twenty interview questions

This is a list of 20 web developer interview questions picked up from SEOmoz via Dan Morrill. I really like interview questions because they can give you good practice. When I am looking for a job (which I currently am) I actually do rehearse to myself (and typically write down) answers to typical questions such as my weakness, my strength, team vs work alone, why the current job is not right, what I want in a job, a manager, life, and so on. In fact, I plan to carve out a spot in my wiki to someday house these questions and my answers for future reference. And one thing I do stress in any interview is to be honest and positive. Admit a weakness, don’t cop out or cover it up. Use it as an opportunity to show the employer you know yourself and that you have a plan to address that weakness. Anyway, this looks like a long post, but here’s some answers for these questions (some are pertinent only to web developers, though!).

1. What industry sites and blogs do you read regularly?
I tend to cop out here and say that I read a lot of things, mainly blogs and online news sites, which are all in my RSS reader and listed on my website on the right. But I do try to stay concrete and mention some of my A-list links such as TaoSecurity, Jeremiah Grossman,, Security Monkey, Internet Storm Center, Errata, F-Secure, Full Disclosure, and so on largely depending on what type of job I am working on. I do like to make sure I know a nice mix of my favorite sites to read so that I can pull them out quickly without floundering. I remember years ago someone asking me what my favorite hacking site was and kinda floundering and sputtering out PacketStorm just because the guy was a suit who thought he knew hacking. When given a chance, though, I always want to say that I read up on sites every other day if not daily for the important ones.

2. Do you prefer to work alone or on a team?
I love this question and hate it. I love it because my honest answer is both fairly equally. I hate it because that is the prototypical bullshit answer. So I feel obligated to expound! I love working alone because sometimes you can just put your head down and really concentrate on working either through a problem or something that is otherwise tedious. It is true that sometimes in IT too many hands in the kitchen make too big a mess, or will try to do things in different ways such that nothing ends up getting done with any semblance of quality. I also love working on a team because there are times when I don’t know everything and need help, times when I physically cannot get all the work done by a deadline without extra hands, and times when just talking a problem through to someone else will jog my thoughts and give me fresh ideas. I truly do enjoy both and am quite comfortable working in either environment as long as the company and manager and colleagues are supportive and get shit done. I have experience working both ways.

3. How comfortable are you with writing HTML entirely by hand?
Very. I’ve never used a WYSIWYG editor and don’t even need color-coded parsing to help out. Give me notepad and I’m fine.

7. Describe/demonstrate your level of competence in a *nix shell environment
I would put my level of competence in a *nix shell environment as beginner to intermediate, although people less than me might put me higher. I tend to place myself lower than I should be, only because there is so much power in *nix shells and so much to learn. I feel just slightly more comfortable inside a CLI as opposed to a GUI.

8. What skills and technologies are you the most interested in improving upon or learning?
For a learning junkie like me, this includes everything! I am most interested in learning whatever is needed or is tickling my muse at the moment, within reasonable bounds so that I don’t try to do too much and end up with minimal knowledge in lots of things. I do strive for expert level knowledge in the things I can tackle on a day to day basis and intermediate to high knowledge in things I do on my own or less often outside the day to day job. Specifically, I want to continue to improve my Linux exposure, wireless foo, and security assessments. I want to get hands-on into Snort and log correlation over a network.

11. Show me your code!
View source my code yourself! But keep in mind I’m not a pro web developer, nor do I update my code all that often. My old site is rife with old junk that makes me cringe. This site is slightly cleaner since it is years newer.

12. What are a few sites you admire and why? (from a webdev perspective)
Digg and Google are excellent and clean. I like sites that are clean, offer up their functions, and are not hard on the eyes and soul (ads all over, weird links, blah blah). Give me aesthetically pleasing any day, not MySpace-like. A clear, simple layout.

14. I just pulled up the website you built and the browser is displaying a blank page. Walk me through the steps you’d take to troubleshoot the problem.
Blame the network guys! Hehe, kidding. I would first replicate the problem on my end so that I can see what is going on. Then try to do a view source to make sure I’m hitting the right location and what the browser is being presented. If the problem is network-related, drop into a CLI and start investigating DNS and IP connectivity. If the probem appears to be code-related, check the code from the View Source and make adjustments. Possibly get on the server and try to pull the page up local to the server, check the logs, fashion test pages to troubleshoot IIS/Apache functionality…

16. Do you find any particular languages or technologies intimidating?
I really like this question and have sadly never heard this in an interview! I am currently most intimidated in general in just doing something new for the first time that I’m unproven with. For instance, being challenged to do something that might not be possible can be really intriguing yet frustrating. I’m aware of this intimidation and work to keep it cornered as much as possible. In specific, I am most intimidated lately by ordering the proper equipment that is compatible and not over-budget for the needs. I think that’s largely inexperience coupled with spending someone else’s money.