The Behavioral Interview with Software Engineers: Questions and Answers

New engineering managers understandably focus on the technical interview when hiring. They know that identifying software development candidates with top-quality engineering skills can determine the future of their team and the company as a whole. But finding the right candidate for the right position is always a two-step process, with successful engineers moving on to the behavioral interview.

To confuse the two or try to combine them, as many online interview tools do, can short circuit the hiring process. Technical assessments must be given on an appropriate platform and supplemented by an evaluation of results by senior engineers.

Fortunately, much time can be saved by screening developers early and only having behavioral interviews with qualified, pre-vetted candidates. Your software engineer behavioral interview questions and answers can result in discussions that reveal:

  • The candidate’s thought process when approaching complex technical problems spanning systems thinking, innovative frontend programming, and technical communications among team members
  • The candidate’s professional interests and goals and the long-term objectives of the company’s development team
  • How well the candidate has understood their on-the-job experiences, including both successes and failures, and used them to grow professionally
  • If the candidate has the right mindset and personal characteristics for a future leadership role
  • If the candidate, though technically qualified, is not a good fit for the company or team

Woven is here to help! In addition to using our online coding test to screen your engineers, consult this list of software developer behavioral interview questions and answers to help shape your late-stage interviews.

Behavioral interview questions to ask in 2022

Technical assessments always require that your company’s senior devs and IT executives invest time in interviewing.

The most useful behavioral interview questions are open-ended (because yes or no answers and terminology explanations are for entry-level engineers and covered by tests) and also specific enough to rule out answers that are mere generalizations.

Some examples of interview questions for developers:

  • How have you handled difficult technical challenges in backend programming?
  • Can you tell us about an experience with designing and developing a software architecture?
  • How has your preferred approach to working with members of a development team evolved?
  • Describe your experience managing a software development project.
  • What are some of your experiences in leading code reviews?
  • What was your most recent experience with a complex debugging issue?
  • Is adherence to specific coding standards important to you?

There are many resources you can use to find free sample behavioral interview questions and answers. Below are examples from one such site, which provides the top 36 situational interview questions and answers for engineers:

  • Tell me about a time you failed. How did you handle it?
  • Tell me about a time you had to work closely with someone you didn’t get along with. What did you do?
  • What would you do if you were asked to complete a task you’d never done before?
  • Tell me about a time you were in a high-pressure situation. How did you get through it?
  • Describe a time you had to make a good impression on a client.

Tip: Use our list of software engineer technical interview questions to find more sample questions and explanations about what a candidate’s answers might mean for your team. 

Software engineer technical interview questions

The behavioral interview and the technical interview both play an important part in identifying the right candidate for your open role.

Technical interviews screen candidates for requisite engineering skills; behavioral interviews tell you if an employee is the right match for your team and existing company culture.

Admittedly, these two areas are not entirely distinct. Woven’s challenges include an evaluation of skills in technical communication as well as specific software engineering skills like systems thinking and debugging.

But as a rule, questions in the technical assessment interview focus on knowledge and skills specific to the field of software engineering and its different roles (Junior/Mid Fullstack Engineer, SRE DevOps Engineer, and so forth). At their most effective, these assessments go further than typical software engineer coding interview questions and dive deeper into a candidate’s ability to define and solve real-world problems.

Indeed categorizes the following as in-depth questions

  • How do you develop and enforce database confidentiality policies?
  • How do you approach debugging an entire system of applications?
  • How have you implemented the Agile framework in your software design processes?
  • What kind of instrumentation do you apply to ensure high-performance architecture design?
  • When would you consider a NoSQL design over an SQL design?

Non technical interview questions and answers for software developers

But wait – there’s more!

A subcategory of the behavioral interview involves non technical interview questions for engineers. These are questions that the HR department might use during a phone screen, even before the technical interview or the behavioral interview, and might include non coding technical interview questions.

Here are examples of scenario based interview questions for software developers:

  • How do you approach setting professional goals?
  • Describe your leadership style.
  • What is your ideal work environment?
  • What do you hope to accomplish in your senior role for our company?
  • How will your experience help you contribute to our goals?

Entry-level software engineer interview questions

It’s important for engineering managers to maintain a clear distinction between entry-level software developer interview questions and questions for senior engineers.

The technical interview for junior software engineers includes entry-level coding questions. Candidates are expected to have code writing skills from computer engineering courses and programming in code is their main responsibility. A few examples of entry level software engineer coding questions include:

  • How can you reverse a string?
  • What is a palindrome string?
  • How do you get the matching characters in a string?
  • How do you calculate the number of vowels and consonants in a string?
  • How do you prove that two strings are anagrams?

Behavioral interviews are also used on entry-level candidates and often revolve around why do you want to be a software developer interview answers. Here are more examples of behavioral interview questions for junior devs:

  • Tell us about yourself.
  • Why do you want to work as a software engineer?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • Do you enjoy working as part of a team?
  • Why do you want to work for this company?

Note: These questions are non-technical, but they are situationally specific to the field (software engineer), the nature of the position (in a development team), and the company.

Senior software engineer behavioral interviews

Next up we have senior devs.

It’s important to emphasize, again, the contrast between interviewing entry-level candidates and mid- or senior-level candidates. The distinction applies to the behavioral interview as well as the technical interview.

Woven’s technical assessment platform, for example, evaluates engineering knowledge and skills at appropriate levels, but with a consistent emphasis on their application to real-world problem solving. We test for nine key roles on the software development team: Mid/Senior Fullstack Engineer; Junior/Mid Fullstack Engineer; Engineering Manager; SRE/DevOps Engineer; Mid/Senior Frontend Engineer; Junior/Mid Frontend Engineer; Mid/Senior Backend Engineer; Junior/Mid Backend Engineer; and Mid/Senior Generalist Engineer.

A candidate’s results, which are evaluated by two senior engineers in our network, are reported and interpreted for you (the engineering manager) and others involved in hiring. This sets the stage for the behavior interview with candidates already screened for technical skill. Your team’s senior engineers can now focus on the behavioral interview and the expectations for the position being filled.

Here are examples of behavioral interview questions for senior software engineering candidates. It can be useful for your team to formulate your own specific questions along these lines:

  • Tell me about a time when you…
  • Describe a situation when you…
  • Give me an example of a time you…
  • Think about an instance in which you…
  • Tell me how you approached a situation where…

All of these senior software engineer interview questions should be considered as initiating a conversation. For instance:

  • Describe a situation when you did much more than was expected from you to get the project done. Were your efforts recognized? By whom and how? How did that make you feel?
  • Describe a situation in which you met a major obstacle to overcome in completing a project. How did you deal with it? What steps did you take?
  • I’d be interested in hearing about a miscommunication you had with your supervisor. How did you solve it? What was the reason for that? How did you deal with that situation?

If you’re ready to try the Woven approach, start a free trial of our tech interview platform. You can take a real-world simulation from our library and see how our tech interviews set you up with qualified software engineers. Get in touch with us today!