8 Senior Software Engineer Interview Questions With Answers

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 24 November 2022

Published 18 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.

A senior software engineer may lead a team of junior engineers in developing programs. Senior engineers also design and develop solutions to technical problems and report progress to the company's stakeholders. Familiarising yourself with senior software engineer interview questions can help you prepare for a technical interview that tests your software development experience. In this article, we list eight questions that you may encounter in a software engineering interview with sample answers and offer tips you may use when preparing for your interview.

8 senior software engineer interview questions and sample answers

Here are eight examples of senior software engineer interview questions that the interviewer may ask you:

1. How do you scale a system?

Engineers may scale systems to handle increased load from user traffic or data. The interviewer may ask this question to test your ability to design a process that scales a complex system. You can focus on describing the steps you take to scale a computing service.

Example: 'A computer system can be easy to scale when you design it to be scalable at the start. This design can use a modular architecture whose components are easy to split. It's possible to use a load balancer to distribute traffic across multiple servers. The load balancer helps prevent the application from getting overwhelmed by high user traffic. Using caching improves read performance. Caches help reduce the load on the system database by minimising the number of times the system reads the database.

This reduction in database reads makes the application more responsive. System designers can use Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) to deliver static content. The delivery servers offload some of the traffic from the main application servers, improving overall performance. After integrating these components, monitoring the application helps engineers identify performance bottlenecks.'

Related: Stepped Guide on How to Ace an Interview: Tips and Examples

2. What are the sharding strategies for a database?

An increase in the user data may result in the inability of the data to fit in one server. System designers can distribute the data to multiple servers to avoid filling one database. The hiring manager may ask to evaluate your ability to distribute large databases to multiple servers. You can respond by explaining the various sharding techniques you can apply to shard a database.

Example: 'It's possible to shard an SQL database by range, hash or list. Partitioning by range involves assigning a range of values to each shard. I then route traffic to the shard based on user request data. For example, if I partition by date, each month can have its unique shard. It's possible to route requests for data from January to shard one and requests for data from February to shard two.

The hash technique involves hashing the key of the values the application is storing. The system can then route requests to the shard based on the hash value. Typically, I use a hash when the range of values is too extensive or too challenging to partition. To partition by list, I assign a specific list of values to each shard. I then route requests depending on the list of the item. I use the list technique when I know the data values in advance, such as a list of user IDs.'

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3. When is a NoSQL database suitable?

The interviewer may use this question to assess how much you know about database design and the criteria you use to choose a database. NoSQL databases store data in an unstructured format, unlike SQL databases which use rows and columns. You can respond by explaining when NoSQL solutions are preferable to SQL databases.

Example: 'NoSQL databases are better suited for handling large amounts of data that might miss a pre-defined structure, such as user inputs. This suitability is because NoSQL databases are flexible and unconstrained by the rigid table structure of SQL databases. System designers may find NoSQL databases easier to scale than SQL databases as systems can easily shard them. Distributing NoSQL data across multiple servers may be convenient because of their scalability. Typically, NoSQL databases are faster to query than SQL databases because of their simpler structure and absence of complex joins.'

Related: 8 Database Design Interview Questions (With Sample Answers)

4. What's the difference between functional and object-oriented programming?

Different software engineering teams may prefer various approaches to their programming. The hiring manager may ask to evaluate your ability to apply functional or object-oriented programming (OOP) depending on the project's requirements.

Example: 'Functional programming is a coding style where the focus is on writing functions that take input and produce output, without side effects. Object-oriented programming is a style of programming that focuses on creating objects and changing them. Usually, this modification can be for interaction between objects.

For example, there's a project where an engineer is building a program for a small shop. A functional programming approach may focus on activities in the shop, such as buying and selling products. An OOP approach considers how various objects in the shop interact with each other, such as the customer and shopkeeper or shopkeeper and sales record.'

5. What's the benefit of Agile methodology?

Agile is a way to manage a large project by splitting it into smaller portions. In a software development environment, software engineers, program managers, scrum masters and stakeholders may collaborate with users to release the software in small incremental builds. The hiring manager may ask this question to examine your experience in an agile environment. You can answer by defining agile and listing the advantages that the agile development approach can offer.

Example: 'Agile software development is a collection of software engineering methodologies that rely on iterative and incremental development. The project requirements and solutions can evolve through collaboration between self-organising cross-functional teams. Benefits of agile software development include the ability to adapt to changing requirements, agility in delivering working software and the chance to improve software quality.'

Related: How to Become a Scrum Master: Essential Skills and FAQs

6. What steps do you take when starting a new project?

The interviewer may use this question to evaluate your experience in developing a complete software solution. Understanding the software development process can show your ability to build new software solutions. You can respond by explaining the steps you take to develop software, from the idea state to the project delivery.

Example: 'I approach the software development process in three stages, which are analysing the requirements, listing the project specifications and creating the system's architecture. Analysing requirements involves determining the customers' expectations by asking them how they hope the software may help them. It may require experience to recognise ambiguity in the customer's problem.

Developers can describe the software they plan to create in the specification state. This stage can help improve and avoid mistakes in pre-existing applications. The software architecture is a conceptual representation of how the software works. This architecture can allow developers to ensure that the functionality matches the product specifications.'

7. When do you consider a software product complete?

The hiring lead may use this question to evaluate your ability to meet project deadlines while ensuring the product meets its specifications. Software development can also be a continuous cycle and the interviewer may wish to test your knowledge of this. You can respond by explaining a software's life cycle and when project managers may consider it complete.

Example: 'The company can consider a software product complete when engineers have implemented all the functionality and resolved known bugs. If a software product meets the needs of a customer or client, it may also be complete.

I determine the completion status of an application through testing and customer feedback. Sometimes, product managers mark an application as complete with known bugs if the issues have a minor impact on the software's core functionality. You may also consider software as always under development since there's the potential for customers requesting new features or improvements in the application.'

Related: 5 Product Manager Interview Questions (With Sample Responses)

8. What's continuous integration in software development?

Continuous Integration (CI) allows multiple developers to merge all their code in a common repository. The interviewer may ask to examine your experience in streamlining moving code changes to a production environment. You can respond by explaining CI and showing how it's helpful.

Example: 'Continuous integration is automating the integration of code changes from multiple developers into a centralised code repository. Typically, software engineers can automate this process using an integration tool, such as git. Integrating code changes reduces the risk of code conflicts and can allow developers to focus on their individual code changes.'

Related: 38 MuleSoft Interview Questions (Plus Sample Answers)

Tips for preparing for your software engineering interview

Here are tips you can refer to when preparing for your interview:

  • Review your software engineering experience. The interviewers may ask how you applied various tools and your experience in mentoring junior engineers.

  • Practise your interviewing skills. Practice interviews can help you feel more comfortable during the actual interview and easily show your skills to the interviewer.

  • Research the company. Researching the company and the specific role you applied to can give you an idea of what skills the hiring managers are targeting.

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

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