Software developer interview tips: what clients look for
We’ve hosted 283 virtual interviews with freelance developers and prospective clients just within the last 7 months. So, we’ve had a front-row seat to the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to interviewing. We’ve taken notes along the way on the most common things clients look for in candidates, and we’ve distilled these into proven software developer interview tips that helped freelance developers get hired.
How you visually present yourself is the first thing clients notice in an interview. It’s a key indicator for how you’ll represent their company and it sets the tone for the rest of the interview. In our experience, we know the minute we see a freelancer’s video how the interview is going to go.
In most cases, If a candidate’s video looks like a cutscene from Dungeons & Dragons with low lighting and a cluttered frame, their interview doesn’t end in a hire.
The most successful interviews we’ve seen are with candidates who:
Position their camera near an adequate light source or window
Already have their audio and video turned on before the client joins
Wear a business casual top (the bottoms are fair game).
Choose a blank wall, clean room, or a professional Zoom background as their backdrop.
The better clients can see the way you present yourself and your workspace without distractions, the easier it is for them to visualize how you’ll fit into their team.
Every interview usually starts with some variation of this prompt: Tell me about yourself. It’s common for candidates to respond with a reiterated version of their resume, but it’s a missed opportunity to win over a client by articulating real-world examples of how you can provide value.
When clients propose that prompt in an interview, they’re looking for answers to a layered inquiry about current experience, interests, and examples of work that they can use to see where you align with their project goals.
The best responses we’ve heard from freelance developers simply use that prompt as a cue to talk about:
The latest project they worked on, and what aspects of their involvement made it a success.
The type of projects they’re most passionate about because of a particular social impact.
The technology they’re currently interested in and how they have implemented it into their workflow.
When a client views your resume and extends an invitation for an interview, they’re expressing interest in you as a potential candidate, and they’ll be looking for ways to gauge your interest during the interview. As a freelance developer, the best way you can express your interest to a potential client is in the questions you ask them.
In our experience, the most successful freelance developers make a point to ask clients questions about the role, their team, and the company during the initial interview. Leave out questions about pay, billing, or budget for the last interview if you’re working solo, or if you’re freelancing on the Gun.io platform, chat directly with your Gun.io rep about it.
Here are some A+ examples to express interest in:
Ask: What will onboarding look like?
What the client hears: This role sounds like something I’d be a good fit for! Where can I provide value first?
The team:Ask: Who will I be working with on the team?
What the client hears: I’m excited to work with existing team members on this project, what will that collaboration look like?
Ask: What are your company goals this year?
What the client hears: This project sounds really interesting, how will my work directly impact the overall company goals?
No one wants their time wasted, so being transparent about your availability and the time you’re willing to put into a client’s project is crucial to establishing trust and marketing yourself as a dependable team member.
We’ve seen freelancers try to overextend their availability to make a client’s full-time project work, while they’re already billing 40 hours per week on another engagement. Ultimately, you’re spreading yourself too thin, and the client you’re interviewing with will be apprehensive to hire you if they know their project won’t be prioritized.
Ready to put these developer interview tips to work? We have tons of clients looking to hire freelance software developers now, and we’ll be there to help you along the way.