33 Software Engineer Interview Questions to Ask

Finding a top-quality software engineer is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

With technical acumen being a must for your software engineer hires, it’s important that you go into every interview with a set of interview questions that gets to the heart of the technical skills needed for the job. 

But you can’t focus on just the skills needed for the role. There are also behavioral questions and others that will get at the root of whether they will stay for the long haul.

Since engineers have more power at their fingertips, because of the scarcity of qualified talent in this arena, it’s also good to ensure this candidate will be happy and willing to stay. 

Below, you’ll find our complete list of software engineer interview questions. These are perfect for assessing communication skills, technical expertise, fit as a culture add, and more.

Software engineer interview questions for communication skills

When it comes to collaboration, managing teams, and working remotely, communication is one of the most important factors. Use this combination of standard and behavioral-based interview questions to assess your software engineer candidate’s communication skills.

  • What are your preferred tools for communication? How have you used these successfully in the past?
  • Tell me about a time where you were working on a software project and ran into problems because of communication. What would you have done differently if given the chance?
  • Describe a time where your team had an application error that was a “fire-drill” emergency situation. How did you and your team work together effectively through that situation? Is there anything you would have done differently if given the chance?
  • Describe a time where you were the project lead on a development project. What was the project and how did you ensure your team worked together to meet the deadline?
  • Tell me about a time where you had to explain a technical project to non-technical stakeholders. How did you communicate so that everyone could understand?
  • If a manager or project leader assigns a task to you, how do you ensure that you understand all of the requirements completely?
  • Tell me about a time where two (or more) members of your team had a disagreement. What did you do to resolve this? Would you do anything differently if given the chance?
  • Describe a time that you had to deal with an employee that was toxic to the team/work environment. How did you communicate with the employee that his attitude/behavior was not okay? What was the outcome?

Software development questions for project management

Another key area for software engineers and developers is project management.  These interview questions will help you understand how software engineers and developers organize and prioritize tasks for project management.

  • What systems do you typically use for managing task lists and projects? 
  • If you have multiple deadlines, how do you decide which tasks you prioritize in front of others?
  • When building a new product/application release, what do you do to ensure the project runs according to plan?
  • Tell me about a project that you were a part of that was mismanaged. What would you do differently?
  • Agile, Scrum, XP, PRINCE2, Lean. Have you ever worked using any of these project methodologies? Which is your favorite and why?
  • What do you think is most important for a project to be a success?

Software engineer interview questions for culture 

While technical skills may be what you think are the most important qualities in a new hire, don’t forget about how the  candidate can add to your company’s culture.

Candidates that better align with your mission and company culture are more likely to be engaged, productive, and less likely to churn within the first year.

Below are interview questions that you should be asking your software engineer candidates to ensure they mesh with your company culture.

  • What type of work environment do you usually prefer?
  • What kind of leadership style do you find most motivating?
  • How would your previous boss and co-workers describe you?
  • How do you handle stress/pressure?
  • Do you prefer to work independently or as part of a team?
  • How would you create a work environment that employees find motivating?
  • What team-bonding activities or out-of-work experiences do you think are necessary to keep employees motivated and excited?
  • What’s one idea you think we could implement today that would make employees more excited to come to work tomorrow?
  • Think back to the worst work environment you’ve been a part of. What about it made it a terrible place to work? How would you make it a better place to work?
  • What is your vision for our company? 

Software engineer interview questions for technical skills

Depending on whether you’re hiring entry-level software engineers or senior members for your team, you’ll want to tailor these questions to apply to your specific roles. Below, you’ll find some great starting points for technical interview questions for software engineers and developers.

  • What programming languages have you used and are you most familiar with?
  • How would you describe your proficiency in each programming language that you’ve used?
  • Describe the process you use for writing a piece of code, from requirements to delivery.
  • How do you make sure that your code is capable of handling different error situations?
  • Tell me about how you go about designing scalable applications.
  • Tell me how you would create an application that could anticipate user behavior.
  • Have you ever had to update systems that were using old or outdated code? How did you go about uncovering various errors, modifying, and improving the code?
  • Tell me about the last project you worked on. What was your role? 
  • What is the project that you’ve completed that you’re most proud of? Why?

Recruiting a software engineer is often more difficult because you’ll need to go in deep into technical skills and acumen, as well as find someone that complements your company’s culture.

By leveraging behavioral interview questions like the ones above, you’ll learn how they’ve used their skills and can enhance your company’s performance and culture for the long haul.

No one can better spot flawed technical solutions than a software engineer.

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