Hiring a software engineer is a process that should be approached carefully and with deliberation. A good software engineer will help your company grow, but one that does not have the right skills or a good work ethic can slow down and hinder your growth. Therefore, you should know the best questions to ask during the hiring process to successfully recruit software engineers.

These 17 interview questions for software engineers are some of the top questions you should ask potential software engineering candidates that you’re interviewing.

1. Why Did You Decide to Become a Software Engineer?
This is an important question because their answer will help you understand how passionate they are about their work and how dedicated they will be to their job. Their answer should indicate whether they have a keen interest in engineering software. 

2. What programming languages do you prefer?
This gives the candidate a chance to talk about the programming languages they have used and what they appreciate or dislike about certain aspects of each one. Do they like object-oriented languages, or maybe more functional ones?

3. What’s important when checking a team member’s code? 
While this question does not have a right or wrong answer it will give you insight into their thought processes on coding. What are the really important things when writing code? Do they focus on functionality or simplicity? Is security something there concerned with?

4. What project management tools have you used?
This will give you an idea of the project management tools such as Jira, Asana, or others that they are comfortable using as well as the type of work environment and they’re used to.

5. Talk about a project you completed successfully
This gives the software engineer a chance to discuss a project without getting too technical. It should give you an understanding of how they worked with teams, time management skills, interacted with managers, and what contributions they made to the project.

6. What Are You Looking for in This Job?
This is also an important question, as you want to know why they are looking for a new job and why they applied to your particular company. Did they do research about your company? Try to find out what they know about your company’s mission, what your values are, and what your company culture is like. If they did not do research about your company and are simply looking for a new job because they need the money, they might not end up being a good fit for your team. You want to make sure that their values align with your own and that they will be dedicated to your mission. You want to hire a software engineer who is passionate about your values and goals and wants to help you reach them. 

7. Why Should We Hire You?
This is also an important question, as it will give the applicant the opportunity to explain more about themselves, what their skills are, what they bring to the table, and how they will help your company reach its goals. That last part is important, as it will give you an opportunity to see whether teamwork is important to them or not. You don’t want them to just go on about their education and skills, but you also want them to show you how they can help you and be an important asset to your team. 

8. Talk about some mistakes you learned from
Every software engineer who is passionate about engineering and has worked on personal and business projects will have made some mistakes. Perhaps they worked on a project that ended up failing. That is not a bad thing, however, as it allows them to learn important lessons from those failures. During the interview process, try to find out what mistakes the software engineer made and what lessons they learned from those mistakes. This allows you to get an insight into their work ethic, their willingness to admit mistakes and learn, and how they work on improving their skills while working on projects. 

9. How Did You Solve a Problem You Faced?
This question will allow the candidate to explain how they approach problems and their methodology for solving them. It will show whether they have the skills to hold up to pressure and use their problem-solving skills to arrive at a solution. This does not have to be a software engineering problem, though it may be. It can also be a problem with teamwork. For example, they can explain how they had a disagreement with a colleague on how to properly approach a specific problem and how they came to an agreement with that colleague. This will show that they have the teamwork skills to work with someone else, even when there is a conflict. 

10. How Do You Come Up With Estimates?
Software engineers often come up with estimates that are entirely off the mark. Although they may want to think that they can deliver an end result within a specific time frame, new issues and bugs often come up that cause them to be late on their estimate. Ask the candidate how they come up with estimates to find out how accurate they are and whether they have realistic expectations about what it will take to complete a project. 

11. What Are You Working On right now?
Find out what the software engineer is working on at the moment. Even if they are not currently working for a specific company, a good software engineer who is passionate about development will usually be working on a side project of their own. If they are indeed working on a private project, ask them why they chose that project, what their goals are, what they enjoy about that project, and what they are learning from the process of working on that project.

12. How Do You Assure Software Quality?
When working on a project, it is important to conduct a quality control process to ensure that the end results come out great. Ask the developer what their quality control process looks like and whether they use any specific tools to test their results. Any engineer can end up having bugs in the software they are working on, but it is important that they have a process to test for bugs and a method for fixing them. 

13. Do You Enjoy Working With a Team or Alone?
There is no right or wrong answer to this question, as it all depends on what you are looking for in a software engineer. You may want an engineer who will work hard and who can be independent. On the flip side, you may want someone who is a team player and is not stubborn about doing things their way. 

14. What Are Your Career Goals?
You may be looking for a developer who has higher aspirations, or you may be looking for someone who prefers to do what they are doing now and not have any sort of management position. 

15. When writing your own database server what should you consider?
Most of the time software engineers use data stores especially those working on backend applications. Do they understand the underlying factors of the application? How would they write an application like MongoDB or MySQL?  This type of open-ended question tests the bounds of a software engineer interviewee’s knowledge and could lead to a discussion of database principles such as file storage, sharding, threading, query optimizers, the big four NoSQL types, indexing, and others.

16. How do you keep your skills sharp and up to date?
A software engineer needs to stay on top of changes that occur in the industry and keep their skills fresh for new and emerging technologies.

17. What Questions Do You Have for Us?
When interviewing a potential software engineer, it is important not just to ask them questions but to allow them to ask their own questions. If an engineer doesn’t really care about your company and is just interested in making money, they probably won’t have a lot of questions. In addition, a good software engineer who cares about their work is in high demand, and cares about working with a great team will probably have a few questions for you as well. They might want to ask about the company culture, the work-life balance, your company values, the goals you are trying to reach, what you are looking for in a software developer, and more to figure out whether you would make a good fit for them and how they will fit in with your overall company goals. 

These are just some questions that are important to ask software engineers. There may be other specific questions that are specific to your company such as your tech stack and the programming languages you use. Read our article on general questions to ask an interviewee as well. As one of the leading engineering staffing agencies, we help employers recruit engineering, design, and IT Talent. Contact us about our Engineering recruiting services or IT staffing services.
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