Interviews can be intimidating. You want to impress your interviewer, say the right things, and control your nervousness — all at the same time. As is the case with most high-pressure situations, the process is far easier if you prepare ahead of time. But how can you know what the interviewer will ask before heading in? Here's a breakdown of some of the most common software engineer interview questions, as well as questions you may want to pose yourself during your interview.
Behavioral entry-level software engineer interview questions
As an entry-level applicant, you can expect a combination of behavioral and technical questions. Behavioral questions help your interviewer understand who you are as a person — your motivations, personal process, skills, etc. Technical questions are designed to gauge your understanding of and proficiency with the principles of software engineering.
Why do you want to be a software engineer?
You'll likely hear this question if you're applying to your first development role or switching careers. Asking why you want to be a software engineer helps your interviewer figure out what drives you as a professional — the motivating force behind what you create. While honesty is important, you'll want to delve deeper than superficial reasons like salary, how it'd please your family, or how you've "always liked computers."
These answers lack passion and focus, and they don't set you apart from the other candidates. Instead, opt to talk about problems you enjoy solving, either for a company or larger, global issues, as well as what success as a software engineer means to you on a personal level.
Depending on the role's specialization, you may want to explain why you prefer front-end or back-end engineering.
Technical entry-level software engineer interview questions
Along with those that help your interviewer understand who you are as a person, you'll also be asked questions that gauge your understanding of the basic principles of software engineering. These questions can revolve around your knowledge of development processes or your familiarity with programming languages and concepts. Common technical entry-level software engineer interview questions include:
Describe your process for developing a software solution, from beginning to end
You should discuss key elements of the project life cycle, such as:
- Requirements analysis
- Technical specifications
- Implementing the software
- Documentation of the process
- Support and training
- Maintaining the solution
If you're applying to be a full-stack engineer, your interviewer will likely expect you to be well-versed in all elements of the development process. To learn more about what it takes to be a full-stack engineer, check out our breakdown of what full-stack engineers do.
What are validation and verification?
Validation involves making sure the software has been built to suit clients' needs.
Verification involves making sure the software performs its intended function.
What are your preferred programming languages?
In general, it's good to make sure you're familiar with some of the more popular languages, including:
If the company you're applying to relies heavily on a specific programming language, you may be asked questions about its functionality and related concepts. Brush up on your knowledge of popular programming languages with the links below:
- HTML interview questions
- CSS interview questions
- Python interview questions
Behavioral senior software engineer interview questions
Senior software engineer interview questions often aim to discover what you've learned from your experiences and how you may use that to add value to the company.
Tell me about a project you were involved with, and explain how you chose its architecture
This question helps your interviewer learn how you use technology to meet organizational challenges. Feel free to talk about:
- The high-level objective the project addressed.
- Details about the architecture you chose, including design choices such as MEAN as opposed to MERN or other coding-language decisions.
- Architectural decisions about hardware, such as servers and network structure.
- Any unexpected adjustments you had to make to either the design itself or the technology you used.
Technical senior software engineer interview questions
With experience comes knowledge, and your interviewer will likely want to see what kinds of knowledge you bring to the table — beyond the basics. Here are some of the more technical senior software engineer interview questions:
What does modularization mean?
Modularization involves separating a software system according to specific modules, each designed to perform necessary tasks independent of the others.
How does cohesion play a role in software development?
Cohesion describes the way different elements within a module are intra-dependent on each other.
How are CASE tools used?
The acronym "CASE" stands for Computer-Aided Software Engineering. CASE tools are used to enhance, support, and strengthen elements of the software development lifecycle, including the planning, creation, testing, and deployment of software.
How do you use prioritization when defining requirements?
To do this, you must first design your system by choosing the best data structure for the necessary tasks. Once you know the data structure, you can determine the code structure that best supports it. By doing so, you prioritize the data structure itself rather than the code, which merely supports the delivery and use of data.
Questions to ask during your interview
Asking questions during an interview can show your prospective employer that you're genuinely interested in the organization, your potential contributions, and your own future as a professional. Here are some questions you should ask during your interview.
How is your team structured, and how does my role fit within that structure?
Gaining a high-level view of the organization's structure will help you envision the impact of what you create and the processes and people involved along the way. It also shows the interviewer that you're not merely concerned with what's on your computer screen — you respect and value the infrastructure of the organization's process.
How do you measure success in my position?
This is a vital question because it gives you tangible goals. Also, getting benchmarks of success out in the open puts you and who you report to on the same page, keeping miscommunication to a minimum.
What professional development options do you offer?
This is one of the best software engineer interview questions to ask because it shows your interviewer you're invested in your professional growth. Additionally, if you have to choose between multiple offers, knowing how the companies support professional development can help you decide.
Preparing for the next step: Technical interviews
While there are plenty of software engineer jobs out there, to land the one you want, it helps to know what they're going to ask and what you should ask them. Preparing ahead of time with facts and examples can help you relax and be ready to put your best foot forward.
After you've memorized your answers to the common software engineer interview questions listed above, it's time to start preparing for your technical interview. Technical interviews help hiring managers gauge your programming ability by having you complete a coding assignment.
In another post, we take a closer look at the differences between behavioral and technical interviews. To help you prepare, we've also created a complete guide on how to ace a technical interview.
Some technical interviews also require you to use a specific language. Make sure you're skills are up to par with the Skill Paths below: