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Prepare for a coding interview: Tips and interview questions

Do you have an upcoming coding interview? Secure the role by exploring some top tips and interview questions for various coding jobs here.

Computer monitor with with code on screen

Are you preparing for an upcoming coding interview? Or, perhaps, you’re just gauging what future interviews could look like based on the coding pathway you choose to take. We’re here to help make that interview as smooth as possible by outlining some potential interview questions for you and uncovering some tips for coding interviews. 

We’ll delve into some different career paths within coding and discuss some general coding interview tips before offering some examples of common coding interview questions. Get ready to explore front-end developer, back-end developer and full stack developer interview questions. 

What types of software developers are there? 

Before we get stuck in, let’s take a look at the different types of software developer roles available to you. While there are many different roles to assume within the world of coding, there are three major pathways to choose within your career – front-end, back-end, and full stack development. So, what sets these apart from one another? 

What is a front-end developer?

To put it simply, a front-end developer works on anything a user can see or interact with on a website. The front-end development is essentially the user interface, including images, text, buttons and anything else that appears on the screen. The three main technologies involved in front-end development are HTML, CSS, and Javascript

Prepare for a front-end development role with one of our Programming Languages and HTML course, where you’ll learn the fundamentals of software development. 

What is a back-end developer? 

In stark contrast to a front-end developer, a back-end developer will work on the opposite end of a website. Users are unable to see or interact with any back-end website elements, but the back-end code communicates the database information to the browser. Three popular languages for back-end development are Python, Java, and PHP. 

For an in-depth view of the languages you can expect to use, check out our What are different programming languages used for? article. 

What is a full-stack developer? 

So, now we know what back-end and front-end developers work on. But that still leaves the question, what does a full stack developer do? A full stack developer works on both client side and server side web applications. Full stack development is essentially a combination of both back-end and front-end rather than choosing to specialise in one set area. As a full stack developer, you can expect to work across both front-end and back-end code. 

What should you expect in a coding interview? 

The specifics of your interview will depend heavily on the company that you’re applying to. While some companies may begin with a formal interview to gauge your knowledge, some employers may take a more creative approach. For example, coding interviews here at FutureLearn work a little differently to what you may expect out of a job interview. 

Here, rather than answering standard questions, candidates will take part in a pairing interview where they can spend some time working on solving a problem with one of our engineers. 

Coding jobs are very much skill-driven, so it’s not uncommon for interviews to be a lot more practical than your standard job interview process. By doing activities like this, employers get the chance to assess your skill level and see how well you understand coding practices.

It’s worth noting that while interview processes for coding roles often incorporate hands-on elements, you’ll likely still need to take part in a conversational interview to answer some generic questions. These could be surrounding the company, team culture, and your strengths and weaknesses, just to name a few.

One of the great things about being able to demonstrate your skills first-hand, is that a lot of companies will prioritise experience and knowledge over formal qualifications. This opens up opportunities for self-taught developers or those maybe still looking to find a diverse route into higher education to secure a great role. 

Coding interview questions

Before we discuss some examples of role-specific coding questions, let’s look at a few general questions you can expect to be asked during a coding interview. It’s important that employers are able to understand your involvement in coding and the direction you want to take your career. Some common coding interview questions include: 

  • How do you stay up to date with current industry trends? 
  • Why do you want to work as a developer at this company? 
  • How did you develop an interest in coding, and when did you start? 
  • What is something you’re currently working on, and can you walk us through it? 
  • What is your favourite coding language and why? 
  • What is your experience with specific languages? (this could be anything from Python to Javascript, but will depend on the role)
  • What back-end / front-end responsibilities have you had in previous roles? 
  • Walk us through some challenges you’ve faced while coding and how you overcame them. 

Front-end developer interview questions

With the roles and responsibilities of a front-end developer still fresh in your mind, let’s reveal some commonly asked interview questions for front-end developers. Keep in mind that these are general questions, and questions will vary greatly depending on the skill level needed for the specific role. 

After all, you wouldn’t expect a beginner developer applying for an apprenticeship to be asked the same questions you’d ask in an interview for a senior tech-lead position, right? Here are some frequently asked questions for front-end developers:

  • Can you explain the box model in CSS?
  • What is your experience with responsive design and what would be your process for achieving it? 
  • What is your experience with front-end frameworks such as React, Angular, or Vue?
  • Can you walk us through your approach to debugging a web page or application?
  • Can you describe the role of accessibility in front-end development?
  • How would you test a web page or application?
  • Can you explain the approach you’d take to optimise a website’s performance? 
  • Are you able to describe the concept of “closure” in JavaScript?

Back-end developer interview questions

The specific languages and frameworks you need to know about will differ between back-end and front-end development. Therefore, the technical knowledge you’ll be asked about during a back-end developer interview will differ to that of a front-end developer. 

If you still haven’t decided which pathway you prefer, why not carry out some research to answer these example questions and compare the process to the front-end developer questions? You may find that you find one far more interesting than the other. Let’s look at some commonly asked questions for back-end developers:

  • What is the difference between a PUT and a POST request?
  • Can you explain how you would optimise a slow database query?
  • Do you have experience with caching, and if so, how do you decide what to cache?
  • Can you explain the difference between synchronous and asynchronous programming?
  • Can you walk us through the process of deploying a web application?
  • If you came across an unexpected error in your application, what would you do?
  • What is your experience with RESTful APIs?
  • Do you have any favourite back-end development tools or frameworks and if so, what are they and why? 
  • What is your understanding of MVC and how it relates to back-end development?
  • How do you ensure the security of your web application?

Full stack developer interview questions

If you can’t choose between front-end and back-end development, you might be better suited to a career as a full stack developer. In a full stack development interview , you’ll need to be able to answer questions related to both back-end and front-end coding. 

So, anything that comes up in a back-end or front-end interview could also come up in any full stack interview. You’ll need to prove that you can juggle both aspects of coding, and showcase your knowledge as an allrounder. A few questions frequently asked in full stack interviews are:

  • Are you able to explain the concept of MVC and how it relates to full stack development?
  • How would you design and implement a RESTful API?
  • What is your experience with databases and ORM frameworks?
  • How would you optimise the performance of a web application?
  • What is your experience with version control systems such as Git?
  • In your own words, what is DevOps
  • What is the most important skill for a full stack developer to have?

Coding interview tips

Now that we’ve outlined some potential questions for different roles, you’ll be able to have a think about how you’d answer them and start preparing for your coding interview. To help you smash the interview and secure your dream role, we’ll also divulge some coding interview tips here.

Research the company you’re interviewing for

It’s no secret that you’ll need to be able to answer technical questions in order to secure the coding position you’ll be applying for. However, what’s often overlooked is the importance of researching the company you’re interviewing for. 

To truly impress your interviewer, you’ll need to do some additional research as well as brushing up on your coding knowledge. A strong understanding of what the company does and what technologies they use will go a long way, showcasing your sincere interest in the role. 

If you really want to impress the interviewer, you could make a suggestion for an improvement on their website. This could also come up as a question, so it’s definitely good to have a recommendation in mind before your interview.

Be personable

While skills, knowledge, and experience are vital to finding yourself a role, employers will inevitably also take into account your behaviour and personality. Interviewers will be seeking individuals that are a good team fit, often showcasing friendly personalities and demonstrating teamwork qualities. 

You’ll need to be able to communicate effectively as a developer since you’ll work alongside many different people. Check out our communication and interpersonal skills at work course for some expert advice on workplace communication. 

Have examples ready

Since a coding position is such a technical role, it’s crucial that you have a way to show off your technical skills. Whether it’s a physical demonstration or being asked to offer a detailed description of how you’d solve a problem, you’ll likely need to provide examples to prove your skills. 

Once you have an idea of the languages you’ll need experience in, it’s a good idea to look at some potential examples of code you may expect to use in the role you’re applying for. Why not go a step further and hunt down some mock interview tasks online to practise demonstrating your code before the interview?

Final thoughts

Whichever path you decide to take within your coding journey, we hope that this article has given you some ideas to help you prepare for a coding interview. The role of a software developer is not just rewarding, but also offers opportunities to earn an incredibly high salary.

Keen to pursue a career in software development? Check out our extensive collection of coding courses to build career-ready coding skills. If you’re still early on in your coding career, why not get started with our computer programming for everyone course? Here, you can get to grips with the basics of coding and what it can be used for. 

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