7 Programmer Interview Questions and Answers

7 Programmer Interview Questions and Answers
Whether you are preparing to interview a candidate or applying for a job, review our list of top Programmer interview questions and answers.

1.      What was the first programming language that you learned?
The answer to this question can tell you a lot about job applicant’s interest in programming. People who start learning languages when they’re young usually know languages like JavaScript, which is used for making interactive websites. Those who learned languages like Java and C++ probably didn’t develop a sincere interest in programming until they went to college.

What to look for in an answer:
Learn about applicant's experience
Discover languages the applicant knows
Measure the applicant's enthusiasm for programming
Example: “C++ was the first programming language in an academic class. Before I went to college, though, I had picked up a fair amount of JavaScript and Python. I remember making my first math-based game with JavaScript. I still enjoy using those languages because they’re flexible enough that you can use them in a lot of contexts.”

2.      What do you enjoy about programming?

How people answer this question tells about their personalities and how they might fit into your existing team of programmers. You may find a new team member who enjoys tasks that your other employees dislike.

What to look for in an answer:
The applicant's interest in programming
Parts of programming that interest the applicant most
Positions the applicant may fill
Example: “I love looking through code so I can find errors and fix them. In fact, I’ve always loved fixing things methodically. When I was a kid, my dad and I fixed a 1967 Mustang. It took a meticulous approach and a lot of patience. I feel the same way about reviewing code.”

3.      What’s the hardest thing about working as a computer programmer?

It’s natural for computer programmers to hide their weaknesses. As an employer, though, you need to find each person’s weaknesses and strengths. How someone answers this question can give you insight into the person’s personality as well as what parts of projects the applicant may not enjoy.

What to look for in an answer:

The applicant's strengths and weaknesses
What aspects of programming excite the applicant
Projects that the applicant is suited for
Example: “As much as I love sitting at my computer and solving problems, I need regular breaks to maintain my focus. After two hours staring at a screen, I need to take a short walk to clear my head and get my body active.”

4.      What’s your favorite programming language?

Every programmer has a favorite language. If possible, it makes sense to pair people with languages that they enjoy using. If you can match employees with their preferred programming languages, you should see better productivity and work satisfaction.

What to look for in an answer:

The applicant's favorite language
Whether the applicant enjoys languages used at the company
Projects the applicant may enjoy working on
Example: “I love using JavaScript because it’s such an elegant language with so many purposes. Like most coders, I learned JS when I started building websites. JavaScript makes it easy for websites and visitors to interact with each other.”

5.      Can you tell me about your favorite programming project?

Learning about a person’s favorite programming project can tell you what the applicant enjoys about work. You may find that the person values creative thinking used to solve complex issues, or you may discover that the interviewee prefers getting lost in repetitive lines of code.

What to look for in an answer:

Learn more about the applicant's critical thinking skills
Whether the person will work well within the company
How the applicant approaches unknown problems
Example: “Early in college, I worked with a group of librarians to preserve letters written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. They wanted to digitize each of the letters so students could access them online instead of coming to the library. We took high-quality images of the letters. I added XML tags to the images to make them easier to categorize and search. It was a fun interdisciplinary project that I’m still proud of.”

6.      What’s the most recent language that you learned?

New languages emerge frequently. Knowing what an applicant has learned recently will tell you whether that person has an interest in keeping up with newer languages. Some of the programmers that you interview may only know older, established languages like C++ and Python. Adventurous programmers who keep up with the latest languages may know how to use Julia, Rust and Swift.

What to look for in an answer:

How many programs the applicant knows
Whether the applicant keeps up with new languages
The person's enthusiasm for new programming languages
Example: “I probably don’t keep up with as many new languages as I should, but I’ve learned a lot since I graduated from college. In school, I had to focus on C++. Outside of class, I spent time experimenting with newer languages like Julia and Swift. Since graduating, I’ve worked on some projects that require those languages.”

7.      What would your skills and personality contribute to our team?

You need to know what positive traits applicants will bring to your company. Asking this question gives potential employees opportunities to talk about themselves and how they foresee working for your company.

What to look for in an answer:

How the person fits into your team
What skills the applicant brings to the company
Whether the applicant's personality will fit with company culture
Example: “I enjoy solving difficult problems. If other members of your team can’t find the right solution, then I will search for it. At the same time, I’m a team player. I know that other people contribute a lot of work to every project. Even when I find a solution that eluded other people, I’m happy to share the success with everyone.”

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