Software Engineer Interview Questions (With Example Answers)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 15 November 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.

Software engineers develop systems and software for companies. When you're interviewing for a software engineer position, the hiring manager may ask you questions regarding your skills, experience and work ethic. As you prepare for your interview, it may be helpful to review some of the most commonly asked questions and plan your answers to them. In this article, we discuss some common software engineer interview questions and provide examples of how to answer them effectively.

General software engineer interview questions

Hiring managers may ask you general questions during a software engineer position interview to learn more about your personality and how you can fit into the company culture. Here are some examples:

  • Why should we hire you for this role?

  • What were your primary responsibilities in your previous role?

  • What are your greatest weaknesses and strengths?

  • Describe a time you overcame a non-technical problem at work.

  • What are your favourite software engineering books and why?

Related: Interview Question: "What Is Your Greatest Strength?"

In-depth interview questions

A hiring manager may ask questions that give you an opportunity to showcase your knowledge about specific aspects of the job. Here are some examples of these questions:

  • What are your favourite application development tools?

  • How much do you code daily in your current role?

  • What sets a good software engineer apart from a great one?

  • Describe what you believe are the key principles of software engineering.

  • How comfortable do you feel reviewing code written by others? What process do you follow when reviewing someone else's code?

Related: 7 Personality Interview Questions (With Sample Answers)

Interview questions with sample answers

Here are some common software engineer interview questions with sample answers:

1. Which programming languages are you familiar with?

It's important for software engineers to have experience with a wide variety of programming languages. This experience is important to achieving success in this role. To answer this question effectively, check the job advertisement to determine if the role requires experience in various programming languages. You can respond with languages you're familiar with that match the needs of the employer.

Example: "I'm proficient in Python, Ruby, C#, JavaScript, C++ and Java. Among these programming languages, I feel most comfortable working with C++, C# and Java. In my previous job, I worked primarily with Java to develop apps that worked with multiple platforms. I also worked with C++ to create a new operating system that's compatible with the applications I developed. Using C#, I was able to boost my productivity when creating web-based software and applications."

Related: How To Respond In an Interview to "Do You Have Any Questions?"

2. Describe the last project you completed, including any challenges and your contributions to its success.

This interview question can help the hiring manager better understand your process and how you handle challenges while working on a particular task. To answer this question effectively, consider using the STAR framework (Situation, Task, Action and Result) to create a detailed, informative answer. Begin by describing the situation. Then, discuss the tasks your manager assigned to you to outline your level of responsibility. When you describe the action you took, mention the steps you took to meet goals and end with the project's outcome.

Example: "A previous employer tasked me with creating an internal online learning and training software for staff members. The purpose of the software was to make sure all individuals received proper training on certain topics, including customer service, compliance with legal requirements and workplace ethics. I began by researching other similar training systems to figure out what worked and what didn't. Next, I used Java to code a simple program, which I then used to upload training courses.

After testing the simplified program, I added elements to make it more engaging to team members, such as games and interactive quizzes. This program was well-received by the staff of the organisation, and their customer service success rates increased by 25% after all team members took the required course."

3. How do you go about developing scalable applications?

Scalability refers to the ability of an application, tool or product to adapt to growth or growing demand in accordance with the needs of consumers. Since software engineering is a fast-developing, quickly changing field, scalability is a key concept in software development. Companies want to know that you have experience developing scalable solutions, or are at least understand the key principles involved.

Example: "My driving principle when developing scalable apps is to write as little code as possible. I try to write code that I can reuse as much as possible, then divide things into modular sections that I can run on several systems."

4. How do you determine a project's success?

Although creating high-quality software is vital, applications that don't address the needs of the business and the users produce little value. Companies want to know that you're thinking beyond the technical aspects and strive to address real-world problems. This usually comes down to determining a metric to improve and create a testable hypothesis of the expected impact of your project.

Example: "Before my team starts a project, we usually lay out a set of objectives. We identify the key performance indicators that we are hoping to meet and start gathering information to develop ideas. For instance, ‘We believe that simplifying checkout step boosts sales conversion. An increase of 3% is a positive signal.' This can keep the team focused on the impact of our projects on the company's bottom line."

Related: How to Create KPIs To Boost Performance

5. In your opinion, what sets a great software engineer apart from a good one?

With this interview question, the hiring manager is trying to determine what you value in the software engineering field. They're also trying to figure out how these values would fit into the company. To answer this question effectively, be honest and make sure to highlight the things you're good at.

Example: "I believe that although good software engineers want their code to be perfect, great ones have a balance in their work between pragmatism and perfectionism. It's important to keep the project's overall goals in mind. In the early days of my career, I would always make sure that my code is perfect, and it affected my confidence whenever there's an issue. Today, I've got a lot better at maintaining a healthy scepticism until I have tested my code thoroughly."

6. What aspect of our company, team or product interests you most?

Retention is important for many employers. Replacing a team member can be expensive in terms of training and recruitment time. Asking questions to ensure your motivations and interests align with that of the organisation can reduce the risks of losing you as a team member. While you're ideally excited by the company's mission, it's common for organisations to use niche technology to attract potential talents. To answer this question effectively, include details from your research that speak specifically to the organisation's values, previous projects or a responsibility mentioned in the job advertisement that aligns with your career progression and motivations.

Example: "I was watching an interview with your chief executive officer about your product that aims to disrupt the lending industry. Streamlining arduous tasks, such as loan applications, have enormous potential. I believe the growth in this industry over the last year is a big indication of things to come. In addition, I am excited by the untapped potential of blockchain technology you have recently decided to integrate. I see this as giving your organisation the competitive advantage in this industry, as the verifiable auditability can reduce compliance costs."

7. What are your thoughts on imperative vs. declarative paradigms such as functional and object-oriented programming?

With questions like this, employers want to gauge your familiarity with more abstract concepts in software engineering. There are many approaches to writing high-quality, maintainable software. Intelligently implementing a programming paradigm requires knowing at least some benefits and trade-offs of each.

As with any subjective question, there can be strong opinions on the topic. While it's important to answer confidently and with supporting experiences, it's very easy to slip into speaking negatively about your less-favoured approach. The interviewer could have the opposite opinion, creating avoidable tension. Focusing on objective obstacles you face with the approach can help you avoid the situation and potentially open a friendly dialogue on the pros and cons of each.

Example: “There was a project where the manager tasked us with reworking the browser client application. It used an imperative, object-oriented approach, with many of the custom controls getting much of their functionality from a growing inheritance hierarchy. We took this as an opportunity to shift to a more declarative approach. After the conversion, we saw a dramatic decline in state-related bugs as we were no longer manually updating the interface in response to events. This had previously been the most common type of user-reported bug.

We did have to make adjustments in a few key places. In more dynamic, performance-sensitive portions of the application, the caching mechanisms we implemented to prevent excessive recalculation were becoming overly complex. We simplified this by switching back to an imperative approach to updating the component.”

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

Explore more articles