8 Entry-Level Software Engineer Interview Questions

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 31 May 2022

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.

The major responsibilities of software engineers are to design, develop and test systems and applications for digital devices. If you're a recent graduate looking for a new job in software engineering, it's important to review your software engineering knowledge before an interview so you can prepare answers about your skills and background. Exploring and practising some common interview questions can help you confidently and succinctly express yourself during an interview. In this article, we list eight common entry-level software engineer interview questions and share sample answers to help you prepare for your next interview.

8 common entry-level software engineer interview questions

Here are eight common entry-level software engineer interview questions and sample answers that you can review for reference when you're preparing for a software engineer interview:

1. Which programming languages do you have experience with?

Many interviewers ask entry-level candidates this question because they want to know if the programming languages they're familiar with match the requirements and needs of a role. They may also want to know how you learned these languages. If you know many programming languages, you can check a job description before your interview and note those that are most relevant to a job. When answering this question, you can also tell them the reason behind your preferences for certain languages and what you like most about them.

Example: "I've had experience with various programming languages when I was studying for my degree and during my internship experiences, such as C++, Kotlin and Javascript. I've also taught myself how to code in Python because this programming language is a flexible language and can apply in many contexts. Among these, I've spent most of my time working with Javascript and C++, which are the two programming languages that I'm most comfortable with. I'm currently also teaching myself how to code in Ruby."

Related: Software Engineer Interview Questions (With Example Answers)

2. How does your process of completing a software development task look like? Can you describe it to me?

Hiring managers also want to learn about the way you work to see if your working style fits within the company's culture. This is also a question that tests your understanding of the software development process and the product life cycle. You can frame your answer based on your project experience at university.

Example: "During my internship experience, I've developed my own efficient process for planning and implementing programming tasks. Before I begin any programming task, I like to analyse and understand the entire project requirement, such as client specifications and expected turnaround time, first. Then, I work with my teammate to create a proposal based on the time frame, budget and end user's desires to ensure the outcome fits the client's need. I also update my client regularly to ensure that they understand my progress and check if they want any modifications.
Once I've finished the actual implementation of the software, I start testing the software while creating documentation for my client. I also create training materials for my clients if the software is a bit more complicated than usual."

3. What traits do you think a good software engineer has and do you possess those traits?

Opinion questions like this one allow potential employers to understand how well you may fit in with a company's culture. When answering opinion questions, ensure to highlight personality traits that show why you're an ideal candidate and how you can contribute to an employer.

Example: "I think a good software engineer is focused, adaptable and keeps things simple. I focus on remembering larger objectives rather than focusing on specific design elements or unnecessary deviations that leave my code resource-heavy. By keeping things simple, I'm able to work with my end goal in mind and pivot quickly when needed.

Related: 18 Essential Software Developer Skills You Can Learn

4. What are the differences between a great software engineer from a good one?

When an interviewer is asking questions similar to this, they want to know what you value most in software engineering. When you're answering a question like this, you can think of which aspect you perform better than others and highlight this trait in your answer.

Example: "I believe that anyone who can code efficiently is a good software engineer, but great software engineers are those who never stop learning. They're interested in new technologies and stay updated with best coding practices. Being curious and willing to learn new thing is important because the programming landscape changes rapidly and there are constantly new operating systems and programming languages. Great software engineers also always maintain a positive attitude and always find ways to improve themselves."

5. How do you keep up to date with the latest software engineering technologies?

Companies usually want to hire employees who are passionate about their professions and dedicate time to improving their skills and knowledge. When an interviewer is asking you this question, they want to know if you can continuously add value to a company in the long term. Your answer can cover how you stay updated with the latest software engineering trends or how you teach yourself new programming languages. Ensure your answer shows that you have a keen interest in software engineering.

Example: "As a software engineer, I think it's vital to keep up to date with the latest software engineering technologies. I've subscribed to various technology blogs and journals that share the latest industry news, trends and research. I'm also a member of a software engineering society and regularly attend online networking events and seminars."

6. When is a time you encountered a difficult software development problem? How did you solve the problem?

Interviewers often ask behavioural and situational interview questions to understand how you respond to challenges. Use these questions as an opportunity to show how you've learned and grown from past challenges and your approach to solving problems. Consider using the STAR method, which stands for situation, task, action and result, to keep your answers clear and concise.

Example: "I was interning at a small tech company in college and my manager asked me to build an extract, transform, load (ETL) process. After several tests, optimisations and debugging, I still wasn't able to get the run time down to an acceptable level. After taking a break and approaching the problem from a different perspective, I discovered I could solve the problem using multi-threading to run multiple batches of data through the ETL in parallel rather than recursively. In the end, I achieved the run time I desired."

Related: What Does a DevOps Engineer Do? (Plus Skills and Education)

7. What is the difference between black box and white box testing?

Your interviewer may ask you a variety of technical definition questions that test your knowledge of specific software engineering concepts. When responding to technical questions like this one, define the basic terms and review the primary considerations you're expected to know. You can also add details explaining how to use those terms in software engineering.

Example: "White box and black box testing both validate a program's inputs and outputs. The difference between them is that white box testing also validates a program's implementation, whereas black box testing does not."

8. How would you describe an API to someone who knew nothing about programming?

Your interviewer may want to know if you're able to use simple language to explain a complex concept. Although software engineers usually don't communicate directly with a company's client, they still prepare documentation and training materials to help clients understand how to use specific software. Being able to explain highly specific, technical processes in simple terms can show excellent communication skills and a thorough understanding of a topic. Try to make your answer as basic as possible and avoid using jargon in your description.

Example: "API stands for application programming interface. APIs exist to allow programs to communicate with one another. Imagine you're in a restaurant and you're reading the menu. The restaurant's kitchen is a part of the system that prepares your order. The critical link which helps you communicate your order to the kitchen and bring the order to your table is missing. This is where a waiter is needed. A waiter is a messenger who connects your order with a restaurant's kitchen. The function of an API is similar to the role of a waiter in a restaurant."

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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