Your Guide to the Software Engineer Interview Process
Software engineering is a challenging and rewarding field, and the interview process for developer positions is intense. The goal is to find candidates who have the skills, experience, and personality to be successful in such a demanding role.
Managers can expect to conduct multiple rounds of interviews over several weeks. And candidates can expect to solve coding challenges or complete an assessment.
All in, the software engineer hiring process takes an average of 65 hours of engineering time per candidate. That means you have to get it right!
Preparing software engineer interview questions for each round can make a big difference in how focused and efficient your process is. Plus, you get better results with a higher quality of candidates.
Here’s how to prepare for a technical interview with software engineers.
Software engineer interview types
Interviews look different for a junior developer than they do for a VP of Engineering.
For junior roles, the interview process usually consists of three steps:
- Phone screen with HR to make sure candidates are qualified
- Virtual or onsite interview with a team of engineers asking entry level software engineer interview questions
- Meeting with the manager
Senior roles typically require four or five rounds of interviews. The first round is a phone call with the recruiter, followed by a technical interview, a culture fit interview, and a project-based interview. Senior developer interview questions also tend to be more complex and focus on problem-solving skills.
Technical assessments vary for different roles as well. Experienced developers don’t need to prove their abilities by demonstrating technical skills — instead, they might be asked to solve an actual problem that the business is facing. Junior developers should plan for technical interview practice as they’ll have to demonstrate their knowledge of common programming languages and frameworks.
Knowing how to interview a software engineer of any type is essential for EMs looking to fill a position. When you ask the right questions and assess candidates effectively, you identify the best fit for your team and provide a positive candidate experience.
Software engineer interview startup
If you work for a startup, you might be hiring for several positions at once. And you want to move fast.
The startup interview process consists of technical and cultural questions. In the early stages of a business, culture is key; you want to make sure new hires will be excited to work hard and help your company grow.
Before your engineers start interviewing candidates, make sure they have a solid understanding of your company’s process and what you’re looking for. It’s helpful to have a rubric for rating candidates so everyone is on the same page. An interview with the startup founder is also common.
Finally, be sure to give everyone time to prepare. Your team needs to be familiar with the position and your technology stack to be able to ask relevant questions.
Software engineer interview rounds
Let’s walk through the software engineer interview process step by step.
Round 1: Phone screen
In this round, the recruiter screens candidates to make sure they’re qualified for the position. They ask questions about a candidate’s experience, skills, and resume. Some use Woven’s technical interview platform to gauge a candidate’s aptitude with certain programming languages and technologies. This can be a helpful first step in the process.
Round 2: Virtual or on-site interview
Now it’s time for a candidate to meet the team they’ll be working with if hired. You can dive deeper into software developer technical interview questions and ask questions about his/her motivation for wanting to work at your company. If a technical assessment hasn’t been administered already, the interviewer might give a coding challenge or presentation to the candidate in this round.
Round 3: Culture fit interview
This meeting is meant to assess whether a candidate will be a good fit for your company’s culture and team. Some common culture fit interview questions include:
- What’s your ideal work environment?
- How would your colleagues describe you?
- Describe a stressful situation at work and how you handled it.
- Give examples of situations where you have shown effectiveness, empathy, and adaptability.
- How do you experiment and come up with new ideas?
It’s a good idea to get other team members’ opinions on culture fit before making a final decision. Round 3 is also the time to answer the candidate’s questions about working with you.
Software developer final interview round(s)
In some cases, you might ask the candidate to come back for another round of interviews with higher-level management or even shareholders.
At this point, you should have enough information to know whether the candidate is right for your team. If they are coming back for another round, it’s because their skills and personality match what you’re looking for.
This is a great time to ask for candidate feedback on the interview process. When you’re ready to make an offer, be sure to reference your candidate’s strengths and explain how they’ll be a good fit for the company. Positive interview feedback helps candidates feel more confident in their decision to work with you.
What to bring to a software developer interview
As an engineering manager, it’s your responsibility to make sure your team is prepared for every stage of the interview process. Whether you’re conducting interviews or preparing your people for them, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Be familiar with your company’s technology stack. You don’t need to be an expert on every programming language, but you should have a general understanding of what your company uses.
- Make sure candidate assessments cover behavioral questions as well as technical aptitude. This will give you an idea of how the candidate will work with your team and collaborate on projects.
- Do your research on common interview questions and be prepared to field some questions yourself. This list of questions to ask software engineer recruiter can help with software engineer interview preparation.
- Be respectful of the candidate’s time. If you’re conducting on-site interviews, make sure you provide a schedule of events and allow for plenty of breaks. You’ll also want to give the candidate enough time to complete a coding challenge or assessment.
The software developer interview process can seem daunting, but there are a few steps you can take to make it easier.
The key is to prepare your team and have the right conversations with qualified candidates. Remember to assess culture fit early in the process so you don’t waste valuable time interviewing people who just aren’t a good fit.
And finally, try using tools like Woven’s technical interview platform to find 50% more candidates in your existing talent pool. You can start a free trial today and try a technical work simulation from our growing library of over 20+ engineering role scenarios.
We’re confident that you can find the best software engineer candidates for your team. Happy hiring!