Are You Asking the Right Software Engineer Phone Screen Questions?

Hard truth: The top half of developer resumes all look the same.

With remote work, posting an open role means getting a FLOOD of applications. And now with generative AI, many of these have cover letters and resumes automatically adjusted for your job post.

This is where effective software engineer phone screen questions come in handy. They help you separate the good candidates from the rest.

Challenges Creating Software Engineer Phone Screen Questions

However, not all software engineer phone screen questions are created equal. Many phone screen prompts and take-home test challenges are ineffective because of:

  • Bias –  When startups try to emulate Big Tech’s tricky questions and mind-boggling puzzles during the interview process, they cause candidates unnecessary stress and lose out on talented individuals who may be nervous.
  • Code focus – Experienced developers do more than just code. What you want is someone who can solve problems and lead a team; you won’t find that person with a code quiz.
  • High expectations – Asking a candidate to complete a 10-hour take-home test that’s loaded with coding questions might help you weed out unqualified candidates. But it’ll also weed out senior engineers who value their time and energy. (Studies show that 90% of candidates hate lengthy take-home tests.)
  • Rigidity – Hiring managers make an educated guess about how a developer fits a certain role based on their answers to coding questions. And sometimes, a developer excels in one area and fails in another. Rather than using strengths and weaknesses examples for a more wholistic approach, many HM’s disqualify candidates completely.

Phew. That’s a lot to overcome.

Proper screening is vital in every technical interview, but most software engineer technical interview questions don’t work in today’s world. What’s an engineering manager to do?

Let’s look at some examples of some software developer interview questions that will help you find the right person for the role.

Entry level software developer phone screen questions

Even the most experienced developers had to start somewhere.

Regardless of whether or not you’re hiring a “fresher” – a developer who is fresh out of college and still has on their training wheels – it’s important to understand how to screen for this type of role.


Because hiring an experienced engineer is vastly different from hiring a junior dev.

The internet is full of resources for entry-level software developer interview questions and answers, like the IBM entry-level software engineer questions Reddit thread. Here you’ll find screening questions along the lines of:

  • Why do you want to work as a software engineer?
  • Where do you see yourself in 5-7 years?
  • Why should we hire you for this position?
  • Why are you interested in software development?
  • Explain how to remove duplicates from an array in place.
  • What motivates you when handling complicated projects?
  • How do you stay up to date on your software engineering skills?

A junior front developer is likely to research “what are your strengths and weaknesses for freshers” questions and other junior front-end developer interview questions and answers to prepare for their interviews.

They should be conversant with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, and know various web frameworks such as React. Junior devs spend most of their time doing basic coding and other simple tasks like:

  • Styling and implementing UI mocks and components
  • Working with APIs
  • Testing and tweaking UIs
  • Adding usability capabilities

When using a junior developer coding challenge to screen candidates, it’s important to include junior software developer technical interview questions (as well as the behavioral questions listed above) for a wholistic approach.

Some technical things you might ask a junior software engineer:

  • Do you have a task prioritization strategy?
  • Have you completed any projects using HTML recently?
  • What are the functions of CSS?
  • When loading HTML, CSS and JavaScript together on a host page, which programming renders first?
  • What is your .NET proficiency level?

Combining these prompts into a junior software developer test will increase your chances of recruiting the best junior front-end developer for your open role.

Senior software engineer phone screen questions

Screening candidates with 5+ years of experience is a different story.

A senior developer has moved beyond code and juggles a lot of responsibility on a daily basis. They handle managerial tasks, design, test, and implement software programs, and use skills like system-thinking, debugging, and architecture to solve difficult problems.

To find the right leader for your development team, you need a combination of effective senior developer interview questions and senior developer behavioral interview questions. You should also consider analytical ability.

Analytical skills are important for gathering data, breaking down challenges, assessing pros and cons, and developing logical solutions. And having an engineer with the ability to spot and fix a problem before it becomes a catastrophe is invaluable.

The most common technical questions involve data structures, critical thinking, technical expertise, algorithms, domain knowledge, etc. Utilizing analytical interview questions can help you uncover who has the chops to solve complex, real-world challenges.

(These problem-solving interview questions for software engineers can help you get started.)


Think of it this way: Would you ask a professional dancer to talk you through their dance moves? No – you’d ask to see them dance.

The same goes for senior developers. Why would you give them a code quiz instead of compiling a list of comprehensive questions to ask a senior software engineer?

The right senior software engineer interview questions make all the difference.

Questions to expect candidates to ask

Another important point to consider is that screening is a two-way street.

Whether you’re interviewing a junior developer or a senior engineer with 10 years of experience, you’ll likely hear the phrase: “May I ask you a few questions about this role?”

Experts say that when a software engineer inquires about their career, it’s a good sign of engagement and shows that the candidate is interested in your company.

Remember: one cause of interview failure is lack of preparation. Your candidate is probably prepped with questions to ask the software recruiter. It’s up to you to handle those questions with care. (Tip: Check out the questions to ask a hiring manager software engineer Reddit thread.)

Your candidate is interviewing you as much as you are interviewing them. They want to know about your company, your culture, and your open role from your point of view.

Once you’ve reviewed some examples of questions to ask when a recruiter reaches out, you’ll be prepared for anything that comes your way. Then you can relax and enjoy the conversation.

Deeper Technical Screen Options

Speaking of preparation… Let’s circle back to finding the right software engineer screening questions.

Screening candidates is arguably the most important part of the interview process. It’s like building a house – once you have a solid foundation, everything else falls into place.

Woven’s technical assessment platform makes it easy to build high-performing engineering teams. Companies who use our coding challenges to screen candidates  have shown to reduce bias, increase qualified hires, and actually attract candidates to their open roles.

Plus, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that the best and most qualified people for the role are making it to your late-stage interviews. Our platform helps save you time and resources while providing a positive candidate experience. It’s a win-win!

If you’re an engineering leader ready to up your hiring game, start a free trial with Woven today. We’ll ask the right software engineer screening questions so you don’t have to.