21 Interview Questions for Software Engineers (With Examples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

14 October 2021

Getting a software engineer position requires the ability to demonstrate your knowledge, skills and experience to recruitment managers. During the interview, employers can ask you a wide range of questions, including technical, behavioural and situational questions to gauge your ability to deliver on the job. Knowing the common questions to expect at a software engineer interview and how to answer them convincingly can help you impress the employer and boost your chances of getting the job. In this article, we discuss frequently asked software engineer interview questions and provide tips and sample answers.

Common interview questions for software engineer roles

The following are common interview questions for software engineer candidates with sample answers:

1. What programming languages are you familiar with? Which are you most comfortable working with?

Interviewers ask these questions to identify the programming languages you can use. They also use these questions to know whether you're familiar with just one or multiple languages. Being proficient in several languages shows that you're versatile and that you can learn fast. In your answer, mention the programming languages relevant to the employer's role.

Example: "I've worked with Java, Python, JavaScript and SQL, but I'm most comfortable working with Java because of my experience as a backend software engineer maintaining mission-critical server systems for high-traffic web-based applications. I'm also proficient in SQL because I've led several database management projects."

2. Do you have any experience with software testing?

As a software engineer, you're expected to have experience in every aspect of the software development life cycle, one of which is testing. Interviewers can use this question to identify your preferred software testing method. A good answer can specify whether you test or don't test software, the approach you use for the operation and your experience in that area.

Example: "In my experience, team selection and a comprehensive software development plan are more important than testing. If I do test, I prioritise key functionalities that can affect user experience and performance requirements. When I test, I combine manual and integrated tests, depending on the complexity of the project."

Related: What Does It Take To Be a Software Engineer?

3. What do you consider most important for the success of a software development project?

There are several operations in the software development life cycle, including the planning, designing, implementation, quality control and deployment phases. Employers can ask this question to gauge your knowledge of the software development process and expertise in critical areas. Your answer can emphasise knowledge gained in previous software development assignments, including tasks you supervised to ensure the product met client and user requirements.

Example: "I believe requirements analysis is the most important operation in the software development life cycle. The requirements analysis stage is where stakeholders identify and determine the specific performance parameters and functions of the product. Frequently, the users and the client aren't sure of what they want, and this can lead to delays and serious glitches in the finished product. A proper requirements analysis ensures that there are no ambiguous expectations, making it easier for the design and implementation teams to deliver a product that satisfies all stakeholders."

4. Which SDLC models are you familiar with? Which do you prefer?

The software development life cycle is the step-by-step process of creating software products to ensure the highest quality at optimal cost. Employers can ask this question to test your knowledge of the different phases of the SDLC, which can include planning, design, development, testing, deployment and upgrades. A convincing answer can explain how you used the SDLC models to plan, develop, maintain, improve or replace a software product or system.

Example: "I'm familiar with the spiral, Agile and waterfall SDLC models, but I prefer the waterfall model because it provides room for improved quality control. It also makes project management easier since the model allows me to departmentalise each stage of the software development process."

5. Can you describe the last software project you participated in? How did you resolve challenges that came up during the deployment phase?

Employers can use this question to determine your leadership and managerial abilities and problem-solving skills. This question can help identify your technical expertise and ability to deliver projects on schedule and within budget. When answering this question, include as many details as possible and try to demonstrate the use of skills relevant to the employer's position.

Example: "I was lead architect for a web-based application that faced serious issues during deployment. Thankfully, the fault was a hardware issue, specifically the client's cloud-based platform. I was able to use an automated testing tool to critique the integrity of our code and found that it had no issues. Working with the client helped us to isolate the source of the problem quickly and get the product running in time for the launch."

6. What are the two major categories of software testing?

Software testing is a critical aspect of the development and maintenance phases. Interviewers can ask this question to test your working knowledge of software testing. In your answer, mention the two categories of software tests and explain them.

Example: "Software testing can be divided into black box and white box testing. White box testing is a method of testing software products in which the tester knows the internal structure, design and implementation of the item. In contrast, the tester doesn't have this information in black box testing."

Related: How To Become a Software Tester: Overview, Duties and Salary

7. Why are you interested in this company or team?

This question has several variants, and there's no fixed way to answer it. Companies can ask you this question to identify your real motivation for joining their organisation. It's important to identify something positive that attracts you to the position. It may be the products, team and even the company's industry profile. Provide a response that demonstrates your intention to add value to the organisation.

Example: "I've always been fascinated with the use of artificial intelligence in the ecommerce industry. When I learnt your team was recruiting developers with experience in robotics, I knew I had to apply to the role. My experience in using AI for advanced driver assistance technologies in the automobile industry and social media makes me feel really elated to be part of a team working in the next frontier of AI and machine learning."

Related: Interview Question: "Why Do You Want This Job?" (With Answers)

8. What are functional requirements and non-functional requirements?

In software development, it's important for engineers to understand the difference between functional requirements and non-functional requirements. Interviewers can ask this question to gauge your knowledge of requirements analysis. A good question can outline the different types of features that are important for the function of a software product.

Example: "Functional requirements are features a software product needs to perform. This can be the search tab on a search engine, an image editing tool on a social media app or a payment option on an online shop. Non-functional requirements work in the background, but users don't necessarily interact with them. Examples include the design of a site, security, cross-platform interoperability and reliability."

9. Do you have experience with the cloud? Can you explain the concept of cloud computing?

Because of its cost-cutting benefits, many businesses may like to adopt cloud computing for parts or all of their operations. Many employers may require their software engineers to have experience developing cloud-compliant products and systems, and asking this question is one way of evaluating candidates' familiarity with the technology. A good answer may involve explaining cloud computing in the simplest terms and highlighting relevant projects.

Example: "Cloud computing simply means storing and accessing data and software applications on the internet rather than computers and servers on your premises. This technology provides companies with more flexibility, redundancy and can reduce operating expenses. I have two AWS certifications and I'm also working to get one for my cloud account to increase my versatility with the two platforms"

10. When is a software product finished?

Experienced software engineers know that products receive support and upgrades throughout their lifetimes. An interviewer can ask this question to know the parameters you use to measure progress on a job. They can also use this to determine your experience with post-launch support. A good answer can highlight your knowledge of the software development life cycle, with emphasis on maintenance and upgrades.

Example: "I don't consider any software product finished because it's always a work in progress. There may be security breaches in need of patches, improved features to enhance user experience and bugs to remove. The most important thing after deployment is to stay ahead of new developments to ensure the product delivers optimal performance and satisfaction to users."

Additional software engineer interview questions

Here are other common questions you can expect from a software engineer interview:

  • What are your best software development tools?

  • What process do you use to review other people's code?

  • Which project management tools are you familiar with?

  • Do you prefer working independently or as part of a team?

  • How do you explain your work to non-tech stakeholders?

  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?

  • Tell me about a time you had a misunderstanding with the business manager over a technical issue? How did you resolve the problem?

  • Have you ever held a leadership position?

  • Have you ever contributed to open source projects?

  • Do you have any personal projects?

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