Software Engineer Interview Topics

Great teams start with great interviews.

By recording live interviews, our platform harnesses the power of artificial intelligence to help teams run a faster, better interview process.

Request a Demo

Software Engineer Interview Topics

When interviewing software engineers or software developers for your tech company, choosing the right software engineering technical interview questions can be key to finding the right candidate. After all, during an interview process, it can be rather difficult to determine a person’s true skills through simple conversation. Most interviewers will require some form of skills assessment to accompany the interview to ensure that the candidate can perform the tasks that they say they can perform. However, before reaching that point in the interview process, the most important first step is to provide focused interview questions that allow the candidate to showcase their specific skills. Software engineers interview topics often cover a wide range of technical and non-technical areas. Here are some common topics:

  1. Data Structures and Algorithms: Assessing a candidate's knowledge of fundamental data structures (arrays, linked lists, trees, graphs, etc.) and their ability to apply algorithms efficiently.
  2. System Design: Evaluating a candidate's ability to design scalable and efficient systems. Questions might focus on architecture, scalability, database design, and trade-offs in different design choices.
  3. Programming Languages and Frameworks: Assessing proficiency in programming languages (such as Java, Python, JavaScript, etc.) and familiarity with relevant frameworks (React, Angular, Spring, Django, etc.).
  4. Problem-Solving and Coding Challenges: Providing coding challenges or problem-solving questions to assess a candidate's problem-solving skills, coding style, and ability to write clean, efficient code.
  5. Software Development Lifecycle: Understanding of software development methodologies (Agile, Scrum, etc.), version control systems (Git, SVN), and best practices for testing, debugging, and deployment.
  6. Databases and SQL: Testing knowledge of database management systems, database design principles, SQL queries, normalization, indexing, etc.
  7. Operating Systems and Computer Architecture: Basic understanding of operating systems, memory management, CPU architecture, and how software interacts with hardware.
  8. Web Development and APIs: Knowledge of web technologies (HTML, CSS, JavaScript), RESTful APIs, web services, and understanding of client-server architecture.
  9. Cybersecurity and Software Security: Awareness of common security vulnerabilities, best practices for securing applications, encryption techniques, etc.
  10. Behavioral and Soft Skills: Evaluating communication skills, teamwork, problem-solving approach, adaptability, and ability to work under pressure or in a team environment.
  11. Industry-specific Knowledge: Depending on the specific industry or domain (e.g., fintech, healthcare, gaming), questions may focus on relevant technologies, compliance standards, or industry-specific challenges.
  12. Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence: Assessing understanding and experience with ML/AI concepts, algorithms, frameworks (like TensorFlow, PyTorch), and applications in software engineering.

Remember, interviews may vary significantly from company to company and role to role. Some interviews might focus more on specific technical skills, while others could emphasize problem-solving abilities or behavioral aspects. It's essential to prepare a well-rounded understanding of these topics when getting ready for software engineering interviews and preparing software developer technical interview questions

Software Engineer Interview Questions

Now that you have an idea about the categories for software engineer interview questions, you will need to dive into crafting the individual questions. One step that can be helpful is providing the list of topics to a software developer. Technical interview questions and answers are best developed or at least reviewed by professionals in the space as they will be the most appropriate judges of the quality of the candidates’ responses. Once your existing team of developers or contacts who perform the same or similar jobs have reviewed the criteria for interview questions, they may suggest some specific questions to ask your candidates in interview. Be sure to ask you software engineer for technical interview questions and answers, so that you can judge the quality of the responses for yourself. Note, if you use interview intelligence programming like Pillar’s, you will be able to record responses to questions and have external team members review them later to assist you with judging the quality of the responses. This can be extremely helpful if your team only consists of junior software developers or if technical interview questions are provided when another expert is unable to be present. 

Some possible software developer technical interview questions and answers fitting into the categories listed above could be the following derived from some simple internet searches: 

Data Structures and Algorithms:

Q: Explain the difference between an array and a linked list.

A: Arrays store elements in contiguous memory locations, allowing fast access to elements using indices. Linked lists consist of nodes where each node contains data and a pointer/reference to the next node, offering dynamic memory allocation but slower access time.

System Design:

Q: Design a URL shortening service like

A: Possible steps would involve discussing the database schema, generation of short URLs, handling redirects, scalability considerations, and potential optimizations for storage and retrieval.

Web Development:

Q: What is the difference between HTTP and HTTPS?

A: HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) transmits data over the internet, while HTTPS (HTTP Secure) encrypts the data being transmitted using SSL/TLS, providing a secure connection between the client and server.

Testing and Debugging:

Q: How would you debug a memory leak in a Java application?

A: Using tools like Java VisualVM or Profiler, I'd analyze memory usage, heap dumps, and identify objects consuming excessive memory. I'd also review code for potential causes like unclosed resources, excessive object creation, or retaining references.

Operating Systems and Computer Architecture:

Q: What is the difference between process and thread?

A: A process is an independent execution unit that has its memory space, while a thread is a subset of a process and shares the same memory space. Multiple threads within a process can execute concurrently.

As noted above, we recommend consulting experts in the field to determine the best possible question and answer combinations for your interview process. After all, you will want to hire the most qualified individuals for the work that you need completed. 

Software Engineer Interview Questions And Answers

Depending on the role you are hiring for, whether an expert level or an entry-level software engineer, interview questions will be similar across the board, although you will likely have expectations of more or less complex answers. Determining ahead of time what answers you will accept will help your team maintain a standard for your candidate interviews, ensuring that your system software engineer interview questions are answered to your company’s standards. Collecting your software engineer interview questions and answers together in your interview intelligence program will give you the ability to mark each candidate’s score or adherence to standards in the moment and give you a clearer at-a-glance grading system to determine which candidates are the best fit for your open role. Also, utilizing interview intelligence software such as Pillar’s enables you to capture answers to questions and enables external team members to review them later. This can aid in evaluating the quality of responses, which proves particularly beneficial when your team comprises mainly junior software developers or when technical questions are presented in the absence of an expert.

As you conduct your candidate interviews, the process can be daunting, but early preparation is key to finding the right person for the role. As long as you know what categories need to be covered, what questions need to be asked, what competency needs to be demonstrated, what answers are considered appropriate for your role, etc., your team will be able to conduct a smooth recruitment process and find the right candidate to fit into your open role. 

Keep in mind that interviews can differ considerably depending on the company and the position you're applying for. While certain interviews might prioritize particular technical expertise, others may concentrate on assessing problem-solving capabilities or behavioral traits. It's crucial to develop a comprehensive understanding of these areas when preparing for software engineering interviews and formulating technical questions for software developers.

Crafting effective interview questions and preparing thoughtful answers is a pivotal step in the hiring process for software developers. The dynamic nature of technology demands a robust assessment of technical expertise, problem-solving skills, and adaptability. By meticulously designing questions that delve into core competencies and fostering comprehensive responses, organizations can identify top talent capable of navigating the complexities of software development. Equally important is the cultivation of an interview environment that encourages candidates to showcase their skills authentically. Empowering both interviewers and candidates with well-structured questions and insightful responses fosters a mutual understanding that drives informed hiring decisions. As the landscape of technology continues to evolve, the ability to devise pertinent interview inquiries and articulate proficient answers becomes an indispensable skill, ensuring the acquisition of individuals who not only meet the current demands but also contribute innovatively to the future of software development.