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Useful Guide to Software Engineer Interviews: Tips, Questions and What to Expect

This guide will cover what to expect in a software engineer interview, the top seven questions hiring managers are likely to ask, and tips to ace that interview.

Whether you’re a fresh graduate or career-switching into a new industry, interviewing for a technical role like software engineering can be daunting. The good news is that the hard work you’ve put into studying, reskilling, and numerous projects has landed you an interview for that software engineer position. 

Now it is time to prep for your interview. 

What to expect from a software engineer interview

The hiring process for software engineers, like other tech roles, may come with several rounds, including a live coding exercise done virtually, a take-home assignment, a design challenge and behavioural interview questions.

Software engineering work is usually done in two categories: field-specific or broad programming. The interview evaluates your analytical skills as well as your code knowledge.

For all-inclusive software development roles, in some cases, the process becomes entirely different so recruiters will often ask them questions ranging from technical to behavioural.

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Even if you have already written down your computer science skills in your resume, recruiters and hiring managers would still ask questions to verify your knowledge and experience against the job description.

When you approach various interview questions, clarify with the interviewer to make sure you understand the problem correctly before offering your solution.

If you don’t know the answer to a specific tech-solution question, talk the interviewer through your thought process on how you would approach the problem. This would help highlight your analytical and communication skills. 

Keep in mind when answering interview questions that the key trait for a software engineer is problem-solving skills, so strive to demonstrate how you solve various software issues where relevant.

7 software engineer interview questions you’ll likely get asked (and how to answer them)

1. What tech stack have you been using?

Naturally, your interviewer would want to know which programming languages, frameworks and tools you are familiar with. Employers are usually looking for software engineers who have experience with multiple languages.

So talk about a few programming languages you are familiar with (Python is one of the most sought-after programming languages), and elaborate about your preferences. You can highlight the languages you are proficient in and share about those you are mastering.

Upskilling also demonstrates to the interviewer that you can learn and adapt, even if you are not familiar with the programming languages or project management tools they use in the company.

Common tech stacks/programming languages that are sought after includes:

  1. Back-end Development: Java, Golang, .NET, C/C++, Node JS
  2. Front-end Development: React, Angular
  3. Mobile Development: SWIFT, Objective-C, Android Java, Kotlin, React Native, Flutter
  4. DevOps: Jenkins, Ansible, Kubernetes, AWS, Azure
  5. Others: API Development, Microservices Architecture, Distributed Systems

2. What are your thoughts on Agile development?

Interviewers who ask this question are interested to know your views on the Agile software development process and practices to assess how compatible you are with their processes.

If you were involved with projects involving Agile previously, share your opinions and experiences on the software programs and procedures.

3. Describe the most challenging project you have worked on or supported and share any obstacles and your contributions to its success.

Your answer would give your hiring manager insights into how you manage challenges at work and collaborate in a team.

Summarise what you worked on and how you contributed to the particular project, and what you did to accomplish those tasks. If you can present this project with visuals, get the visual aids ready as part of your portfolio.

Aside from technical skills that a software engineer should have, be sure to touch on points that would help the interviewer evaluate your teamwork, collaboration and management skills. Finish your sharing by assessing the project outcome.

You could also share what you have learned from the experience, from your team members and how that experience shaped you as a good software engineer. Some employers may not ask about your most challenging project and focus on your most recent one. Nonetheless, you can still use this answer framework to reply to the interviewer.

4. How do you explain technical challenges to non-technical stakeholders?

A part of the job is communicating what you do to colleagues and stakeholders who do not have a technology background. You need to be able to phrase your response in a way that is relatable. Avoid technical jargon and focus on how the concept can help or affect them daily.

5. What are your thoughts about new or emerging technologies and tech trends such as DevOps, Automation and Digital Transformation?

Technology is ever-changing. Whether you may or may not have worked on any related project to new technologies, it is always essential to understand what is happening in the industry. On top of that, it is essential to upskill to pick up new skills.

According to Felicia Romli, assistant manager at Page Personnel Singapore, hiring managers are looking out for tech candidates with certifications, such as Project Management (PMP/Scrum Master), certificates related to your tech stack (Microsoft/Java certifications) and cloud certifications (AWS/Azure).

6. What interesting or fun software projects have you created or worked on?

The thing is, hiring managers want to know that you are passionate about technology, so this question goes beyond your usual job scope to what you do for fun. It could be setting up a website for a friend’s new food business or developing mobile apps.

7. Why do you want to work as a software engineer?

There can be many variations of this question. Essentially, your new employer-to-be wants to know what motivates you as a software engineer. And what’s important for this question is to be authentic. If you are passionate about the work, like making apps or designing databases, say so.

Passion is what keeps you going when things get tough. Don’t overthink this question or try to predict what the interviewee wants you to say.

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4 smart tips to ace your software engineering interview

Here are some insights to help you ace your interviews.

  1. Give your interviewer a comprehensive explanation of your involvement in past projects and about the tech stack you are proficient in. You could consider preparing a portfolio sharing of what you have done in your previous projects or on your side projects.
  2. Find out how many rounds of interviews you need to prepare for and the context of each interview. You should always be ready for technical coding tests for the first one to two rounds of the interview process and more behavioural questions later.
  3. Where applicable, find the opportunity to show that you are open to learning and passionate about picking up new technologies. This self-learning journey could be by pursuing online courses and various tech certifications.
  4. Software engineering as part of any team has no intrinsic ability to succeed alone. Recruiters are looking for software engineers who understand the process and strive to utilise their team to its full potential.

If you were an individual contributing to a team’s effort, you should talk about the importance of teamwork in your concept of success. Focusing your answers on these elements will help demonstrate you are resourceful, that you are willing to help others and you care about projects beyond your individual contributions.

This article is contributed by Michael Page.

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