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Our interview intelligence guides you through the entire interview process, so you find your next great teammate—effectively and equitably.

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Software Engineer Behavioral Interview Questions

Software engineers are key hires for SaaS companies. Making the wrong hire for a software engineer can cost a business thousands of dollars, lead to missed product releases and even missed revenue targets if products are unable to launch on time or succeed in the market. The best way to avoid these costly mistakes is by hiring the right people for the job, the first time around.

There are many ways to improve hiring at your company (see 6 Key Ingredients to Improving Your Interview Process here). 

One of the most impactful actions talent acquisition leaders can take is to improve the questions asked during the interview process. By asking targeted questions that actually probe into different qualifications and skill sets, your team can more easily identify the candidates who are the best fit for the job. Asking better interview questions can also help hiring teams to more quickly find red flags with candidates who are not a good fit.

A common mistake hiring teams for software engineers make is asking puzzle questions or questions that have a “loophole” in the answer. While answering correctly may demonstrate that a candidate is smart, these questions often have no relevance to a candidate’s ability to perform the key functions of their job. If your hiring team is spending precious time in interviews asking these types of questions, they may not be finding the best qualified candidates to move forward in the process and could potentially be providing a poor candidate experience to your recruits.

Instead, a better practice is to use software engineer behavioral interview questions when evaluating software engineer candidates. Behavior questions target specific skills relevant to the job you are hiring for, and will better highlight whether a candidate is truly qualified for the position. Below are five examples of software engineer behavioral interview questions:

1.) Describe a time you had a conflict with a colleague - what was the conflict, how did you handle it, and what were the outcomes?
2.) Tell me about your favorite project - why was it your favorite and how did you go about completing it?
3.) Tell me about a challenging project you’ve had - what was the challenge, how did you handle it, and what was the outcome?
4.) Give a recent example of constructive feedback you have received - what was the feedback and how did you respond?
5.) Give a recent example of constructive feedback you delivered - what was the feedback, how did you deliver it, and what was the outcome?

By asking these questions, your hiring teams can uncover more than just if a candidate is good at puzzles. The questions above help uncover a candidate’s skills in communication, collaboration, conflict resolution, organization, time management, and other core competencies that may be requirements for successful software engineer hires at your company.

Keep in mind that the types of questions your team should be asking will vary given the specific role and experience level you are hiring for (i.e. senior software engineer behavioral interview questions and answers will look a bit different from an entry level software engineer interview).

Successful hiring teams use Pillar’s Interview Intelligence solution to track which core competencies are covered in an interview and coach interviewers in real time. You can learn more about How to Hire Great Software Engineers here.

Prepping Your Hiring Team on Software Engineer Behavioral Interview Questions

The best practice for implementing this type of interview structure is to train your interviewers on developer behavioral interview questions and answers so they can become familiar with what to expect in interview conversations. Traditionally, hiring teams will get trained once on software engineer behavioral interview questions with answers, and maybe they’ll have a behavioral interview questions and answers for software engineers pdf as a point of reference. 

The challenge with this interviewer training method is when new people join the hiring team - those old documents on software engineer behavioral questions with answers get lost in the shuffle and you don’t have time to continuously train everyone on how to interview. This is why companies are leveraging Interview Intelligence solutions like Pillar, which automatically coaches interviewers while helping to identify good fit candidates with an unbiased lens. 

Equally important to training your hiring team on what to ask is training your hiring team on what not to ask in an interview. Software engineer “team fit” interview questions, for example, are not a best practice. This is because the language around “team fit” is ambiguous, and opens up a gray area in the candidate feedback process, potentially allowing bias to influence hiring decisions. 

An example of this is an interviewer asking a software engineer candidate what they like to do on the weekends to see if they’ll “fit in” with the other team members. Unfortunately that means the hiring decision is now being made on whether a candidate has common interests with the team, not based on whether they have the right skills for the job (this concept is also known as affinity bias). 

You can check out more information on What NOT to Ask in an Interview here.

Incorporating behavioral interview questions into your interview process will help you to empower your hiring teams and identify strong fit candidates based on skills and qualifications, without bias. When hiring teams leverage behavioral interview questions for software engineer hires, candidate experiences are improved, hiring and retention metrics increase, and product deadlines are met on time.

Common Behavioral Interview Questions

Since software engineer behavioral interview questions and answers are key to hiring equitably and efficiently, let’s talk through more examples to help get your team set up for success. 

Common example questions include:

1.) Describe a time you overcame a challenge.
2.) What excites or frustrates you?
3.) What does your day to day look like?
4.) How do you deal with deadlines?
5.) How would your coworkers describe you?

These are good questions to get beyond the usual “Tell me about yourself” and generic phone screen questions. If you Google behavioral interview questions, you will notice hundreds of results providing general examples in addition to the overviews of what behavioral interviews are.

To level up your behavioral interview questions, hiring teams can tailor these types of questions specific to software engineer behavioral answers and situations in order to get better insights into whether a candidate will be a good fit based on software engineer-specific behaviors.

If you are hiring for software engineers and hoping to improve the interview process, one option is to train software engineer interviewers using a behavioral interview questions and answers pdf and treating it like a checklist to make sure the right questions are being asked as candidates progress. Pillar’s interview intelligence solution automates this process and provides quick insights into how effective your hiring team is at interviewing.

You can also check out this Ultimate Interview Checklist for Hiring Teams here to make sure you have the best practices in place for interviewing and hiring.

Software Engineer Technical Interview Questions

Because a software engineer is likely being hired to fill a specific skill gap or development need on the team, it’s important to use software developer technical interview questions and answers to figure out if a candidate is going to be able to successfully complete the job at hand. 

Successful software engineers are more than just behaviors and processes… They are strategic, technical assets within your organization, so it’s important to test out the technical knowledge and skill sets of your software engineering candidates before making a hire. 

If we do away with the puzzle questions mentioned above, then how do we test a candidate's intelligence?

By looking more specifically at relevant technical questions. The best way to measure a candidate’s technical know-how is by using logical reasoning interview questions for software engineers and software engineer coding interview questions. These types of questions enable your hiring team to identify whether a candidate truly has the right knowledge and applicable skills to be successful in a software engineering role at your organization.

Examples of software engineer technical interview questions are:

1.) How do you check a team member’s code?
2.) What programming languages are you most familiar with?
3.) What is your process for testing and finding bugs?

The best practice for hiring teams is to decide on a group of core competencies that are required for the role to succeed before building out the relevant job description, then using technical questions and behavioral questions in interviews to determine whether a candidate is the right fit. 

Sometimes, the best way to test a candidate’s skills is by having the candidate complete a technical assessment or a mini project to showcase how they can apply their skills to something like the role you are hiring for. However, one thing that is important to keep in mind when administering these types of tests is respect for the candidate’s time. Asking a candidate to spend more than a few hours prepping for an interview or to spend multiple hours on an assessment may lead to a poor candidate experience and a lower likelihood of being able to attract and recruit strong talent. 

For more information on attracting and recruiting the best talent for your business, check out the 10 Commandments of Convincing Top Talent to Work for You here.