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Software Engineering Interview Questions

Hiring your next tech professional requires some planning, especially if you’re forced to compete with other companies for the best talent in a tight labor market. One way to cut through the applications and ensure you are considering the most talented candidates is to use effective software engineering interview questions. Since these professionals develop, test, and improve on your important tech products, it’s important to get it right.

Here are our picks for the top software engineer interview questions to ask when hiring.

Common Starter Interview Questions

Before you get too technical with your questions, you should start with some general inquiries about the person applying. General questions can help you get a feel for the person’s intent in applying, as well as if they have a good understanding of the culture and mission of your business. These common questions are things you would ask anyone who wants to work for you, regardless of their job position:

  • Why are you interested in working for us?
  • What do you like most about this job opportunity?
  • How do you manage the demands of your career?
  • Explain some of the tasks you liked most in your last job. What did you not enjoy?
  • Tell us about a time you were proud of a problem you solved.

As the candidate answers, you may be inspired to dig deeper or ask follow-up questions during the job interview.

Tech Skills Interview Questions

Getting those more generic questions out of the way can often warm up both the interviewer and the candidate. Now it’s time to get more specific with questions that are unique to the job itself. These questions can tell you quite a bit about the software engineer’s current technical skills, as well as any aspirations they have for learning more:

  • If I asked you to write a piece of code, where would you begin? Explain your methods for coding, from the initial request to testing it.
  • What are your favorite programming languages? Why did you pick these over others?
  • Are there any programming languages you have yet to use that you want to learn? Why are these the languages you are most curious about?
  • Explain a time you had to debut a piece of code or a software product. What was the biggest challenge? How did you resolve it?
  • How did you learn to code?

In addition to these more open tech interview questions, you should ask some very specific questions that test the knowledge of a candidate. These questions can include:

  • Explain to me what multithreading is.
  • What is your experience with Unit testing and test-driven development (TDD)?
  • What are your thoughts on Agile?
  • Can you tell me the difference between global and local variables?
  • How does the end-user experience factor into the code you build?

You can also ask your tech teams to tell you about upcoming projects that you have in the pipeline and have them give you some sample questions to ask, along with ideal answers. Their input can assist in making the right hire.

Relevant Skills Interview Questions

The success of an engineer isn’t completely dependent on their technical aptitude as it relates to software development. Some of their career wins will be based on how they handle soft skills, such as communication and their reasoning abilities. These questions can tell you more about these other relevant skills:

  • What are your favorite time-management tools?
  • Who do you consider to be a leader in your industry?
  • What are your expectations for other members on your team?
  • How do you approach problems with co-workers? Give an example of a time you had a conflict, and how it was successfully resolved.

You may also choose the STAR interview technique, which is a method of asking interviewees to:

  • Describe the Situation
  • Explain the Task
  • Detail the Action
  • Describe the Results

Almost any question can be framed this way to get a better idea of how a candidate will respond in various situations.

Company Culture Questions

Finally, knowing if a talented engineer will be a match for the company can depend on their fit into the culture. A good candidate will have researched the company background in advance and should be able to tell you at least a few things about the culture. Ask these questions to get a better picture of how they would assimilate:

  • Why did you choose to apply for this position over other similar positions at other companies?
  • What appeals to you most about our workplace?
  • We use a collaborative approach to problem-solving. Do you feel comfortable with this?
  • Do you see yourself as a match for our company culture? Why?

If you work for a startup, be sure to address this directly. Since startup companies have different needs and expectations than larger, more established businesses, the candidate may be unaware of the dedication it takes to become an integral part of the team. Dispel any preconceived notions in this part of the interview, then ask them questions unique to the stage of your business.

It’s also smart to leave time for the candidate to ask their own questions. A simple, “Is there anything you’d like to know about the position, our company, or the interview process?” can help the candidate open up and get any other essential thoughts out.

Even if you aren’t a technical professional, having your questions planned out in advance can be the difference in identifying your next best software engineer. Pair these methods with Comeet’s ATS system, and see how much further you can go.

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Adrienne Smith

Adrienne Smith

Adrienne Smith is a content strategy consultant working with high-growth businesses on their brand messaging, content strategy, and content creation. A digital nomad, she's exploring the world's cultures and cuisines as she works.

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