47 Questions To Ask a Software Engineer

Updated June 24, 2022

It's important to know the right questions to ask a software engineer when there is an opening at your company. Interviews provide you with the opportunity to get to know potential new hires and identify the best match for the position. When interviewing candidates, you should ask a range of questions that include topics such as their general working preferences and their past experiences. In this article, we discuss the best questions to ask at a software engineer interview and provide explanations for why you might ask them.

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General software engineer questions

When making a new hire, it's important that they fit in with your company's culture. By asking questions about an applicant's preferred working habits, you can better determine how well they can acclimate to working for your company. Common general questions to ask at a software engineer interview include:

  1. What does your ideal team look like?

  2. What do you know about our company?

  3. What is your preferred approach to conflict resolution in the office?

  4. Do you prefer working on coding projects alone or with a team?

  5. Do you prefer close supervision or more freedom when working on a project?

  6. How often would you receive a performance review if it was your decision?

  7. What are you passionate about outside of work?

  8. How important is it for you to feel challenged at work?

  9. What type of work culture do you prefer?

  10. What are you looking for from this position?

  11. What sets you apart from other applicants for this position?

  12. Do you have any questions about the company or the position?

  13. How do you respond when you are unclear of the direction your supervisor wants you to take on a project?

  14. What is your preferred style of leadership from a supervisor?

Related: Software Engineer vs. Software Developer: What's the Difference?

Software engineer questions about experience and background

It's important to understand the background of any applicants for a software engineer position. These questions help you learn about an applicant's prior work experience and how they respond to common situations in the workplace. Effective questions about a potential hire's experience and background include:

  1. What inspired you to become a software engineer?

  2. What coding languages do you know?

  3. Do you have experience leading a team of coders?

  4. Discuss a time you identified errors in a coworker's code. How did you handle it?

  5. Tell me about someone who was influential during your development as a software engineer.

  6. How many hours per week at your past job did you spent on coding, and how many hours did you spend on other tasks such as administration, planning or meetings?

  7. Do you have any experience working with artificial intelligence or neural networks?

  8. What was the first program you ever coded? When did you make it?

  9. What project management and team collaboration programs did your previous employers use?

  10. What projects are you working on right now?

  11. Do you have experience discussing the technical aspects of a project with non-technical staff or shareholders? How do you handle it, if so?

  12. What do you do when you're feeling stressed about a project?

Related: Software Engineer Skills: Definition and Examples

In-depth software engineer questions

In order to get a full understanding of an applicant's capabilities and working preferences, provide opportunities for them to give longer, more detailed responses. These in-depth questions should cover a range of topics including their expectations, preferences and previous experience. Some strong in-depth questions to ask a software engineer include:

  1. What are your expectations for this role?

  2. What is your favorite coding language and why?

  3. Tell me about a time a project pushed you outside of your comfort levels. How did you respond, and what was the result?

  4. What do you do to keep your skills current?

  5. What methods do you use to test your code?

  6. What do you think are the most important considerations when checking a coworker's code?

  7. Do you prefer working on builds or maintenance?

  8. Tell me about a time where something went wrong on a project. What did you learn from the situation?

  9. How do you create an estimate for delivering a project?

  10. What tools do you use when performing quality control on your code?

  11. Tell me about a time where you were working on a project and had issues related to miscommunication. What caused the problem, and how did you solve it?

  12. Share a time where a project had an unforeseen emergency. What solution did you find to minimize problems, and what were the end results?

  13. Tell me about a project you worked on that you felt was mismanaged. What would you have done differently if you were in charge?

  14. What's something you think we can implement to make employees more excited to work here?

Related: What Is Software Engineering?

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Sample software engineer questions and answers

When outlining your list of questions for an interview, check to make sure that you have covered all the key areas you need to make an informed decision on whether to move the candidate forward in the hiring process. Here are some sample questions and answers that you can ask a software engineering candidate:

How do you balance quality with speed when delivering a project?

Software engineers often work on tight deadlines and may find themselves in positions where they need extra help to meet a target release date. If your company has a preferred approach in these situations, hiring staff who have a similar preference can help create more unity within the software engineering team.

Asking a prospective hire about their response when facing a tight schedule not only reveals how they could fit in with your office culture, but it also allows them to show their commitment to high performance levels. A strong applicant may use this question to note the ways they remain on schedule and avoid the need for sacrifices whenever possible.

Can you fix the errors present in this piece of code?

One of the most effective ways to test an applicant's abilities is to provide them with a sample problem to fix. When creating an error, the bug should be challenging enough to demonstrate competence in your preferred coding language, but it should not require an excessive amount of time to correct.

One method of choosing a problem that relates to your company's work is to provide an applicant with a piece of bugged code that existed in one of your company's projects before being fixed. This practical application demonstrates both the applicant's competence as an engineer and their ability to work well under pressure.

A client requires a program that assigns each student in a class random variable values for math problems then scores their homework using these custom values. How would you build it?

While a debugging question shows a potential employee's technical skills and knowledge, it's important for a software engineer to have a strong understanding of programming structure as well. A question such as this, which calls for a response providing a project overview as opposed to specific coding actions, lets you see how an applicant thinks about the scope of a project and plots out a structure for a piece of software.

How would your old coworkers describe you? What about your old supervisor?

Workplace chemistry is important, as employees who get along are more likely to collaborate effectively. Keeping staff in positive spirits also helps them perform at their best. By asking about an applicant's interactions with their coworkers at prior jobs, you can assess their response to determine if you feel they could fit in well at your company.

It is helpful to include both coworkers and supervisors as some employees behave differently depending on the stature of those they are speaking to. An applicant's answer to this question can help you gain a deeper understanding of their approach to workplace dynamics by comparing their response to the two different groups. You may also opt to compare this answer with actual reviews from the previous employer or reference to learn more about the applicant's self-awareness and honesty.

Tell me about a time you had a disagreement on a project at a previous job. How did you resolve the situation?

Workplace conflict is a natural occurrence when multiple staff members are working on the same project. When hiring an employee, it's important to first understand how they react when placed in a situation like this. An employee capable of coming to an effective solution to a disagreement with a coworker is a valuable team member.

Asking about a specific instance in which they had a disagreement and resolved it provides a more specific example of how they behave than simply asking about their preferred method of conflict resolution. It can also show you the attitudes they hold toward workplace disagreements, which can help you get a better understanding of how they would fit in with their company.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Questions about a prospective employee's future can be highly revealing. Employee retention is a key element of many successful companies. An employee whose passion is in programming is an ideal hire for a software engineer position, because they are more likely to stay with your company should you determine they are a valuable staff member.

This question can also reveal the ambition of an applicant by demonstrating how far they hope to have advanced in their career in ten years. An applicant who aspires to reach a senior level position with your company may be more committed and work harder to demonstrate their worth, which may make them a more productive member of the team if hired.

What is your proudest achievement as a software engineer?

When interviewing potential software engineers for your open job, it's important to provide opportunities for applicants to call attention to their strengths and accomplishments. Asking about a proudest moment allows the interviewee to showcase a project or event that they feel highlights their strongest features as a software engineer.

In addition to showcasing an applicant's skills, the specific story they share can reveal much about their work ethic as well. This question gives the prospective employee the opportunity to share the project they thought would be most impressive to you, which indicates the type of work they value highly. You can use this to determine if their priorities align with your company's values and preferences.

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