Top Questions for the Technical Interview: Software Engineer

A career as a software engineer is full of challenges and responsibilities.

Developers are expected to implement and test complex algorithms, debug errors in code, and communicate with teammates.

Every day at work is different, as they continuously face new challenges, and the job doesn’t end when the project deadline has been reached. Their next task is to maintain existing code or start planning for future updates. After that comes finding bugs that were overlooked during development time by testing the product thoroughly.

So how do you find, evaluate, and hire the right person for the job?

Below, we’ll look at the technical interview software engineer process and the types of questions that are commonly asked to assess a candidate’s aptitude.

Software developer technical interview questions

Let’s dive into the types of questions you’ll likely hear during a software engineer interview.

The most common software engineer technical interview questions are about data structures and algorithms. These can either come in the form of whiteboard exercises or written tests with given APIs. While most developers have the knowledge and skills required to answer these questions, many dread whiteboard interviews because they’re stressful (and studies show that they eliminate qualified applicants.)

Data structures and algorithms are important, but there’s more to software engineering than these topics. A good portion of the interview is usually spent on testing the candidate’s problem-solving skills and the way they approach an issue.

Every developer knows that software is created by teams. So, it’s important to find out if the person is capable of collaborating with their colleagues and following instructions from managers/project leads.

Good interview questions test their general knowledge, such as:

What is the role of a software engineer? What is unit testing?

Software engineering interview questions about team collaboration, communications skills, conflict resolution, and people management include:

What is your experience with pair programming?

How do you communicate better with other programmers?

Describe your current/previous project. What was the most frustrating thing that happened while working on it? What did you do to resolve the conflict?

Team leading/management, delegation, and prioritization are important skills that every team lead/technical manager has. Ask questions like:

How do you prioritize the tasks of your team? What tools do you use for tracking deadlines of individual team members’ responsibilities?

Which development methodologies are you familiar with?

Technical interview questions about work management and time management:

How much time do you spend on daily meetings? How would you prioritize your tasks in such a way that the rest of the team wouldn’t be negatively impacted?

The next category is more situational and conversational. An interviewer might ask a candidate to describe themselves, give positive and negative answers to questions, or ask a candidate to explain how their character would fare in a job situation. For example:

Describe yourself according to these adjectives: decisive, empathetic, confident. What are the negative sides of each adjective? How do you deal with them?

Tell me about a time when you didn’t follow the company’s guidelines/rules/policies. What happened? How did you feel about it?

More technical interview questions for experienced developers:

How would you handle testing an application that was created before, but is still active and needs to be maintained/modified regularly?

What are the pros and cons of object-oriented programming versus functional programming?

Do you work with a specific programming language or a couple of them?

What abstractions do you use in your current/previous project? Have you been involved in any interesting open-source projects?

Entry level software developer interview questions

When you’re hiring for a new position, it’s important to determine the right fit and ask questions specific to that person’s seniority level.

Entry-level developers might not have years of experience in their domain, but they should know the base programming languages and possess good problem-solving skills. Most are eager to learn and grow within a company.

Some effective junior web developer interview questions might be:

  1. Why do you want to be a software engineer? What are your long-term goals?
  2. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  3. What programming language would you like to learn in the future?
  4. Why do you want to work for this company?
  5. How do you keep up with the rapidly changing technologies in your field?

You may also want to use a junior developer coding challenge to assess their capabilities.

Remember that the interview is a two-way process. Not only are you trying to find out if the candidate is a right fit for your team, but they’re trying to get to know you better, too. Be sure to ask about their experience, interests, and goals when recruiting junior developers.

More junior software engineer interview questions are available on Indeed.

Senior software engineer interview questions

Senior software engineers are perfect for solving complex problems or working on projects that require in-depth knowledge of development architectures. They’re also pivotal members of the team, so you should ask questions that assess their leadership and project management skills.

These senior developer interview questions test a candidate’s understanding of the industry and how it impacts your business:

  1. How would you approach software engineering if there was a 50% chance that the person you’re working with has no experience in this area?
  2. What common problems do companies face after they outsource part of their development process?
  3. What makes a good team member, and what’s the difference between good and great?
  4. What makes your work ethic different from others in your field?
  5. What are some productivity tips or time management strategies you have learned over the years?

For more senior developer interview questions, check Indeed.

Final thoughts on software engineer technical interview questions

Your software interview preparation plan should include more than just technical interview questions. It’s critical to learn the candidate’s perspective on every aspect of their job. Get to know your candidates well and you’ll end up with one of the best developer hires in no time!

Start early and prepare a list of analytical interview questions for software engineers ahead of time. Then, use Woven’s technical assessment platform to screen candidates so that you’ll only schedule technical interviews with top potentials.

An alternative to whiteboards and code tests, Woven is an automated hiring platform that makes initial pre-screens and delivers qualified candidates in 24 hours. See how it works by signing up for a free trial today.

Good luck!