Learn to Interview PHP Developers Like a Pro

One word to describe PHP would be ubiquitous. It’s everywhere. And so are the people who develop with it. So how do you find a stellar PHP developer among all those who claim to “know” the language? This article will give you the answer.

Although countless “experts” insist that PHP is on its last legs, this server-side language is still standing strong. It is used in more than 80 percent of all web projects, and with PHP 7 just around the corner, its dominance on the web is only going to increase.

PHP’s entry barrier is relatively low, which is why finding an average PHP developer isn’t all that hard. However, mastering this language takes a lot of time and effort, and if it’s the elite few you’re looking for, you will need to devise a flawless interview process.

With interview questions, it's crucial to maintain a balance: you want to test your candidates’ problem-solving ability, but not torture them with a long list of boring questions and potentially drive them away.

Here are some of the things you should do to identify skilled PHP developers.

1. Ask a few basic questions

While you don’t want to grill your candidates with a standard interview routine, asking one or two basic questions won’t hurt anyone. You need to make sure that the candidate has a good understanding of PHP and how it’s used in the development process.

There are a few red flags to watch for at this stage:

The candidate can’t answer a basic technical question, like “what is a class?”, “what are traits?”, or “what is namespacing in PHP and why is it useful?

If they are a candidate for a junior position, they don’t demonstrate enough knowledge of other technologies, such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript and XML.

If they are a candidate for a middle/senior position, they can’t answer questions about architecture and optimization.

2. Ask a few specific questions

These will largely depend on the kind of knowledge and skills your project requires. We're currently working on an extensive list of sample PHP interview questions that will help evaluate a candidate’s expertise. The list will include server-side, database, and client-side related topics. So check back soon if you’re interested. 

Read also: PHP interview questions to ask an offshore PHP developer

3. Ask the candidate about their past projects

It’s important to have your candidates explain what it was exactly that they did on their past projects. The projects themselves may be very impressive, but the part they played in them might not be.

However, bear in mind that they could have worked under NDA, so if their answers are a little fuzzy, it doesn’t mean you should drop them from the list of potential hires immediately.

Check out CVs of available PHP developers

4. Ask the candidate to explain something non-technical

Ideally, something you know little about. Developers often need to explain things to other developers and non-developers alike, and having them talk about something they find interesting can tell you a lot about how they communicate, which is no less important than their PHP skills.

5. Watch the candidate code

There are a few ways to do this. You could use one of many coding tests available online, but make sure they are real world coding challenges and not some standard “textbook” problems. Alternatively, you could give them a small trial. For this, you could repurpose a problem from a project you or your team are currently working on. Remember, it’s not the final code that matters here. You just want to see how your candidate approaches a task and get the opportunity to review their work.

Conclusion

Much of the challenge of hiring PHP programmers lies in the widespread presence of the language. You'll come across many who claim to “know” PHP, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a good fit for your project.

So make sure you know very clearly what skill set you want your PHP programmer to possess, what frameworks you are planning to use, and what the ultimate goal of your project is. Use these as guidelines, and, hopefully, hiring the right PHP developer will become a little easier.

Read how to set up your own remote PHP development team in Ukraine

And if you feel like you could do with some help, contact us now to learn how we can help you hire a true PHP expert.

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