.

Red flag answers about deployment would include:

  1. We just FTP everything to the production server.
  2. We just develop on the production server.
  3. I'm not sure what you mean.
  4. I'd have to ask our operations team about that.

Red flag answers to development would include:

  1. We just work on whatever is in the backlog.
  2. Everything here is pretty much top priority, so we work as fast as we can to get everything done.
  3. Whoever is yelling at us the loudest at the moment gets their work done.
  4. I (the manager) tell everyone what to work on, and they get it done.

Describe your onboarding process

With this topic, you can gauge how mature their organization is. A mature organization that values its people will have a well thought out onboarding process. It would include having all of the hardware, and software, you need to do your job ready for you on day 1. They would also have someone assigned as your mentor who acts as your main point of contact to provide information that you may need.

In an ideal situation, they will have thought out an actual process for how you will gain familiarity with their systems, code base(s), and facilities.

What does the typical first few weeks look like?

Do they even know what you'll be working on? The answer to this question will tell you. If they can't provide a very clear answer, then you will be entering a chaotic situation where they will simply throw things your way, ad hoc, with no plan or strategy.

Not a good situation to be in for a junior developer.

How do you help developers grow tech skills?

The answer to this question will tell you how serious they are about growing technical talent. Do they consider it a cultural priority, or do they expect you to put in all the effort and money to keep learning?

Answers will range from, "Um, we use a lot of languages here, so you will learn a lot," to "Every employee can use up to $500 to attend classes, or conferences related to technology that we use in production. We also will assign a mentor to you when you want to learn about any of our systems, whether it's one of our code bases, operations, marketing, etc."

What are your company's/team's core values?

There really are no red flag answers to this question, except if they have no answer for you at all. If they do have an answer, make sure it matches what you're looking for.

How does your team celebrate success?

This should make the other person think a bit, as it's an unexpected question from a candidate. However, it is important for you to understand how the technical leadership views their teammates.

For some organizations, their stance is, "Oh, you did your job. Great, keep doing it. Now get out of my office."

For others, a team success is celebrated in some way. Pizzas for lunch, verbal/written accoldates written by the leadership team to the rest of the organization, verbal/written congratulations to each team member, an afternoon of ping pong, etc.

Now, I'm not talking about expecting a party when you close that ticket to fix a misspelled word on a web page. For that, yeah, you did your job, now move on to the next ticket.

I'm talking about a situation where the team successfully launches a new product, or successfully handles a major database migration into production, or implements a technically sophistaticated new feature for the web site.

Situations like that should be handled with some kind of celebration, large or small.

How do you handle code reviews?

Really, you're looking for a standard answer of "We do code reviews on {insert some regular cycle here}." If the team has no mechanism where teammates review each others' code, it's a red flag.