8 Software Engineer Interview Questions and Example Answers
By Indeed Editorial Team
Updated 11 October 2022
Published 25 June 2021
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
When you're interviewing for a software engineer position, the interviewer is likely to ask you questions about your experience, skills and approach to work. It can be useful to prepare for your interview in advance by planning your answers to some of the more common software engineer interview questions. In this article, we discuss some common software engineer and software developer interview questions, with sample answers.
Software engineer interview questions
The type of software engineer interview questions an interviewer asks depends on the role you're applying for. Generally speaking, these fall into two categories:
Domain specific roles: These roles are focused on a specific technology, such as AWS or cloud infrastructure. Interviews for these positions will be very technical, and you may be asked quiz-style questions to test your knowledge of the technology in question.
General programming roles: For general programming or web development roles, your interview may be more general. Although you will still be asked technical questions and questions about your coding ability, you may also be asked questions about your skills in problem-solving, your approach to working and your soft skills.
This article will focus on software engineering interview questions which fall into the second category.
Common software engineer interview questions with sample answers
Read on for some common interview questions for software engineers, as well as advice on how to answer them and sample answers.
1. Which programming languages are you most familiar with?
Strong knowledge of several programming languages is an essential requirement for a software engineer. Although you may be skilled at programming in many different languages, be sure to check the job description before your interview and highlight the ones that are most relevant to the job in your answer.
Example: 'Throughout my career, I've worked with various programming languages, including Java, C++, Ruby, and Python. Of these, I've spent the most time working with Python and C++, so those are the ones I'm most comfortable with. I've also been teaching myself Swift in my spare time, and would like to work with this more in the future.'
2. Can you describe your process for planning and executing a programming task?
Understanding the software development process and product life cycle is a vital part of working as a software engineer. As everyone works differently, an interviewer asking this question will be interested to learn about the way you work, and whether this will fit within their company culture.
Example: 'Over the course of my career, I've developed a strict process for planning and executing programming tasks. The first step is a detailed analysis of the requirements of the project based on customer specifications and any technical limitations. Next, I work with colleagues to create a thorough report of the specifications and software architecture drawings. I only begin actually coding once this stage of the process is complete.
After the actual implementation, I carry out testing of the software and creating thorough documentation for my client. On some occasions, I've also designed training materials to ensure that my client knows how to use the software I've designed.'
3. What are the most important things to look for when reviewing a colleague's code?
Although everyone has a different way of working, employers may ask software engineer interview questions like this one to test your coding knowledge as well as how well you can articulate your troubleshooting and debugging process. Though there is no right or wrong answer, it's important to be clear and specific in your answer.
Example: 'When I'm checking a colleague's code, the main things I look out for are security flaws that would make it easy to exploit, whether it meets the regulatory requirements for the project, and whether it is simple or includes lots of unnecessary lines of code. If this is the case, it may need to be revised or rewritten. These are things that can be difficult to spot in your own code.'
4. How do you explain technical concepts to stakeholders or colleagues without a technical background?
Software engineers are often required to work in collaboration with non-technical colleagues such as marketing or customer service teams, who may not understand the product on a technical level. Employers want to know that you are capable of explaining technical concepts and problems to a non-technical audience. Try to back up your answer with a real-life example.
Example: 'Last year, I was working on a new program for the finance team at my company, and had to meet with them to explain how it would work. Before the meeting, I created mock-ups to help the team visualise the final product.
I also wanted to pitch my presentation at the right level without being patronising, so I decided to ask the team at the end of each section if anything needed clarifying. At the end of the presentation, I was pleased that people asked some really intelligent questions that proved that they had grasped the key concepts.'
5. How would you go about designing scalable applications?
Scalability is the ability of a product, tool or application to adapt to growth or increased demand in accordance with consumers' needs. Since software engineering and technology, in general, are such fast-developing, quickly-changing industries, scalability is a key concept in software design. Employers will want to know that you have some experience in designing scalable solutions, or are at least aware of the key principles involved.
Example: 'My driving principle when designing scalable applications is to use as little code as possible. I try to write code that can be reused as much as possible, then break things down into modular sections that can be run on multiple systems.'
6. In your opinion, what distinguishes a great software engineer from a good one?
With this question, the interviewer is trying to find out what you value in software engineering and to figure out how these values would fit into their team. Be honest in your answer, but also be sure to highlight the things you are particularly good at.
Example: 'I believe that while a good software engineer wants their code to be perfect, a great one has a balance in their work between perfectionism and pragmatism. It's important to keep the overall goals of the project in mind. I also think that where a lot of software engineers go wrong is being too in love with their own code.
In the early days of my career, I would often be sure that my code was perfect, and would take a hit to my confidence whenever I discovered a problem. These days, I've got a lot better at keeping a healthy scepticism until my code has been thoroughly tested.'
7. How do you stay up to date with the latest software engineering trends and technology?
As well as determining whether you will be able to consistently do your job in a quickly changing industry, interviewers want to gauge whether you are passionate about your profession and spend time researching it outside of work. Of course, there's no need to say that you spend all of your free time researching new developments in software engineering, but it's important to show that you have a keen interest in the field.
Example: 'I am really interested in new developments in software engineering. I'm subscribed to several blogs which share the latest industry news. Last month, I attended an online networking event where I watched lectures and took part in seminars on some really interesting new developments in the field.'
8. What is your understanding of the Agile software development process? Do you have experience working with this methodology?
Agile is one of the most widely used software development processes and is used to varying degrees by many companies. Some companies have their employees train for Agile certification, whereas others simply use the principles of the Agile process as guidelines for their team's working method. Even if you have never worked using this method, the interviewer will want to know that you at least have some awareness of the key concepts.
Example: 'Agile is a process for software development that focuses on incremental delivery by the team as a whole. The larger task is broken down into small chunks that the team can complete within a given timeframe, called "sprints".
In my last role, I worked on a team of software engineers who used this process quite successfully. We broke our work down into two-week sprints and kept up a high-contact, collaborative environment that allowed for many face-to-face discussions and solving of problems as they arose. This process meant we were able to foresee problems and deliver our final product on a more predictable timescale. '
Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.
Disclaimer: The model shown is for illustration purposes only, and may require additional formatting to meet accepted standards.
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