Even with a perfect resume and cover letter, the in-person interview is still one of the most important parts of the programming job hiring process. By practicing with these five most common programming interview questions, you can eliminate pre-interview anxiety and show up looking poised and thoughtful.
1. Why did you choose programming?
This may seem like a basic question, and it is typically the one that hiring managers like to lead with, but you should handle it with great care. This question is the hiring manager's attempt to get to know you as a person as well as to determine your skills and qualifications. Most employers are looking for a programmer who demonstrates a passion for their field as well as a drive to have a long-term career with their company.
2. What is your greatest weakness as a programmer?
Questions that seem negative on the surface are actually a test used to assess your ability to think quickly as well as turn a negative situation into a positive one. Handle this question by being honest about an area you are currently taking steps to improve upon. Always choose a weakness that is in the process of being turned into a strength, and never one that affects a basic function of the job you are applying for.
3. Why should we hire you over another programmer?
This question operates on two levels, the first being directly what is asked and the second being an attempt to see how you handle situations diplomatically. Employers want to hire programmers who are confident in their abilities without being overconfident. Realistically highlight the strengths that would make you a unique asset to the company without insulting your competitors.
4. Can you provide an example of your most recent success?
As with all programming interview questions, take the time to formulate a thoughtful answer. Prior to going into the interview, you should have an idea of the anecdotes, successes and weaknesses you will talk about if asked. Choose a success story that showcases your unique strengths an demonstrates what a valuable addition you will be to the specific employer. Success stories from previous fields of work or those which demonstrate skills that would not be useful in the position you are applying for should be avoided, no matter how interesting they are.
Employers are often equally interested in how you handle mistakes as in how you handle success. The best approach to this question is similar to the question about your weaknesses. Turn a positive into a negative by recalling an understandable mistake that you learned from and handled by taking full responsibility. In a complex field like programming, knowing when and where a mistake was made is often crucial to finding the solution. While demonstrating the ability to admit when you were wrong is important, it should always go hand in hand with a solution-based mindset that ultimately turned a mistake into a triumph.
By carefully considering these programming interview questions and your responses, you can outperform the competition at the in-person interview. Programming is based on problem solving, so consider the in-person interview as an intensive demonstration of your programming skills and problem solver mindset at work.