If I were interviewed by SKI_BUM and given days to think it through, my answer would be as following.
Pick one or more Java API's/Class libraries and critize them (both good and bad). I don't know about you. I can never remember the appropriate IO classes to use to read/write a file. Granted, the use of decorator pattern in the Java IO libraries makes it very flexible and powerful and all that. But for mundane tasks, such as reading text file, it is awkward to use and too complicated to remember. A set of routines handling common tasks in one liner fashion as in Ruby and Python would make developers' life easier and save everybody's trouble to write his own FileUtil.
How do you participate in a team? A productive team doesn't automatically appear when you throw bunch of people together. It only grows as a result of conscious effort by management and an encouraging environment. It takes two to make up a team. So I will make you a deal. I promise I will be a good team player if you work hard to grow it.
If you have a problem in the team, for example a design problem that you can't agree on, how do you usually solve the problem? I used to believe naively that design problem should be argued purely on technical merit and reasoned with rational. That is why my view did not go through even if it was later proved to be right.
Now I am wiser. When dealing with people, even if they are tech people or even geek, we can never ignore the politics at play, or the sociology as said in the Peopleware. I am working on my HTWFIP skills.
When you design a system, what are your objectives (for instance do you care most about performance, the users, etc.)? Simple to use, good default, and easily extensible.
What books on software or programming have you read lately? In the last month, I read Programming Ruby: The Pragmatic Programmers' Guide, Second Edition, Peopleware : Productive Projects and Teams, 2nd Ed. and Advanced Bash-Scripting Guide.
Ruby is the language I plan to learn this year. Bash is something I found myself in need at work. I read Peopleware because I realized, only recently, that tech skills alone is not enough to be a good developer.
Refactoring: Improving the Design of Existing Code, The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master and Design Patterns are the first three books I read when I first started my programmer career 4 years ago and they are on the top of my reading list. But did not read those lately.
How do you keep up with what's going on in the industry? Following Pragmatic Programmer's advice, I try to read a book every month and learn a new language every year. In addition, I read blogs to keep on top of industry news.
What's your experience with design patterns, refactoring and test-first development? There was a period right after I finished Design Patterns book, I could not help myself to refer to a design pattern when discussing code. Now however, after it sinks in, I find myself seldom talk about it anymore. It just blends in.
Although Refactoring is about improving the existing code, I tend to use it as my coding guideline and strive to write good structured code in the first place. With more and more tools supporting automatic refactoring, it is not as important to know how to do a particular refactoring by hand as to understand why a particular refactoring is needed.
I spent last year working on a Swing application and I find it is really hard to write unit testing for it.
How do you design in UML? Do you design everything in details and the code mechanically afterwards? I don't design in UML. I use UML as sketching, as Martin Fowler suggested. I cringe whenever people suggest detailed design in UML. Firstly, I don't believe you can thought of every design detail without actually writing the code. So detailed design upfront means surprise and more surprise when actual coding starts. Secondly, unlike programing language, UML is ambiguous, people tend to interpret differently.
What's your attitude towards code standards, best practices, etc? I think every team should follow a minimum set of code standards, one page at max, so that team can easily review others' code. I have my preference in coding standard but I am not religious about it. I think code standards is a mutual agreement grow out of team members rather than imposed by management.
How do you feel about learning new API's? It is the nature of our business that one has to keep oneself updated. If a new library or framework improves my team's productivity, I am certainly all for it. However I also learnt over the years to be caution of marketing propaganda. That means I will evaluate a library on my terms rather than market hype.
I skipped two questions regarding to what I am working on as my boss won't be too happy to find it here.