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Analytical skills are one of the core competencies software engineers must possess to succeed in their role. The ability to investigate a problem, understand the error, and find a solution in an efficient and timely manner is a key attribute for any software engineer. As such, it is important that hiring managers ask the right analytical questions to ensure the candidate is a natural with this skill set.
When creating analytical question examples, here are the primary things to consider. A software engineering candidate must be able to detect patterns, make connections, and identify anything that's missing. They should also be able to draw conclusions and make assumptions based on the data that's provided. Once they've identified the problem, they need to observe, interpret, brainstorm, and accurately theorize potential solutions.
Coding questions for beginners may address a candidate’s ability to apply analytical thinking and problem-solving skills in various work scenarios, and decision-making processes, while logical programming questions and language-specific questions can assess the candidate’s ability to write and debug code.
Here are 10 analytical interview questions for software engineers to help you in your hiring process:
1. How do you go about troubleshooting a complex programming problem? Walk me through your process.
2. Explain how you would approach debugging an unfamiliar codebase.
3. What strategies would you use to debug a complex algorithm?
4. Describe an instance where you had to analyze and interpret data before deciding on a course of action.
5. What steps have you taken in the past to successfully identify and solve a coding error?
6. How would you evaluate a feature request from users and decide if it should be implemented or not?
7. How do you decide if a certain solution is the best approach to solving a programming problem?
8. Explain how you would go about optimizing an algorithm for maximum efficiency.
9. Describe your process for assessing performance bottlenecks and resolving them in code.
10. What techniques do you use to test and validate software solutions?
If you're currently interviewing software engineering candidates and don't have access to a library of questions to use as prompts during the interview, chat with someone from our team. Pillar has a list of over 1000+ interview questions built into our interview intelligence software. You can choose from a list of questions specific to each of your open roles and use them as prompts during interviews.
90%+ percent of our customers are software companies or recruiters for SaaS companies. Our customer base gives us a unique perspective on the software engineer interview process and what it takes to hire the best engineers and developers.
Software engineer interview questions are often focused on problem-solving and design tasks. For example, "Describe a project where you had to use creative thinking to come up with solutions." Questions like these are great because they allow the interviewer to understand how the candidate thinks, how they approach a problem, and whether or not they can solve it with minimal supervision.
Software engineer technical interview questions go a step deeper and are often focused on specific languages and frameworks. Questions like:
1. Explain the main differences between Java and C++.
2. Describe how to use AJAX in a web-based application.
3. What is the difference between a REST API and SOAP API?
4. How would you design a system to search for documents on the web?
5. What is object-oriented programming and how does it work?
These questions allow an interviewer to assess the candidate's technical expertise on each of the topics that will be within their preview if hired. But technical competence isn't the only factor in finding great software engineers. A good software engineer should be able to explain complex concepts in simple terms and provide examples of how they've used various technologies. This will allow you to assess factors like brevity, depth of understanding, and ability to communicate with others on their team who may not be as technically minded as they are.
Software engineer behavioral interview questions and scenario-based interview questions are also important parts of the interviewing process. Scenario-based interview questions for software developer candidates will help you understand their character and how they process the challenges that they're facing. An example scenario-based interview question could be: "Tell me about a time when you were given a task that you'd never done before but had to deliver results. What did you do?" You can make this past, present, or future tense depending on the types of challenges that you're employees face most often, but the underlying goal is to get an understanding of how they approach tasks and challenges that are outside their comfort zone.
These questions can also be used to assess problem-solving capacity, resourcefulness, and ability to prioritize. For example, "You are given a limited time frame to complete a large project but have access to many different resources which you could use to complete it. What steps would you take to ensure the project's success?" By asking questions like these, you can see clearly how they approach complex tasks and determine if they are the right fit for your team.
Senior developer interview questions will often focus on more advanced topics such as system architecture, performance optimization, and scalability. Quite often, junior developer questions will focus on total experience, technical ability, and understanding while senior developer questions will be heavily weighted toward leadership, communication, problem-solving, and strategic thinking.
An example of a senior developer interview question could be: "Describe how you would design a system from the ground up to handle millions of requests per second." These questions are designed to assess the candidate's ability to solve complex challenges without relying on existing solutions, as well as their capacity to think critically about their decisions and anticipate any future issues that may arise.
If you're a Pillar customer, you can find these questions and 1000+ more in your interview intelligence dashboard. Simply click which ones are relevant to the role you're interviewing for and they'll appear as prompts during the interview.
As an interviewer, you'll likely have a list of sample analytical questions for the interview. Most interviewers will expect a candidate to walk through the exact process they would use to solve a given problem. While the candidate will not know the answer ahead of time, it's important that they show you that they can think critically and clearly explain their thought process, even if the problem is hypothetical.
An example of an analytical question could be: "How would you design an algorithm to sort a list of numbers from smallest to largest?" With this type of question, you're assessing the candidate's ability to break down a complex problem into smaller, manageable pieces and to come up with an effective solution.
Sample analytical questions for interviews with answers may look like this:
Q: How would you design a system that can process millions of requests at once?
A: I would start by analyzing the current infrastructure and understanding the existing limitations. From there, I would identify which components need to be improved or upgraded in order to handle more requests per second. After that, I would prioritize areas for improvement and determine the most cost-effective solutions. Finally, I would create a plan for implementing the upgrades and testing the system to ensure that it can handle the increased load.
Q: How would you debug an application that is crashing intermittently?
A: First, I would use logging and monitoring tools to collect data about when and where the crash occurs. This would help me to narrow down the areas that I need to investigate. From there, I would analyze the stack trace and look for clues in the code that may be causing the issue. Finally, I would test potential solutions until the issue is resolved.
Analytical interview questions are meant to give you insight into a candidate's thought process and problem-solving skills. Just a handful of these analytical interview questions will give you a sense of how a candidate approaches complex tasks and whether or not they're a good fit for the role.
Entry-level interview software developers are often going through the interview process for the first time. Entry-level coding interview questions are a great way to determine whether the candidate has sufficient knowledge and experience for the role, as well as their aptitude for learning new concepts quickly. Entry-level software developer interview questions and answers should focus on technical topics as well as problem-solving and communication skills.
Two sample questions for entry-level software engineer technical interview questions may be:
Q: What is the difference between a stack and a queue?
A: A stack is an abstract data type that follows the Last In First Out (LIFO) principle, which means the last item placed on the stack will be the first one removed. A queue is an abstract data type that follows the First In First Out (FIFO) principle, meaning that the first item added to the queue will be the first one removed.
Q: What is a recursive function?
A: A recursive function is a function that calls itself until it reaches a certain base case, which is the point when the function terminates. Recursive functions can be used to solve complex problems because they repeat a basic operation over and over until the desired outcome is achieved.
These entry-level software developer interview questions will help you assess the candidate's technical acumen, but more than anything at entry-level positions, look for someone who's an agile learner, with a passion for coding and software development.
Hopefully, the questions in this article will help you create a meaningful interview process for future software engineers who will join your team. If your current software engineer hiring process isn't getting the results you'd like, schedule a demo with someone on our team. We'd love to show you how Pillar's video interview platform can help you save time and money hiring software engineers!