Given the diverse nature of Web projects, anticipating a hiring manager’s needs and preferences can be difficult. It’s not a field where managers are swayed by fancy degrees or certifications, observes Michelle Greenlee, a self-taught Web developer and guide for the Dice Android Talent Community. The ability to describe the problems you’ve solved and the outcomes you’ve achieved is the common denominator among successful candidates.
“You don’t have to ace every technical question to impress a hiring manager,” says Greenlee. “It’s more important to say why the website you created was great and what it accomplished to prove that you’re capable of going above and beyond.”
We asked Greenlee to share a few of the questions she asks when she interviews other Web developers.
What’s your favorite content management system?
- What Most People Say: I like Joomla.
- What You Should Say: I’ve used a number of proprietary and open source content management systems. However, I base my decision on the scope of the project, the desired outcomes and what’s best for the client. In fact, I usually stick with the client’s current system unless there’s a compelling reason to change.
- Why You Should Say It: The client’s needs are more important than product loyalty, says Greenlee. Moreover, your answer should not only showcase your experience with a range of content management systems, but also the way you approach Web development.
When would you use HTML tables?
- What Most People Say: I use HTML tables for page layout.
- What You Should Say: I only use HTML tables for data that needs to be displayed in a tabular format. Of course, I’d consider how much data needs to be displayed before proposing a particular solution.
- Why You Should Say It: Knowledge of page layouts separates experienced developers from those who develop websites as a hobby, according to Greenlee. The pros not only follow the trends, they know that using HTML tables to create page layouts can create issues. For instance, they often cause editing problems and limit a developer’s ability to adapt a website for browsing on mobile devices.
Can you show me a website where you’ve used CSS style sheets?
- What Most People Say: Umm, I can’t point to a specific example.
- What You Should Say: Here’s a link to my online profile that includes some of my latest sites. For instance, here’s a site where I worked with a designer and edited the style sheets. And here’s one that I developed from scratch.
- Why You Should Say It: “Examples are the best way to show your evolution as a developer and the way you apply your skills,” Greenlee says. “Plus, having an online presence shows pride in your work and that you’re conscientious enough to prepare for an interview.”
Do you primarily code from scratch or use a code editor? If you use an editor, which one?
- What Most People Say: “I’ve used Microsoft FrontPage.” Or, “I primarily use Notepad.”
- What You Should Say: I’ve used Notepad and a variety of editors for editing or creating code from scratch. For instance, I’m familiar with Dreamweaver, MS Expression and Eclipse, just to name a few.
- Why You Should Say It: The best developers are flexible, Greenlee says. They’re willing to code from scratch or work with several editors. Inflexibility or fear of change raises a red flag with managers and decreases your value as a Web developer.
What’s your greatest accomplishment?
- What Most People Say: I built an awesome website that looked great and was really popular.
- What You Should Say: I recently took on a very difficult project for XYZ Company after sales fell by 64 percent when a form for submitting customer leads stopped working. After testing the form and gathering some basic information about the circumstances where the error occurred, I made several changes to the code that solved the problem. As a result, XYZ has been hitting its sales target every month.
- Why You Should Say It: It’s not enough to build a great-looking site. Web developers are expected to drive customer loyalty and brand differentiation as measured by increases in business results. Describe the problem you faced and how you fixed it, then validate your claims by citing the outcomes you achieved using traditional Web analytics like page views, click-through rates and customer satisfaction data.
“It’s OK to be self-promotional as long as you back up your claims with facts,” Greenlee says. “Unsubstantiated assertions about the sites you’ve developed won’t impress anyone because that’s nothing more than self-promotional fluff.”