10 questions to ask when hiring a remote front-end developer

With remote work, we need to analyze a potential candidate’s soft skills (such as communication and productivity) in addition to their technical prowess and industry knowledge.

Sure you may have the next Elon Musk on your coding team, but if they cannot communicate effectively with other remote members in the workspace, any benefits will be negated.

Below, I’ve outlined nine key questions that will help you determine whether a potential frontend coder will be a good fit for your company while working remotely.

The questions are split into two parts: the “general” section that looks at an applicant’s soft skills; and the “specialty” section that analyzes their industry knowledge.

These questions hold water with most types of front-end specialist developers, including full-stack, HTML5, CSS, custom app developers, and data migration specialists. 

Let’s start off with how to structure the interview because proper preparation is the key to success.

Structuring The Interview

Quickly, the first step is to make the candidate feel comfortable, so begin by telling them about yourself, asking about their day. 

Small talk often helps people adjust better to unfamiliar places. Most companies allot about 30 – 45 minutes for an interview, and it is usually formatted as under:

Introduction (The interview panelist/ panelists introduce themselves) 5 Minutes
General Proficiency Questions (To test subject Knowledge) 10 Minutes
Specialty Questions  (High-level questions/ Reasoning Questions) 15 Minutes
Recent Work History 10 Minutes
Candidate allowed to ask questions 5 Minutes

You can add or subtract time from each section as you see fit. 

The “specialty questions” time slot for developer jobs usually involves a coding challenge rather than theoretical bombardment.

10 Interview Questions You Cannot Skip When Hiring A Frontend Developer

General Proficiency Questions

Designed to gauge how an applicant handles their day-to-day tasks when working remotely.

  1. What can you do?

Any potential candidate for even junior level frontend jobs should have at least a working knowledge of all of the following:

  • CSS
  • HTML
  • JavaScript 
  • JQuery
  • Knowledge about cross-browser, multi-platform testing.

Those are the base “need to have” skills, but here are a few “good to have” skills as well:

  • Experience with CMS (Content Management Systems) like Joomla, WordPress, or Drupal
  • Experience or working knowledge of PHP
  • Knowledge of OOPS
  • Knowledge of SEO
  • Knowledge about how UI and UX are interrelated

I’d say that if an applicant can tick the five “base” skills and at least two of the “good to have” skills, they can be considered a strong candidate for the job.

  • What tools do you use to stay productive and manage your projects?

With in-person developers, you can monitor how your team is performing in real-time, and they can also collaborate with each other in real-time too.

With remote frontend developers, the story is a little different. They need to be up to scratch on their time management skills because there is no one to keep them on track for deliverables.

A good answer will mention::

  • Timer Apps / Reminder Apps (Toggl, Harvest, Clockify)
  • Project Management Software (Monday, Asana, Trello)
  • Code Testing/ Auto-Testing Add-ons (Mocha, Jasmine, Jenkins)
  • Integrated Development Environment tools (NetBeans, Brackets, Atom)

In addition, they may describe their workflows to you. 

A disciplined candidate will work either in short, timed bursts of productivity or in one extended sitting. 

  • How do you plan to grow your skills?

Much like most modern websites, a good developer should be dynamic, not static (pardon the pun). 

Although there is no right answer to this question, a good answer will be something along the lines of:

  • Following regularly updated development blogs
  • Staying abreast of new updates to the libraries that they use on a regular basis
  • Pursuing professional development courses in the future
  • Planning for higher education

Specialty Questions

Designed to test the working knowledge of possible front-end developers for your project. These questions are not too difficult but do require a decent depth of knowledge on the applicant’s part.

  • When and where would you make use of the CSS Float archetype?

CSS float is used when you want to move an element to the left or right side of the webpage, and you need other elements on the page to wrap around it.

A good answer will contain:

  • A textbook definition of CSS float
  • An example of it being used in a past project
  • A mention of dynamically resizable websites
  • A comment of element wrapping
  • How do you structure your code, so it’s easy to understand for future developers?

Devs often work with code written by others and will also leave their code for other developers to work with in the future.

A good answer will contain:

  • Sectional division of every page (e.g., stylesheets)
  • Lots of developer comments (to guide others)
  • Organized, serially numbered pages of code, with folders
  • Knowledge of why code structuring is important
  • Pretend I’m a junior coder. Differentiate between prototypal and class inheritance.

Inheritance in JS is not like other languages: in Java, inheritance is prototypal based and not class-based.

A good answer will contain;

  • A definition of prototypal and class inheritance
  • An example of inheritance scenarios
  • A mention of Java as a pairing of names and values
  • A note about how private properties link to other objects in JS

This is the only question on this list where a “full marks” answer will need to contain all subpoints.

  • How would you clean up an unoptimized website? 

Sharp candidates will ask you “unoptimized in what way?”, to which you can describe any situation you fancy.

In general, the best ways to boost the performance of a website are the following and should be included somewhere in the applicant’s answer:

  • Compressing site images
  • Effective use of “lazy loading” for certain images
  • Trimming the fat on the total amount of code there is
  • Reducing the total number of HTTP requests the site sends
  • Enabling the prefetching of site components
  • What are your go-to APIs?

What you’re really looking for here is whether or not the applicant is familiar (and more importantly, comfortable) with integrating various APIs into the website.

There’s no right or wrong answer here, the main thing is to see if a candidate has a few APIs on the tip of their tongue, or whether they have to stop and think of some before answering.

Long story short: if their answer sounds like it’s from a textbook or recited from rote memory, it probably is.

In my opinion, this is one of the most important questions on this list because it demarcates the difference between an actual web developer and a simple designer who occasionally fiddles around with a bit of Java.

You might be wondering why I’ve mentioned APIs in an article on frontend development. To learn more about APIs, I recommend glancing through this brilliant piece by Forbes.

  • Do you know what lazy loading is?

The main theme of the answer should be that “lazy loading postpones the initialization of an object until the user needs it”.

Give the applicant due credit for mentioning:

  • The fact that lazy loading is not applicable or beneficial in all situations
  • The fact that only elements outside the user’s field of view should be lazily loaded
  • The fact that lazily loading relies heavily on placeholder text to improve performance

General Suggestions

Aside from all of the above, I have a few general comments about any interview you conduct in the future.

Remember to:

  • Tell the candidate why the position was open in the first place (growth, resignations, etc.) as this creates an atmosphere of transparency and honesty.
  • Ask the applicant about their career plan and expectations from the role and company.
  • Ask all applicants to describe their favorite (industry-related) work moment. This helps you gauge their level of passion for their work.
  • Standardize the interview method for all candidates to get consistent, comparable results.

As we’ve seen through this article, recruiting new coders for your team can be a daunting task, but with the right preparation, is easily manageable.

The only major downside of doing it on your own is having to sift through the massive pile of (let’s be honest here — mostly irrelevant) applications by oneself.

That is why most companies choose to go the external hiring agency route when hiring front-end developers.

You get access to a massive, verified talent pool that suits almost any role you might require to be filled.

However, if you decide to take care of the interview process by yourself, this article sure should come in handy! 

And with that, I’ll bid adieu — until next time, folks.

Written by Frederick Jace

A passionate Blogger and a Full time Tech writer. SEO and Content Writer Expert since 2015.

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