The 10 Most Important Questions You Should Ask Engineering Candidates

According to CNBC, the most in-demand job of 2023 is a Software Developer/Engineer. This is just one point that proves how software engineering is a booming field, especially as companies require talent for their continued digital transformation.

Because of this, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for organizations to hire software engineers for various reasons…employer competition, a limited talent pool, time-consuming interviews, and more.

Many software engineers mention that they drop out of an organization’s hiring process because they aren’t being tested on skills that are relevant to their role. So, how do we fix this to ensure the best engineers say “yes” to you over other roles? Let’s start with the 10 most important questions you should be asking engineering candidates to ensure they feel seen and heard throughout the interview process…and so that you bring the best engineers into your organization.

1.) What programming languages do you prefer?

This gives the candidate a chance to talk about the programming languages they have used and what they appreciate or dislike about certain aspects of each one. Do they like object-oriented languages, or maybe more functional ones?

2.) Can you walk me through a project you completed successfully?

This gives the software engineer a chance to discuss a project without getting too technical. It should give you an understanding of how they worked with teams, time management skills, interacted with managers, and what contributions they made to the project.

3.) Can you tell me about a mistake you learned from or how you solved a problem you faced?

Every software engineer who is passionate about engineering and has worked on personal and business projects will have made some mistakes. Perhaps they worked on a project that ended up failing. That is not a bad thing, however, as it allows them to learn important lessons from those failures. During the interview process, try to find out what mistakes the software engineer made and what lessons they learned from those mistakes. This allows you to get an insight into their work ethic, their willingness to admit mistakes and learn, and how they work on improving their skills while working on projects.

4.) How do you assure software quality?

When working on a project, it is important to conduct a quality control process to ensure that the end results come out great. Ask the developer what their quality control process looks like and whether they use any specific tools to test their results. Any engineer can end up having bugs in the software they are working on, but it is important that they have a process to test for bugs and a method for fixing them.

5.) How do you keep your skills sharp and up to date?

A software engineer needs to stay on top of changes that occur in the industry and keep their skills fresh for new and emerging technologies.

6.) Do you enjoy working with a team or alone?

There is no right or wrong answer to this question, as it all depends on what you are looking for in a software engineer. You may want an engineer who will work hard and who can be independent. On the flip side, you may want someone who is a team player and is not stubborn about doing things their way. 

7.) What are you working on right now?

Find out what the software engineer is working on at the moment. Even if they are not currently working for a specific company, a good software engineer who is passionate about development will usually be working on a side project of their own. If they are indeed working on a private project, ask them why they chose that project, what their goals are, what they enjoy about that project, and what they are learning from the process. 

8.) How do you come up with project completion estimates?

Software engineers often come up with estimates that are entirely off the mark. Although they may want to think that they can deliver an end result within a specific time frame, new issues and bugs often come up that cause them to be late on their estimate. Ask the candidate how they come up with estimates to find out how accurate they are and whether they have realistic expectations about what it will take to complete a project.

9.) What’s important when checking a team member’s code?

While this question doesn’t have a right or wrong answer it will give you insight into their thought processes on coding. What are the really important things when writing code? Do they focus on functionality or simplicity? Is security something they’re concerned with?

10.) What are you looking for in this job? 

This is an important question, as you want to know why they are looking for a new job and why they applied to your particular company. Did they do research about your company? Try to find out what they know about your company’s mission, what your values are, and what your company culture is like. You want to hire a software engineer who is passionate about your values and goals and wants to help you reach them.

BONUS: What questions do you have for me?

The best software engineers  — and strong candidates in general — have questions for the interviewer(s). After all, this is the company where they’ll invest their time and energy, possibly for years to come. Remember to allot time to open the floor for questions, and keep in mind that it’s definitely a red flag if they don’t have any questions. 


Hiring great software engineers helps bring your vision forward for your product or service more effectively and efficiently. Looking for more help on how to hire GREAT software engineers? From the number of interview stages you should have to how you should structure your interviews, check out our guide on “How to Hire Great Software Engineers" here

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