36 Interview Questions for Entry-Level Software Engineers

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published May 3, 2021

If you're a recent graduate looking for a new job in software engineering, you are likely going to want to brush up on your interviewing skills. It's important to review your software engineering knowledge ahead of time so you can answer interview questions about your experience and abilities. Practicing with sample interview questions can help you confidently express yourself during the interview and study important software engineering concepts that could arise in conversation. In this article, we list 36 common interview questions and share sample answers to help you prepare for your next interview.

Related: Learn About Being a Software Developer

General interview questions

Interviewers often ask general questions to learn more about you and to see if you'd be a good addition to the company. When responding to these questions, showing your interviewer you are engaged, creative and approachable can be just as important as giving the correct answer. Unlike the technical portion of your interview, your responses to these questions can give interviewers a better idea of your personality. It's important to be authentic. Here are some examples of general questions they may ask you in an interview:

  • Tell us about yourself.

  • Why do you want to work as a software engineer?

  • Where do you see yourself in five years?

  • Do you enjoy working as part of a team?

  • What are your strengths?

  • What are your weaknesses?

  • Talk about a time you had a project fail. How did you handle it?

  • Why do you want to work for this company?

  • What are some projects you're currently working on?

  • Why should we hire you for this position?

Related: 125 Common Interview Questions and Answers

Questions about experience and background

When applying to an entry-level position as a software engineer, most employers that understand you may have limited industry experience. Interviewers might show an interest in your education, previous internships and other relevant experience so they can gauge how much knowledge you currently possess and if you're a suitable candidate for additional on-the-job training. Here are some questions they might ask you about your experience and background:

  • Which programming languages do you prefer?

  • What is your experience working on technical projects as part of a team?

  • What was the development process of one of your previous projects?

  • When was a time you had to take lead on a project?

  • Why are you interested in software engineering?

  • How would you remove duplicates from an array in place?

  • When reviewing a team member's code, what's the most important thing to check?

  • What motivates you during complex projects?

  • How do you stay up-to-date on your software engineering skills?

  • Tell me a time you showed initiative when working on a software engineering project.

Related: 19 Career Paths for Software Engineers

In-depth questions

Because software engineering requires so much technical knowledge, your interviewer may ask you to answer questions designed to test your knowledge on specific coding and programming concepts. Here are some examples of the in-depth questions you may hear:

  • How do you appropriately populate a linked list in C#?

  • What is immutability in Java?

  • How do you remove multiple duplicates from an array in place if there is more than one duplicate?

  • What is a bucket sort algorithm and how would you implement it in a project?

  • How comfortable are you with languages like Java, C#, or Python?

  • What does a CSS style sheet do?

  • What are the different model types available in SDLC?

  • How would you go about designing a scalable application?

  • How do you merge two sorted, linked lists?

  • Explain what an abstract class is. Why would you use it?

Related: 21 Job Interview Tips: How To Make a Great Impression

Interview questions with sample answers

When preparing for a software engineering interview, review sample answers to common questions so you can have an idea of how you might respond in a similar situation. Here are a few questions with instructions on how to give a good response and an example answer:

1. Which programming languages do you have experience with?

Your interviewer might ask you about the coding languages you use to learn more about who you are as a programmer and developer. If you've taught yourself a language, it may reveal enthusiasm for programming that can appeal to employers. An interviewer may ask this question to understand more about your commitment as a software developer and how motivated you are to continue your education. Improve your answer by describing your specific experience or the reasons behind your preferences for certain languages.

Example: "In college, I used C++ for most of my classes, but I like to use JavaScript and Python for my personal projects. I've found both languages apply in many contexts and I still enjoy making math-based games like I used to before I started earning my degree."

2. Outline your process completing a programming task from assignment to delivery.

Your interviewer might want to know how well you understand designing technology for other people. In answering this question, try to show that you know how to consider the needs of the company's customers and stakeholders. Your answer may differ from the example based on your own preferences. Take the time you need to collect your ideas so you can explain the thought behind your process.

Example: "When completing a programming task, I first like to understand the project in its entirety. I take into consideration the time frame, the cost and the end user's desires to ensure I'm including business strategic objectives in my plan.

After I've collected all the requirements, I use these in my design and frequently revisit the goal of the assignment to make sure I'm on track. Development and coding are undoubtedly important, but ultimately worthless if I've rushed integration and testing. During this phase, I think it's important to revisit the goals I set out when I started the assignment.

Once I've fully implemented and delivered the program, I stay alert to any necessary bug fixes or additional features that need to be deployed. I'm constantly learning and adjusting my process to meet the needs of my specific assignments."

3. How would you describe an API to someone who knew nothing about programming?

Your interviewer may ask you to break down a complex concept in a way that's easy to understand. Being able to explain highly specific, technical processes in simple terms can show excellent communication skills and thorough understanding of a topic. Try to make your answer as basic as possible and avoid using specialized vocabulary in your description.

Example: "**API stands for Application Programming Interface. APIs exist to allow programs to communicate with one another. For example, if you wanted to schedule a hair appointment on a salon's site and have that appointment show up in your Google calendar, an API would allow the salon's server to communicate directly with Google's. APIs allow users to complete an action without leaving the website."

4. What are the traits of a good software engineer and do you possess those traits?

Opinion questions like this one allow potential employers to understand how well you might fit in with the company's culture. When answering opinion questions, consider putting yourself in the answer to help the interviewer get to know more about you and your personal philosophy.

Example: "I think a good software engineer is focused, adaptable and keeps things simple. I emphasize remembering larger objectives rather than focusing on specific design elements or unnecessary deviations that leave my code resource heavy. By keeping things simple, I'm able to work with my end goal in mind and pivot quickly if needed.

5. What is the difference between black box and white box testing?

Your interviewer may ask you a variety of technical definition questions that test your knowledge of specific software engineering concepts. When responding to technical questions like this one, define the basic terms and review the primary considerations you should know. You can also add details explaining how to use those terms in software engineering.

Example: "White box and black box testing both validate a program's inputs and outputs. The difference between them is that white box testing also validates the program implementation, whereas black box testing does not."

6. When is a time you encountered a difficult software development problem? How did you solve the problem?

Interviewers often ask behavioral and situational interview questions to understand how you respond to setbacks. Use this time to show how you've learned and grown from past challenges and your approach to solving problems. Consider using the STAR method (situation, task, action and result) to keep your answers clear and concise.

Example: "I was interning at a small tech company in college and my manager asked me to build an ETL process. After several tests, optimization and clean-up, I still couldn't get the run time down to an acceptable point. I discovered I could solve the problem using multithreading to run multiple batches of data through the ETL in parallel rather than recursively. In the end, I achieved the run time I desired."

Read More:**How To Use The STAR Interview Response Technique**

Tips for entry-level software engineer interviews

Here are some additional tips that can help you get ready for your interview:

  • Research the company. Learning about a company's their core values, history and goals can help ensure your answers to their questions are relevant. This is also a good time to learn what you can about the technology and programs they use so you can better prepare for any technology-specific questions.

  • Practice whiteboarding Often, in software development interviews, prospective employers may ask you to show your knowledge of coding, data structures and algorithms by writing solutions out on a whiteboard. If you're used to coding on a computer, practice the whiteboarding method to help you feel more comfortable during the interview.

  • Study common coding concepts. To prepare for your interview, it might help to review coding basics to ensure your ability to recall important information. Some interviewers ask questions that require you to show your ability to provide fast and clear solutions to problems when you're under pressure.

  • Take practice tests to expose potential areas of weakness. You can discover which areas you should focus on by practicing example questions beforehand and identify your software engineering strengths and weaknesses.

  • Rehearse your answers to interview questions with a friend. Practicing sample questions beforehand can help ease some nerves that sometimes come with interviewing. Ask a friend for help with some of your answers and listen to their feedback.

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