Software Engineer Interview Questions

Software engineers at work
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Software engineers are responsible for developing, testing, deploying, and revamping computer programs. If you're interviewing for a position as a software engineer, it helps to know what types of questions to expect.

Many interview questions will focus on your tech skills, such as what programming languages you know. However, employers will also want to know about your problem-solving skills and your analytical abilities. They will also want to know whether or not you will fit in well with the company culture.

By practicing your answers to the most common software engineer interview questions, you can display confidence and impress the employer during your interview.

Types of Software Engineer Interview Questions (with Examples)

Common Interview Questions
There are certain interview questions that employers ask candidates in every industry. These range from questions about you (“Tell me about yourself”) to your past work experiences (“Tell me about your best boss”). Make sure to practice answering these common questions, since they will likely come up in any interview.

Tech Skills Interview Questions
Typically, interviewers are eager to find out about your tech skills (such as what programs and languages do you know). Before your interview, review the job listing to make sure you know the technical requirements of the job. Be sure you are familiar with the programs and other technical skills necessary for the position.

Some of these technical questions will be straightforward questions about your tech knowledge and experience, and how you perform certain technical tasks. These will not necessarily have a clear right or wrong answer.

  • What programming languages have you used?
  • Describe the process you use for writing a piece of code, from requirements to delivery.
  • What books have you read on software engineering that you would recommend to someone in the business?
  • How do you make sure that your code can handle different kinds of error situations?
  • How do you find an error in a large file with code that you cannot step through?
  • How do you design scalable applications? Walk us through your process.

Others will be quiz-like questions. Many of these will have a clear yes or no answer. These are designed to test your knowledge of particular aspects of software engineering.

  • What is the difference between a mutex and a semaphore? Which would you use to protect access to an increment operation?
  • What is the difference between re-engineering and reverse engineering?
  • What is the difference between local and global variables?
  • What is the agile software philosophy?
  • Name one or two examples of how an application can anticipate user behavior.

Relevant Skills Interview Questions
Some questions will focus on other, non-technical skills required of software engineers. These skills range from problem-solving to logic to analytical thinking.

Also, since most software projects happen on tight schedules, interviewers will be eager to find out how you perform under deadlines, manage your time, and communicate about setbacks and delays to project managers and team members.

Some of these questions will be behavioral interview questions. A behavioral interview question is one in which a person asks you about your past work experience. For example, an employer might ask, “Tell me about a time when you struggled to meet a deadline,” or “Describe a time you used logic to solve a complex problem at work.”

A similar type of question is a situational interview question. A situational interview question is one in which a person asks how you would handle a hypothetical work situation. For example, the employer might ask, “What would you do if your team member did not complete his or her part of a project on time?”

Whether answering behavioral or situational interview questions, use the STAR interview technique. Describe the situation you were in, explain the task you had to accomplish, and detail the action you took to accomplish that task (or solve that problem). Then, describe the results of your actions.

To prepare for these questions, match your skills to the job requirements. Review the skills mentioned in the job listing. Then think of times that you have demonstrated those skills in the workplace.

  • What would you do if a coworker asked you to review his or her code, and it was full of errors?
  • Describe your ideal level of interaction with coworkers that would allow you to achieve the most success.
  • Tell me about a time you worked with coworkers to solve an issue at work.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to solve a problem, but didn’t have all the necessary information about it in hand.
  • Imagine your manager wants to buy new software for the office, but you think it will decrease productivity. What do you do?

    Company Culture Questions
    Employers want to know that you will be a good fit not only for the job, but also for the company. You will likely get questions about what kind of work environment you like, and whether or not you will be a good fit for the company culture.

    To prepare for these questions, research the company before your interview. Give honest answers, but also try to emphasize that you would fit in well at the company.