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Over the past few decades as technology has reshaped our world the demand for software engineers has grown exponentially. From the apps that we use to connect with others to our cars, home appliances, productivity tools, websites, and games, almost everything that we touch on a daily basis needs to be programmed - and that requires the skill of a software engineer. Software engineers are responsible for writing efficient code, planning systems, developing algorithms, and troubleshooting problems across almost all industries, and they’re in high demand.
Before hiring a software engineer, employers will screen potential candidates to assess their technical skills and expertise. During an interview for a software engineering position, applicants can expect to answer questions about their past engineering experience as well as their ability to solve complex problems and work collaboratively with other engineers.
A software engineer interview should not only assess the technical skills of a candidate but also their creative problem-solving abilities, communication skills, and ability to think on their feet. A great way to start is by asking the candidate questions about their last role - what coding languages they used, how technical their customer base was, their former team, company, and preferred work style.
Specific software engineer interview questions can be as simple as what a candidate’s favorite coding languages are, or as complex as solving a specific bug in a particular program.
The ultimate goal is to hire a software engineer who can not only create a bug free environment for your customers, but also adds value to the team, and is a great fit for company culture. To accomplish this goal, we believe that the best interview process assesses four or five different categories of a candidate’s abilities.
These categories are:
With these four categories in mind, you can create software engineer interview questions that are designed to assess the candidate’s abilities that match the skills required for your open role. We found that the best way to create this list of questions is to work with your team leader or CTO (Chief Technology Officer) to identify the necessary skills a candidate must possess to succeed in the role, once this is done, you can then turn that list of skills into semi structured questions that allow a candidate to showcase their abilities in each of the four categories.
• Please describe a project you have worked on and the tech stack used to build it? How did you decide on those specific tools?
• Tell me about your previous team. How did you collaborate with other engineers in the past?
• What challenges have you faced during your engineering career and how did you overcome them?
• Can you provide an example of how you approached debugging a complex bug?
Once the list of questions have been created you can put each question into your interview intelligence software as prompts to be asked during the interview process. This ensures that each candidate has a fair assessment and that you are able to review their responses in an organized, structured way.
Check out our eBook, “How to Hire Great Software Engineers” for more information!
By creating a comprehensive list of software engineer interview questions, employers can accurately assess a candidate’s technical knowledge, analytical skills and soft skills to determine whether they are the right fit for the job. When creating this list of questions, it’s important to include both technical and non-technical questions in order to gain a full picture of the candidate’s abilities.
Senior software engineer interview questions will vary slightly from those of entry level engineers, as senior engineers are expected to have a higher level of expertise and experience.
Here are some example questions for a senior software engineer interview:
• How would you describe your approach to problem solving?
• What was the most complex software engineering project you’ve completed?
• Describe your experience with version control systems such as GIT.
• How do you stay up to date with the latest technologies and trends?
• What strategies do you use to optimize code performance?
• Can you provide an example of a time when you had to work under tight deadlines?
• Describe a time when you had to collaborate effectively with other engineers on a project, how did you handle everyone’s ideas and feedback?
Software engineer coding interview questions don’t always have to be complex. Two of the four categories listed above are about people skills and culture fit. Asking questions around this topic will give you insight into how a candidate works with others, communicates ideas, works with customers, and approaches problem solving.
Here are some example coding interview questions that focus on culture fit:
• What processes do you use when working on a collaborative project?
• How do you prioritize tasks and stay on target in a remote environment?
• Describe your experience working directly with customers.
• What kind of feedback do you prefer to receive?
• In what ways do you stay motivated when working on challenging tasks?
• How do you handle difficult customers or emotionally tense situations?
By having a comprehensive list of software engineer interview questions, employers can ensure that they’re making the best hire for the job. Asking the right questions can help gauge a candidate’s technical knowledge, coding skills, problem-solving abilities and potential fit in a team environment. The list of questions should be tailored specifically to the role, taking into account seniority level, skill set requirements and culture fit to ensure the best possible results.
If you’re a customer of ours, you already have these questions in your instance of our platform. Pillar has questions for almost any role built into the software as prompts to be asked during the interview process - that way, every candidate is asked the same semi-structured questions, creating a fair and equitable interview experience. If you’re not yet using interview intelligence software, check out Pillar. Our platform was built with one goal in mind, to help you make better hires.
Software engineer interview preparation is very simple if you have a structure to follow. We recommend that 10 minutes before the interview you open the candidate’s portfolio, resume, and LinkedIn profile and make notes of possible strengths and weaknesses to highlight during the interview. These notes will help you focus your questions to identify whether the candidate possesses the skills necessary for the role.
Keep in mind that many of the candidates you interview will be quite nervous, especially entry level candidates. As a result, one of the best things that you can do to alleviate their anxiety is to prepare a handful of icebreakers to set them at ease. Some of our favorite ice breakers are influencers you both follow, sports or events you’ve both posted about, their alma-mater, or a group that you’re both part of. If the ice breaker is humorous, it’ll work even better.
Once your candidate is more relaxed, it’s time to get into the details of their technical knowledge and coding skills. When asking software engineer technical interview questions, it’s always important to either ask semi-structured questions or explain the context of the question. For example, describe what you’re looking for in an answer and give your candidate a chance to explain their thought process before providing the solution. This will also help you assess their approach to problem solving more accurately.
Finally, after technical questions have been asked, it’s time to go back to discussing the culture fit portion of the interview. Remember to ask questions that are tailored to the company’s environment and values. This will help you identify whether a candidate is likely to be successful in the role and if they’ll be a good fit for your team.
Interview intelligence software powered by AI (artificial intelligence) can be a great tool to help optimize the interview process. People drop clues through micro-expressions, tone changes, and bodily shifts that show they’re nervous. Pillar’s software uses the power of AI to help interviewers to quickly assess these clues in real-time and react accordingly. AI is helping us to save time, money, and resources by drastically improving the interview process from start to finish.
As we mentioned in the previous section, interviewing entry-level software engineers and senior software engineers will look slightly different. However, the common thread that unites both levels is the need for a positive experience. The software engineer interview experience should be comfortable and engaging so that the candidate can give their best answers and showcase their skills in a low pressure environment.
For entry level software engineers, it’s important to focus on the skills that they bring to the table as well as the learning opportunities your organization provides. Give entry-level candidates a chance to explain their thought process and encourage further explanation when appropriate. This will help you develop a better understanding of how they think and build their technical skillset. Entry-level software engineer interview questions should focus on fundamentals to test the candidate’s basic understanding of coding languages, frameworks, and software design principles.
For senior software engineers, it’s important to ask more complex questions that require in-depth answers. During these interviews you can ask questions that put a spotlight on their technical knowledge and leadership capabilities in order to provide an accurate assessment of their abilities. Showing that you understand and appreciate the candidate’s accomplishments will also help create an atmosphere of mutual respect, which is always beneficial in a higher level interview. Senior software engineer interview questions can be far more technical as they have the breadth of knowledge to respond confidently.
Finally, the software engineer interview experience should be a two-way street. Candidates should also ask questions to assess whether your organization is a good fit for them and if they want to become part of the team. The quality of their questions will also help you gauge their level of research and preparedness, as well as their interest in the position.
By following the tips outlined above, you'll be able to create a positive experience for both entry-level and senior software engineers. Not only will this improve your chances of finding the perfect fit for your team, but it will also help build relationships that can last far beyond the interview experience.
Pillar is a leading AI-powered video interview software that helps employers make smarter hiring decisions. With Pillar, you can use the power of AI to gain deeper insights about candidates and quickly assess their fit for a role. Schedule a demo to see how Pillar can help you hire better!