How to Win the iOS Developer Job Interview

All tech jobs have one thing in common: the interview process can be tough. For iOS developers, this can seem especially true: A shifting language landscape is moving away from legacy codebases, and some employers aren’t sure where to focus their energy—Swift or Objective-C (or both)?

It’s not hopeless, though! Sometimes change is representative of opportunity, and that holds true for iOS developers in 2020. Instead of crossing your fingers and hoping for the best in the process, here’s how to make sure you’re landing a quality iOS dev job with an excellent employer.

Culture Matters

Diversity matters, but so do other aspects of company culture.

According to James Budgen, technical recruiter and hiring consultant at Arc.dev, size matters: “It’s important that the iOS developer matches the culture of your business. If you’re hiring for a big enterprise, you’d look for previous work experience in large, well-known companies. If you’re hiring for a startup, you’d look for a developer with experience working for startups.”

Large companies may appreciate your entrepreneurial spirit, but will also want you to respect the processes in place. Meanwhile, a small company may give you the green light to push into production on Friday afternoons.

When looking for a job, consider the company’s size before applying. Culturally, large and small firms are often very different, and this can have an impact on job satisfaction, depending on what you’re looking for. Bottom line: if you don’t think you’d like working at a company that size, don’t pursue the job.

Technical Skillset

For iOS developers, keeping up with changes in Swift can be difficult. For those who haven’t bothered to learn Swift at all, it’s potentially daunting, as the language is evolving rather, well, swiftly (pun definitely intended). Swift is critical for iOS developers moving forward, and hiring managers have identified it as a necessary skill.

(If you’re still trying to catch up on everything Swift-related, check out the Dice tutorials on Swift functions, loops, sets, arrays, and strings.)    

“You want to be sure that their iOS technical skills match the job requirements, and that they have enough experience,” Budgen told Dice.

The converse is also true. Developers who know Swift, but have no experience or knowledge of Objective-C, should expect raised eyebrows in the interview process. For companies supporting older apps or services, it’s likely that much (maybe most) of their stack is written in Objective-C. Even if the team is migrating to Swift, technical debt looms large.

Closely examine the job description before applying, and ask for clarification early in the process. Ask the recruiter or hiring manager to clarify exactly what languages and frameworks they utilize so you can move forward with confidence (or bow out early).

Show Your Work

“If they have open source experience, it’s usually an indicator that they’re good iOS developers,” Budgen said. “It means they’re probably passionate about what they do, and even do it for fun in their spare time.”

In other words, open source is also a good place to prove your worth to employers. If you have experience in a framework or language the company uses, having an open source repo (hopefully loaded up with your previous projects and experiments) is a good way for them to peek into your workflow. Even if you’ve forked a repo and are simply adding to another repo, it can show the hiring company you’re actively working on tech important to their flow.

Know Your Role

Finally, we suggest you ask clarifying questions during the interview itself. Hiring managers often ask open-ended questions, and they want very detailed answers.

Before answering, ask clarifying questions. If a recruiter or interviewer says, “Tell me about your experience with React Native,” that’s open to interpretation. A good clarifying response may be something along the lines of, “Are you asking if I’ve used React Native for iOS development in a production environment, or if I’ve used it at all?”

The company may be exploring React for cross-platform, and want your thoughts on it. They may also be exploring moving away from React, and are curious if you’ve ever migrated a codebase. Sometimes, employers ask opaque questions to see if your interests align with theirs.

Asking clarifying questions not only shows you’re knowledgeable, but can provide glimpses into what the employer is looking for from someone in the role.

Conclusion

Large companies aren’t for everyone. The bureaucracy can be maddening. Small companies probably don’t have infrastructure in place to support huge ambitions. A company’s size speaks to its culture, both of inclusivity and the day-to-day work environment.

For most iOS developers, the work matters most, making a proper skillset the most critical point. This is also why we advise asking clarifying questions in an interview. Before you end up in some pair-programming or whiteboard exercise, it’s good to know what you’re getting yourself into—and being up-front about your skillset can help the employer frame those situations (and inspire their confidence in hiring you).

A company will be critical about who it hires, and you should be just as critical about where you focus your energy as a job seeker.