What to Expect from Software Engineer Interview Questions

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated October 2, 2022

Published June 21, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Software engineering is a hard skills-focused career that balances information technology and software development. Those working in this field must be knowledgeable about engineering principles and various aspects of software development. In this article, we discuss what software engineers do, how to become a software developer, and what to expect from interviews. We also provide examples of software engineer interview questions you may come across to help you prepare.

What do software engineers do?

Software engineers can work in several fields and in many domains. These professionals work in both front-end and back-end development. They can also work in any organization that either requires application development or aid in running applications.

Luckily, there's a significant demand for software developers in the market. Software engineers make an average salary of approximately $84,412 per year. There is also significant room for advancement in these fields and opportunity for professional growth.

Software engineering is an area of computer sciences that focuses primarily on software. Professionals in this field need a strong grasp of operations systems and programming languages. As technology advances, as does the software engineering industry.

Related: Top 15 Highest-Paying Jobs in Canada

Becoming a software engineer

Software engineers typically need significant post-secondary schooling to jumpstart their career. That being said, candidates without formal education can also find positions that accept non-traditional forms of education.

Degrees in computer sciences are typically four years. You can transition to computer sciences if you have a degree in mathematics, sciences, information systems, or a related field.

Alternatively, you can become a software engineer by joining coding boot camps. These are intensive workshops that provide you with all the skills necessary to become a software engineer without the time commitment of a formal degree. Coding boot camps are generally 30-week-long full-time programs that focus on practical skills rather than theory.

Related: Differences Between Software Engineer vs. Software Developer

Skills required to become a software engineer

Here are some vital skills required to become a professional in this field:

  • Team-oriented: Software engineers typically work in teams to create, manage, and debug software. Learning how to collaborate effectively is essential for software engineers.

  • Knowledge of various programming languages: Because of the competitive nature in this field, software engineers should familiarize themselves with as many coding languages as possible. Staying up to date with current technology and coding trends is an asset and valued by employers.

  • Adaptability: Being able to adapt to new environments is essential for software engineers. This is because things can change quickly in this field and the engineer will need to observe, adjust, and improvise.

  • Time management: This is one of the most important qualities a software engineer can have. Because of how many tasks they'll have on their plate, software engineers should be able to delegate and prioritize tasks.

Related: A Guide to Soft Skills

What to expect from interviews for software developers

When you're preparing for a software engineering interview, you should first be familiar with various technical aspects of the position and company. You can find important key points by looking over the job description again. Look for particular terminologies to inform you about the company. If the job description mentions knowledge in C#, you can assume that the client or employer is a Microsoft shop.

You can expect theoretical, behavioural, and technical questions at any interview for software developers. This is because you need to work directly with other disciplines to turn theoretical applications and products into reality. You need to be able to work well in teams and have an understanding of various theoretical and technical concepts.

Interview questions for software developers

Prepare answers to these commonly asked questions to build your confidence and impress your interviewer:

Which methodology are you most familiar with?

Depending on your experience as a software engineer, you may be more comfortable with different ways of working. Someone who is more agile as a software developer is more adaptable in the workplace and can fit in with the team more quickly.

You may not have any experience at all with a specific methodology. While this is fine, you still need a good idea of how you work and how you adapt to a new workplace environment.

Example: "I use DevOps deployment most. I like to use this methodology because it focuses primarily on lowering the failure rate of development projects. In my experience, using this methodology increases customer satisfaction and lowers development time."

Have you ever had a conflict with a colleague?

This is a common question during interviews for software engineers because it provides the interviewer with information on how you manage conflict. Software engineers typically work in a team setting and will need to work well with colleagues to collaborate on projects. Interviewers ask this question to find out how well you work in a team and how you adapt to new environments.

Example: "I have. In most situations, I prefer to manage the conflict between myself and the other individual. I will always be respectful toward a colleague I'm having difficulty with, and I generally discuss the situation with them privately, so we can come up with a solution."

Where do you see your career going in the future?

There's no right or wrong answer to this question. Recruiters will typically ask this to know more about you. They may also be trying to figure out how you fit in with the company. If, for example, you're looking to move up in management, but the company doesn't provide opportunities to do so, the recruiter will want to know this before hiring you.

Example: "I'd like to move up in the company. I saw in the job posting that there are opportunities for career advancement here, and I definitely see myself taking on more responsibility as time goes on."

Have you run into any particularly difficult obstacles? If so, how did you deal with them?

Use this opportunity to discuss how you successfully manage challenges. Focus on the resolution and positive outcome of your example, and what you learned from the obstacle. Mention how your team made it easier to manage difficulties. Recruiters like to hear that you work well in a team and appreciate hearing that you worked with your colleagues to improve.

Using the STAR interview method is a great way to provide a comprehensive answer to this situational question.

Example: "At my previous place of employment, I took on a project that had already been started because my co-worker went on sick leave. When I received the project, there were several mistakes in the arrays and strings. Before moving on with the code, I made sure to correct those mistakes, so we would spend less time troubleshooting later on. I also spoke to my co-worker about being more diligent about proofreading their code to avoid errors in the future. They took my advice, and it helped our team work more efficiently together."

How do you deal with bugs while programming?

Troubleshooting is an essential part of software development, which is why you should already have a clear method of dealing with bugs. This is the chance to tell the recruiter about your favourite tools to debug your programs or applications. Put emphasis on the fact that great code is important to you and that you always debug extensively.

Example: "The first thing I do is look over my code to find where the bug starts. Then, I replicate the bug and fix it. After doing so, I run tests to make sure the bug is fixed. If it isn't, I start the process over again until I've found a solution."

What is your favourite thing about software engineering?

This is a difficult question, but it's one that many recruiters ask. This tests your appreciation for the career you're in and also looks at why you're in software engineering in the first place. For some, the answer is that they love the debugging process because they love solving problems and puzzles. For others, the answer is that they love writing code and seeing their product come to fruition. Whatever your answer, make sure to be honest and to put a positive spin on it. You can also go the extra mile and tell the recruiter why this is your favourite thing about your career.

Example: "My favourite thing about software engineering is troubleshooting. While I love seeing my code turned into something practical, my favourite thing is finding problems and solving them. Sometimes, it's really hard to solve those mistakes and, when I do, it feels like a big accomplishment."

Are you currently developing anything?

While we already mentioned passion projects, the recruiter may also ask you what kind of developing you're doing in particular. This will include any tools and languages you're using, as well as the reason behind the use of those tools. This question provides you with the opportunity to demonstrate your understanding of your craft and the tools at your disposal.

Example: "I have a few passion projects in the works. I'm passionate about providing resources to clients and am currently building an application that matches clients with community resources."

Related: How To Write a Software Engineer Cover Letter (With Example)

Now that we've discussed what software engineers do, how to become a software developer, and what to expect from interviews, you will be better prepared to answer software engineer interview questions in your job search.

Salary figures reflect data listed on the quoted websites at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organization and a candidate’s experience, academic background and location.

The model shown is for illustration purposes only, and may require additional formatting to meet accepted standards.

Explore more articles