What front end developer interview questions do you need to prepare for? That’s an excellent question, made somewhat difficult to answer by the complex and shifting nature of the job itself.
According to Burning Glass, which collects and analyzes millions of job postings from across the country, the median front end developer salary is $94,891, and average time-to-fill front end developer jobs is 42 days—indicating an elevated level of employer interest.
The task of building the visible parts of websites and mobile UX is a complex and nuanced one, which is part of the reason why these roles are in high demand. Front end developer interview questions will generally focus on past projects, how you overcame challenges, your skill-set, and a possible front end developer portfolio if you're still newer to the field. Keep in mind that, according to Burning Glass, these are the most-requested baseline and “specialized” skills for front end developer positions:
Dice Insights spoke with Victor Janulaitis, CEO at Janco Associates, a consulting firm that deals with IT and business infrastructure, to break down the challenges faced by today’s front end developers, the most important skills to know, and how to wow in the interview process.
What are the challenges faced in this position?
“The current biggest challenge is the [COVID-19] pandemic,” Janulaitis said. “It’s very difficult to for [developers] to get jobs in legacy organizations, because many of them are not attuned to people who are going to be working remotely.”
But after “this whole process” is over, he added, companies are going to rethink so many parts of their workflow, including how they handle remote workers. It’s not out of the question that some companies are going to go almost entirely remote: “You’ll see people working in remote teams with Microsoft Azure, with companies able to review the quality of the work front end developers are doing, and making sure they are physically doing the work.”
In general, companies are looking for front end developers with lots of experience in mobile; you must know how to develop applications for iOS and Android, and many front end developer interview questions will dig into your mobile skill-set. And it’s not just a question of building UX and applications that look good to the user; front end developers will need to know how to address the inevitable privacy, data, and security questions that arise when dealing with customer- and business-facing products.
“Today, front end developers need entirely new set of skills, as opposed to 20 years ago; now it’s about designing for user interface,” Janulaitis said. “Most of the people who have those skills tend to be newer, fresh out of school, or those embedded within the organization that have stayed current with new technology.”
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How do I prepare for a front end developer interview?
“They have to be current with the trends of what’s happening with end-user computing,” Janulaitis said. “They have to understand how to structure themselves so they can work in a team, where you’re dealing with subsets of code.”
When talking about the architecture of the containers or how they design applications, front end developers need to think of their work as a piece of structured infrastructure that must have a consistent look and feel across the organization.
“The front end developer has to be able to explain how to do that,” Janulaitis continued. “You have to make sure you have good validation processes. How do they interact with other front end devs in the development and testing process, how do they go through and do a regression test to make sure what they did is functioning?”
In addition to walking interviewers through their process, front end developers should prepare to talk about their past experience, especially those elements relevant to the job at hand. For example, if you’re applying for a job that involves a lot of mobile-based work, have some stories ready about how you recognized and overcame challenges related to front end development for iOS and Android.
What questions are typically asked for this position during an interview?
Janulaitis said a lot of the questions likely to be asked during an interview are aimed at validating the knowledge of the individual—and making sure they have the right set of soft skills to succeed within a particular team:
- Describe to me the methods and tools you used in your prior job.
- What do you understand about our organization and the direction we are moving in?
- Describe what your role was on the team in your prior position.
What qualities make me a good front end developer candidate?
“Somebody who has a very good work ethic and understands what priorities are,” Janulaitis said. “Let’s take the current situation—you’re a front end developer and there’s a crisis and you have to work away from everyone else, and you have to complete a quality job—are you self-actuating to make sure things get done?”
Especially in a work-from-home environment, it all comes down to the ability to successfully prioritize tasks, as well as knowing what’s most important to accomplish first for the good of the project as a whole. “If they have that mindset, they can be very successful as front end developers,” Janulaitis added.
Beyond personal drive and proficiency with technical skills, being able to work collaboratively and quickly with co-workers is another essential ability.
“When you’re dealing with a complex project with lots of code and lots of team tools, like Microsoft Azure, where people can put bugs in, and you can work on projects together, you need to have that kind of experience,” he said. “Issues appear in real time and have to be solved in real time. They have to understand version control and revision control, what that is, and have they the organization skills to deal with that. The lone ranger no longer exists in that environment—you have to be able to support the team.”
What should I ask?
While it may be a tough thing to ask pointed questions about the stability of the organization you might be joining, it’s better off to ask the tough questions now then be unhappily surprised later.
“Inquire about how long the team has been in place, how many original team members are still there,” Janulaitis said. “If it’s a startup, ask if they can fund the next six months of payroll. I’ve seen startups in Utah simply run out of funding, and they have to let everyone go. A front end developer needs to make sure they can do the job, but also make sure the company will still be around for you to do the job.”
It also means you should do your research before plunging into the interview. Make sure to read through a few years’ worth of news stories (and press releases) about the company. If you have mutual friends with someone who’s worked at the firm, it’s also okay to ask for an introduction; many folks are willing to engage in a quick informational interview about their experiences.
“Find out how the company operates—you have to do your due diligence in the whole process, and make sure the company is not trying to oversell your capabilities, either,” Janulaitis concluded.
Curious as to what your salary should be? Find out what you should be getting for your web developer salary.