Senior Software Engineer Interview Questions

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Senior Software Engineer
Interview Questions

With the rapid advancement of technology worldwide, millions of new opportunities are opening up for people to get involved in the tech industry.

According to CompTIA research, as many as 8.9 million jobs have been created because of technology, and in 2021, tech companies posted 3.6 million jobs to be filled. Keep in mind that this was mid-COVID when the world was shut down.

This massive opportunity shift represents a huge challenge for HR teams and hiring managers.

Hiring senior software engineers is now more difficult than ever because there is such a high demand for these roles.To begin, what are the main responsibilities of a senior software engineer?

The main responsibilities of a senior software engineer include leading and mentoring a team of engineers, creating, designing, developing, and maintaining software products, ensuring the quality of the software product, and working closely with other departments such as sales, marketing, and customer support.

The most important soft skill for a senior software engineer is communication. Because they will be working with many different teams; product, marketing, sales, and customer success to name a few. Effective communication skills are paramount to achieving the best results.

But they must also possess hard skills like coding and problem-solving. They must have behavioral traits to be able to work with customers and understand their needs to develop the best software solution.

Teamwork, leadership, organization, project management, communication, attention to detail, knowledge of coding languages, and code testing procedures.

How can you assess each of these during an interview process?

When interviewing a senior software engineer, you want to ask questions that will give you an insight into their technical abilities as well as their ability to lead and manage a team.

Questions about their experience with different coding languages, development tools, and code testing procedures are essential.

You also want to inquire about their experience leading and mentoring a team of engineers.

And finally, don't forget to ask behavioral questions to get a sense of how they interact with others, and handle difficult situations.

Semi-structured questions can help you analyze their problem-solving skills and ability to think on their feet.

Here are 13 dynamic semi-structured questions to help you win the interview:

1. "While researching this role, you've probably seen some ways we can improve our technology. What are the first 3 and how would you prioritize them?"
2. "What was the most difficult technical challenge you have faced in your previous role? Tell me how you overcame it?"
3. "We're thinking about using technology X on this project. What are your thoughts? Is there a more efficient product or stack we could be using?"
4. "Two team members are not getting along. How would you approach resolving the conflict?"
5. "How do you stay up-to-date with the latest trends in your field?"
6. "What is your experience with the agile methodology?" Tell me about a time you helped a team transition to agile or ran into difficulties when trying to implement agile methods."
7. "What do you think is the most important thing to remember when mentoring someone?"
8. "If a customer were unhappy with their instance of our product, how would you handle the situation?"
9. "Tell me about the last time you had to solve a problem. How did you approach, process, and solve the problem?"
10. "What development tools are you most comfortable working with?"
11. "What coding languages are you most comfortable working with?" What piqued your interest in those languages?"
12. "Have you ever had to deal with a difficult customer? How did you handle it?"
13. "What do you think is the most important attribute of a great leader?"

These questions should give you a good starting point when interviewing senior software engineers. Remember to assess both their technical abilities as well as their soft skills to get a well-rounded picture of each candidate.

Check out our ebook, "How to hire great software engineers,” to learn more!

If this list of questions feels daunting to remember in an interview, consider using interview intelligence software to prompt you with the next question so you can focus your attention on the candidate.

Senior Software Developer
Interview Questions and Answers

Think of the interview questions you ask each candidate like a data point. After you’ve interviewed several candidates, you will start to see trends in their answers.

Example question:
"Your manager wants you to select between two different tech stacks for your team. How do you decide which one is best?"

Semi-structured questions like these and the ones listed above will help you set a baseline while interviewing for these roles. It will also allow you to assess a candidate's responses to difficult questions in addition to their technical abilities.

Senior software developer interview questions and answers are chosen specifically to achieve a measurable result in two categories so that they can be compared to other candidate responses.

Those two categories are:
1.Hard skills
2. Soft skills

Hard skills are the specific, provable abilities that you can train someone to do. They’re often technical skills or abilities related to software development.

Some examples of hard skills for a senior software developer might be:
The ability to code in Java.
Experience leading a team of developers.
Understanding of how to select and implement the right technology stack for a project.

Soft skills, on the other hand, are the personal attributes and abilities that help you succeed in any role. They’re often related to communication, teamwork, and problem-solving.

Some examples of soft skills for a senior software developer might be:
The ability to give clear and concise instructions to team members.
The ability to manage difficult conversations with stakeholders.
The ability to adapt to changes in a project’s scope or timeline.

When interviewing for a senior software developer role, you should assess both hard and soft skills.

The questions you ask will vary depending on the skills you’re looking for, but depending on company size, working with your CTO, Product Manager, or Team Leader, you can assemble a list of questions to thoroughly vet each candidate.

Senior Software Engineer
Interview Preparation

Interview preparation begins long before you meet candidates for the first time.

Before you begin the interview process it's important to write an inclusive job post. This may seem elementary, but after reviewing thousands of job posts, I can tell you that many have words that are exclusive in nature and will make even the most qualified candidates think they're not a fit for your team.

This may lead them to voluntarily opt out of your hiring process altogether. For example, using the word "ninja" in a job post is a deterrent for many engineers because it's associated with a very specific skill set (eg. front-end development) that they may not have.

When writing your job post be sure to use language that is welcoming to all qualified candidates and outlines the skills they "must have" to perform well in the role.

Maxwell Hubbert's post on LinkedIn's Talent Blog, "5 Must-Do's For Writing Inclusive Job Descriptions," is a great read for hiring managers who want to learn more about making their job postings inclusive.

Senior software interview preparation step #2 is the research. You can start by doing a deep dive into the candidate's previous work and learn more about them through social media.

Reviewing their:
LinkedIn profile and mentions
Instagram and Facebook Profiles
Other social profiles or portfolios of work

Will give you a well-rounded view of their skills and abilities as well as help you determine if they're truly a 'fit' for your team.

Work with your team leader, hiring manager, CTO, or product leader to create an ideal employee avatar that you can overlay with their resume.

The second part of your preparation should be focused on the semi-structured interview questions you'll ask on the phone screen.

To make the most of your time, be sure to ask questions early in the phone screen that focus on the skills required for the job. This will eliminate "looky-loos" and "window shoppers."

Then get into your senior software engineer coding interview questions.

Behavioral and situational questions are a great way to get a feel for how the candidate would behave in specific situations.

Asking them about their:
Experience working in a remote environment (if that's relevant to your team).
Thoughts on team size and leadership.
Ideal development process.
Desired career path and advancement opportunities.

And finally, don't forget to save time at the end of the phone screen for questions from the candidate!

Remember, they're interviewing you as much as you are them - so allow them to ask any questions that are important to them.

In our ebook, “How to Hire Great Software Engineers,” we describe a six-step hiring method. If you're searching for a process to streamline your recruiting approach, this free download will guide you through each stage of interviewing.

Consider using interview intelligence software like Pillar to schedule and conduct interviews with candidates. This will help you optimize your time and get the most out of your interviews.

Pillar's interview intelligence software will also give you access to data points that will help you make better hiring decisions. This software was created to help you eliminate bias from your hiring process while also making it more efficient and effective.

Schedule a demo today.