Top 10 Software Engineer Interview Questions and Answers

Two young men and a woman conducting a meeting in a glass office

Readying yourself for a software developer interview? Applying for a role in software testing?

It helps to know what questions to expect.

Many software engineer interviews will focus on your technical skills, such as your knowledge in programming languages. But hiring managers will also look out for your attention to detail, problem-solving and organisational skills.

This is where your potential as a software engineer will shine.

If you're about to embark on a career in developing and testing computer programs, have a look at the 10 most common software engineer interview questions you might face – and how to answer them.

1. 'Why do you want to become a software engineer?'

This is a common question that arises during most job interviews.

As an aspiring software engineer, it's recommended that you answer this question by emphasising your passion for development.

Mention your interest in coding and programming and demonstrate your ongoing dedication to small-scale personal projects (if you have any). Express that you enjoy solving complex problems, mathematical codes and anything related to information technology.

The interviewer will also look out for signs that you have a genuine interest in the industry. Insist that you've always kept up to date with tech, software design and development trends and that you see a great future for the field.

2. 'What are your weaknesses?'

The employer will ask this question to truly nail down your abilities.

Are you capable of working as a software engineer? Do you actually have what it takes? To prove your worth, be honest and truthful. When it comes to your weaknesses, always put a positive spin and mention that you're working to improve them.

For example, if you have basic knowledge of CSS, you could say that you're bettering your skills by working on a side project creating UI designs. Or if you find that your leadership abilities aren't up to par, you can always say something along the lines of: 'I'm quite a shy person, so I'm not very good at managing people. But I hope to improve on it by being more self-confident in my expertise.'

3. 'Can you describe the software development process?'

During a software engineer interview, you will be faced with several technical questions. One of them might be to describe the software development process. If you're truly an expert in this field, you'll be able to answer this question without hesitation.

Put those interview nerves behind, take a deep breath and try to answer the question as clearly as possible. Prove that you're well-acquainted with the development cycle by sounding confident, and if you have the time, use as much detail as possible.

4. 'What programming languages do you like using?'

The trick here is to list the programming languages that you know - but avoid saying that you like using all of them. Most software engineers have a preferred language, or set of languages, when it comes to developing. You don't want to come across as too eager or as though you're trying to impress the interviewer.

Whether it's JavaScript, Python or PHP, mention your favourite programming languages, and show off your proficiency.

Meanwhile, it's a good idea to research the company beforehand to determine what languages they use. If your answer suits their company infrastructure, you're in for some luck.

5. 'What projects have you previously worked on?'

This question will test your knowledge, critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Whether you're describing a personal side-project, an internship project or something you worked on at a previous job, make sure to thoroughly explain your experience building it. This includes the steps you took and why you made certain decisions. Outline any risks you might have taken, describe any drawbacks and break down the impact of the project.

It's imperative that you clarify the knowledge you gained from this project and any areas of growth that you identified. This demonstrates your whole understanding of software engineering and whether you'd be able to take on a similar project at the company.

6. 'Have you faced any challenges in your projects?'

Once again, this question requires an honest and sincere answer.

The hiring manager will want to test your understanding of challenges that might be faced when developing technology. If you mention a personal experience and state how you overcame it, you will demonstrate great problem-solving and leadership skills.

Reveal how feedback from end-users helped you improve and find solutions, and how this challenge made you learn from your mistakes. This will show that you do not give up and that you can adapt to obstacles and problems that usually arise in the programming process.

7. 'What would you look out for when reviewing a code?'

When trying to determine your attention to detail and overall responsibility as a software engineer, the interviewer will probably ask you a similar question to this.

You want to be as clear, concise and organised as possible when reciting your answer in order to demonstrate good knowledge.

Avoid just listing points, though – it's best to also give reasoning behind each answer. Say something along the lines of: 'I would keep an eye out for functionality, readability and whether the code is simple or messy. Are there any weaknesses? I would also look out for codes that I'd have to rewrite or remove'.

8. 'Do you work on projects in your spare time? If so, what are they?'

An engineer who practises building and developing software at home is always the preferred candidate. This showcases your true passion for and interest in the craft.

Describe your side-project and explain what you've learnt from building it. Are you practising a new programming language? Highlight how this language can benefit the role you're applying for.

Being a software engineer involves a lot of learning and improvement in your skills. Revealing that you have a side-project is always impressive, and it will prove your building upon your skillset.

9. 'Why did you choose our company?'

This is yet another popular interview question; however, it requires careful answering. The hiring manager will want a candidate who is genuinely interested in working for their company.

Avoid mentioning salary or 'because a friend works here' as your answer. Instead, you could say that you're eager to broaden your experience in the industry, that you want a more challenging role or that you have a true admiration for their products/services.

Show an interest in their domain and mention how your skills could benefit the company. As long as you've done enough research about the firm beforehand, you'll be able to answer this interview question without fail.

10. 'Can you complete this programming challenge?'

As frightening and trivial as it sounds, there are some software engineer interviews that pose tasks on the candidates. You might feel as though you're on the spot with this question, but as long as you're relaxed and have your thinking hat on, you should be fine.

This will display your problem-solving skills and ability to work under pressure. Software engineers are forced to write codes under stress, after all.

Hiring managers will be examining your knowledge, skillset and experience – and, quite simply, it will show whether you can write code or not.

Practising these questions and answers before your software engineer interview will boost your confidence and help you stand out among other candidates on the big day. Remember to show-off your skills and experience, and always, always be ready to solve a programming challenge on the spot!

What questions have you faced during a software engineer interview? Are there any we missed? Let us know in the comments below.