10 Behavioral Interview Questions for Software Engineers

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Updated August 1, 2023

When interviewing for a job as a software engineer, you may answer both technical and behavioral questions so that the employer can gain a better understanding of your capabilities. However, behavioral interview questions allow the hiring manager to learn more about how you would perform in a variety of workplace scenarios and situations. Preparing for behavioral interview questions may help you answer these questions more confidently.

In this article, we list 10 common software engineer behavioral interview questions with sample answers for you to review.

10 software engineer behavioral interview questions

Here are 10 common software engineer behavioral interview questions and advice on how to answer them using these example responses:

1. In your opinion, what are some principles every software engineer should follow?

The interviewer is likely to ask this question to evaluate your diligence in your job and how you'd meet or exceed the expectations of the company. Consider mentioning the value of adaptability or resourcefulness, as these qualities are useful in many professional settings. You can also discuss your personal coding philosophy and overall thoughts about software engineering.

Example: "One principle that I try to follow as a software engineer is to keep things simple and straightforward. The work itself can be technical and complicated, so I find that a simple and effective system for coding and task execution allows me to stay focused on complex tasks without becoming overwhelmed."

“Show the interviewer that you’re willing to use the best tool for the job. It’s important not just for the stability of projects, but it shows you have a learning mindset,” says Ofure Okoronkwo, a software engineer at RBC Royal Bank and mentor for Springboard’s Software Engineering Career Track. “When you get the requirements for a project or join a team, you need to do your research to find out if the technology stack you plan to use is the best fit.” 

Related: What Is Software Engineering?

2. How do you respond when you disagree with a coworker?

There may be a time when you and a coworker have different ideas about how to execute a task. The hiring manager may ask this interview question because they're interested in learning about your ability to collaborate with other team members. By asking this question, the interviewer hopes to gain insight into how you handle challenging situations in the workplace, so focus on highlighting how you have resolved an issue with a coworker in the past.

In your answer, use the STAR method to outline your response. This acronym, which stands for "situation, task, action and result," is a guide for answering behavioral interview questions with sufficient detail about the example you're referring to and how you addressed it successfully.

Example: "During a new project last year, one of my team members suggested we used a method of coding that I found inefficient. In this situation, I met with my team member one-on-one as we each laid out our plans for the project and the coding method we found most useful. After our discussion, we both understood each other's suggestions and presented our ideas to the rest of the team, which allowed everyone to voice their opinions. We were able to come to a mutual decision as a group."

Related: How To Answer Behavioral Interview Questions

3. Tell me about a time you had multiple responsibilities to manage. How did you respond to this situation?

As a software engineer, you may have many tasks to manage at once, and the interviewer may ask this question to see how you would perform in a busy environment. This question provides you with an opportunity to talk about your effective time management skills and your ability to remain flexible while adapting to new responsibilities. Consider using the STAR method to discuss a time when you dealt with multiple responsibilities in a professional setting and address how you reacted.

Example: "Last summer, my manager assigned me to a performance interface design team at the same time I was working on coordinating software installation for a client. While at first I was overwhelmed with having two big projects at once, I dedicated a day to organizing and prioritizing which tasks needed attention first so that I could meet the deadlines for both assignments. Because of this, I was able to turn in both assignments on time."

4. Can you give me an example of how you set goals for yourself?

Hiring managers may ask this question if they're interested in learning how you set career-oriented goals that are both ambitious and achievable. Setting goals is an important part of your job as a software engineer because it shows your commitment to excellence at your job. Consider answering this question by explaining a time you set a goal and how you accomplished it.

Example: "With my last employer, I realized I wanted to advance from my entry-level position on a software innovation team to a role as a programmer analyst. Programmer analysts typically have three to five years of experience, and I knew that six months after I realized this goal, I would reach my third anniversary with the company. This made promotion a challenging but attainable goal. I put in long hours and worked one-on-one with my supervisor, and on my three-year anniversary, I successfully achieved the position of programmer analyst."

5. What is the most helpful feedback you've ever gotten?

Constructive criticism can be helpful for your overall professional growth, so consider answering this question with a piece of criticism you received and how it helped you improve your work. You can show your ability to react positively to constructive criticism and demonstrate that you're willing to learn and progress.

Example: "A year ago, my manager called me into her office and gave me some critical feedback that I wasn't expecting. However, I am so glad that she pointed out a flaw in my organizational methods so that I could reevaluate my approach. While I didn't realize it at the time, her criticism helped me challenge myself and improve my work without requiring me to work longer hours."

6. Tell me about a time you adapted to a new situation or environment.

This question allows you to show your ability to take on responsibilities that are not included in your job description, such as independent research and how you adapt to dynamic work environments. If you are unsure how to answer this question, consider describing your experience starting your previous job.

Example: "When I started my last job, I had never worked as a full-time software engineer and knew that I had a lot to learn. However, I made sure to ask many questions and take notes about what I learned, reviewing them at the end of each workday. Eventually, I became familiar with the systems and protocol and exceeded my goals within the first six months of employment."

7. As a software engineer, you must be both predictable and innovative. How can these traits coexist in your work?

By asking this question, the interviewer is likely trying to assess your ability to balance consistency with creativity and gain an understanding of your philosophy toward your work. Try to provide an answer that's true to your philosophy but also reflects the values of the company with which you're interviewing.

Example: "I believe that the balance of predictability and innovation is the foundation of my work as a software engineer. It's important that my team delivers high-quality software within a predictable time frame, but our everyday work requires us to be innovative and develop alternative systems and processes. From my experience, it is an engineer's ability to balance predictability and innovation that leads to their success and potential to be an effective team member."

“Being predictable means that people can vouch for your character and commitment to always doing an excellent job,” says Okoronkwo. “This means you’re honest if you have roadblocks or accidentally introduced a bug to the code. It also means offering helpful feedback during code reviews and team evaluations. Meanwhile, innovation comes from having a learning mindset, which is important because the tech industry is always evolving.”

Related: How To Become a Software Engineer

8. Tell me about a time you needed information from someone who wasn't responsive. How did you handle it?

If the hiring manager asks you this question during an interview, try to highlight your communication skills and your ability to handle challenges with your coworkers. The hiring manager may want to see your level of understanding toward your colleague's perspective in the situation, so emphasize your ability to be considerate of others while obtaining the information you need.

Example: "I was in a situation at my previous job where I was organizing a plan of action for my team, and the deadline was rapidly approaching. My manager expressed that she was busy with several projects at the time and couldn't respond to my emails until two to three days later. Rather than getting frustrated, I asked my team members for input, and we created a fully formed plan that we then presented to my manager, who approved it immediately."

9. What are your organizational strategies?

When answering this question, be honest and reflect on what strategies have worked for you in the past. Discuss which methods were the most successful and why, and show that you understand your own work style and best practices. You can explain your time management strategies and give past examples.

Example: "Over the years, I've found that I perform the best at work when I'm the most organized. For this reason, I have developed a variety of strategies to make sure that I'm managing my time and projects accordingly. For example, I use time management applications on my phone, which help me stay focused, and limit multitasking so that I remain concentrated on one task until I fully execute it."

Related: "How Do You Stay Organized?" Interview Question: How To Answer (With Examples)

10. How do you deal with unexpected changes to deadlines?

Interviewers use this question to assess how you react to time-sensitive projects and how well you work under pressure. In your response, highlight your ability to react quickly without sacrificing quality, and emphasize strategies that have helped you adapt to changes in your previous work experience.

Example: "Last April, my manager assigned me to increase a software's efficiency by 3% in 30 days. However, the deadline changed a few days later, and I only had two weeks to complete the task. While I was a little nervous about my ability to complete the task in time, I asked fellow team members for their advice and learned a new strategy that allowed me to increase software efficiency by 4% and exceed my goal in two weeks."

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