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Common Software Engineer Interview Questions

WHAT ON EARTH are they going to ask me?

Being able to read minds would definitely be the best thing since sliced bread. Imagine the superpower of knowing exactly what the hiring managers are going to ask even before they have thought about it.

Here’s a compilation of common software developer interview questions for you to prepare on your way to success. Read on to find out more. 

Here's what this article will cover:

  1. Preparing for the software engineer interview
  2. How is a software engineer hired? The hiring process DECODED!
  3. Software developer interview questions and answers
  4. Role-related knowledge and experience
  5. Entry level software engineer interview questions
  6. Common software engineer interview questions
  7. Tech skills software developer interview questions
  8. Software interview questions answering tips

Preparing for the software engineer interview

If you are looking to one-up your technical skills, you can enroll in software engineer interview prep courses, where you can revise the basic concepts and learn some excellent methods to solve questions quickly.

Here’s something that might drop on you like a Fat Boy. Experienced hiring managers rarely prepare interview questions. Yes, we realize this might come as a shocker to you.

When it comes to job searches and interviews, a lot of things are shrouded in mystery. Interviewers often ask questions on a whim; the primary objective being checking your soft skills.

Wait; so, there’s no point preparing?

Hold your horses! Listen us out!

An interview is as much about your soft skills as it is about software developing proficiency.

During the interview, the interviewers will ask you software interview questions to not only test what you answer, but how you answer a question. So, the deciding factor between applicants often comes down to methodology and soft skills such as confidence, communication, etc.

Start your software interview prep by researching the company. Even if you are applying to one of the FAANG companies, do not assume that you know the product. Go to the company’s About Us section and get acquainted with the company’s mission, goals, and future aspirations.

So, for example, if you are applying at Facebook, start by visiting the company page and learn about its history, values, and future missions. Visit their Careers > Facebook page to understand the working culture and read testimonials from previous and current employees. Learn as much as you can, as if you were to live forever.

Next, prepare software engineer interview questions for both the technical and behavioral rounds. The behavioral round is equally essential, as skills such as teamwork and leadership are always appreciated in the workplace.

While most of the questions will revolve around your technical skills such as programming languages and DSA, employers will also take a look at your analytical and problem-solving skills, to know if you will fit within the company culture.

How is a software engineer hired? The hiring process DECODED!

Software engineers, especially for FAANG companies, have to go through a grueling selection regime, which consists of several rounds of interviews. The complete software engineering interview process usually takes more than eight weeks and follows the given timeline-

  • Verification of cover letter, resume, and referrals
  • Online assessment of new graduates
  • Technical phone screening rounds; one to two rounds
  • Onsite interviews; four to six rounds

During this time, you will possibly face challenging questions in the following rounds:

  • Coding interviews
  • System design interviews
  • Soft skills interviews for developers and leadership interviews for management positions

During coding interviews, you will have to answer questions surrounding data structure and algorithms, and a few system-designs questions as well. The difficulty of these questions depends on the role you are applying for. It is pretty natural that higher ranked senior engineers will have to face more challenging questions. Naturally, you are expected to do well in these rounds.

Usually, next is the whiteboard round, where you will have to write a piece of code on a whiteboard. However, recently, companies have started providing Chromebooks or laptops for software engineer interview questions, with the necessary applications pre-installed.

Additionally, for management positions, you will also have to face behavioral and situational rounds, wherein you will be asked questions regarding leadership, project management, work ethics, etc.

Meanwhile, the following happen behind the scenes:

  1. Feedback from interviewers are collected and tallied
  2. Recommendations from the hiring committee are assessed
  3. Team matching
  4. Senior leader and board review
  5. Executive feedback and review
  6. Offer letter distribution

With a brief idea about the hiring process and the questions mentioned below, you can ask a friend or family member for help and practice mock software interviews to test your preparation.

Software developer interview questions and answers

General Cognitive Ability (GCA)

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GCA is an essential round of software engineer interview, especially at companies like Google and Amazon. This round is primarily designed to challenge the intellect of an individual, as the questions will be mostly hypothetical with no pre-determined solutions.

Answering tip: Make sure that you understand the question and answer the intent behind the question. Most candidates provide excellent answers but fail to satisfy the intent. If you do not understand, ask and clarify.

Secondly, think outside the box and dissect the question. Stay away from assumptions and bias. Ask questions if you are stuck, like “Is it safe to assume?

  1. How will you launch AdWords in a country like Kenya?
  2. How will you plan and organize an offsite for your team?
  3. What will you do if you are the manager and half of your team resigns?
  4. If you were the Country Marketing manager, how will you resolve high advertiser churn rate?
  5. How many tennis balls can you fit in a school bus or Boeing 747?
  6. What is it?

“It” is a demonstrative pronoun.

Trivia:

3 Key tips to be a master coder

  1. Pay uncompromised attention to the users’ needs
  2. Don’t shy away from being aggressive with the development process
  3. Adapt and solve errors

Role-related knowledge and experience

Questions here will be like the rapid-fire round in a quiz, requiring you to offer a clear answer ASAP. These software test engineer interview questions surround the fundamental aspects of software engineering, and you are expected to understand the concepts thoroughly.

Answering tip: Make sure that you are familiar with the basics of software engineering since most questions here will test your experience. You can use the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to bolster your answer.

Here are some of the most common questions in this regard.

  1. What is the difference between stubs and mocks?
  2. Which would you use, a mutex or a semaphore, to prevent access to an increment operation?
  3. What do you mean by function points?
  4. Differentiate between re-engineering and reverse engineering?
  5. Differentiate between local and global variables.
  6. What project estimation techniques do you use?
  7. What is the software philosophy behind Agile?
  8. Describe with examples how applications can foresee user behavior.

Leadership

Management interviews test your skills to support and grow your team and how you will lead your team in projects effectively. Management software interview questions will be a series of situational and behavioral questions, essentially asking how you previously handled a said situation or task.

Answering tip: Leadership is a lot more than disciplining employees and meeting deadlines. You need to show that you are proficient in preparing daily objectives, pull your team ahead, and build staff capacity as well.

  1. Tell us about yourself.
  2. Discuss an exciting project you worked on recently.
  3. How do you handle ambiguity at the workplace?
  4. How will you develop and retain team members?
  5. Tell us about your method of organizing day-to-day activities.
  6. How do you convince your juniors and seniors to adopt a new technology or software that you are proficient at personally?
  7. Have you led your team through difficult situations?
  8. How will you ensure that your team is diverse and inclusive?
  9. Have you ever had to address the skill gap or personality conflict among your teammates?
  10. Tell us about that time you had to handle a late project.

For example, in your answer to question 5 above, you can mention how you prioritize tasks based on requirements, delegate the said tasks to your employees, collect regular feedback through communication channels, and submit timely reports to your seniors.

Culture fit

These software engineer interview questions are designed to test if a candidate is a right fit for the company culture alongside the job role. You will most likely face questions surrounding your previous work environment, expectations, what environment you like, and if you will be able to fit the company umbrella comfortably.

Research tip: Visit the company’s website and study the mission statement and values. You will also find strategy teardowns done by news sources like CBS, etc.

Answering tip: Be honest! If you lie while answering these questions, either the recruiter will see through your façade and deem you a liar, or you will end up joining a company where you will be frustrated by the work culture. 

Additionally, emphasize your skills to show YOUR abilities, even if you do not end up getting the job.

  1. What kind of a work environment suits you the best?
  2. How do you feel about a cooperative work environment?
  3. What do you know about our company?
  4. Why do you want to work at <company name>?
  5. How comfortable will you be in a startup environment?

Entry level software engineer interview questions

  1. Differentiate between computer software and program.
  2. Explain the software development process and which SDLC model is the best.
  3. What are the roles of a software manager?
  4. Why do you want to be a software developer?
  5. Why should we choose you over other candidates?
  6. Are you working on personal or open-source projects?
  7. How do you track the requirements?
  8. What is your programming pattern? What kind of variables do you use?
  9. If you come across an intricate algorithm, which programming language will you use?
  10. How do you see yourself progressing from this role?
  11. How do you create technical documentation for your project?
  12. Mention some tools that you use to test the quality of the codes.
  13. Why do we need polymorphism?
  14. Can you explain re-engineering?
  15. What is the difference between .DLL and .EXE?
  16. How would you define the scope in software?
  17. Define case tools in software engineering.
  18. Differentiate pseudocode and structured English.
  19. How do you analyze code fast and securely?
  20. Define Cohesion and Modularization.
  21. Explain the difference between mocks and stubs.
  22. Can you describe the Level-0 Data flow diagram?
  23. Differentiate a process and a thread.
  24. In Java, how will you execute multiple catch blocks for a single try statement?
  25. Define and state the importance of polymorphism.

For example, in answer to question 1, you can say that “A program is a chunk of programming code that performs a pre-determined task. Software, on the other hand, comprises the code, documentation, and the user guide in a bundle.” 

Common software engineer interview questions 

  1. What is your favorite programming language out of the ones that you have used?
  2. Describe the process from requirements to delivery that you use to write a code.
  3. What books would you recommend to someone in software engineering?
  4. How do you include contingency plans to make sure that your code can handle various error situations?
  5. How do you find an error in a large file where stepping through the code is not possible?
  6. Write pseudocode to raise a number to an exponent.
  7. Without using division, replace each number in an array with the product of each entry except the number itself.
  8. Differentiate between verification and validation.
  9. What is debugging?
  10. How much time do you spend debugging on a project?
  11. What do you mean by software scope?
  12. Who is a software project manager, and what is his role?
  13. How do you measure project execution?
  14. What is feasibility study?
  15. Discuss software analysis and design tools.
  16. Differentiate, with examples, between quality assurance and quality control.
  17. How is a Thread and a Process different?
  18. Which is preferable and why: strong-typing or weak-typing?
  19. What is the difference between branches and tags?
  20. What is MVC?
  21. How proficient are you with OOP analysis?
  22. What is ORM?
  23. What are CASE tools?
  24. When should a class be abstract?
  25. What kind of data is passed through HTTP headers?

For example, in your answer to question 1, first list out all the languages and database algorithms in which you are proficient. If you are a full-stack web developer, mention all the languages you can code, including HTML, CSS, Java, Ruby, etc., and then, mention your favorite one out of those.

Tech skills software developer interview questions

For bigshots like FAANG companies, software developer interview questions are usually from the following fields:

Geometry

E.g. Given n non-empty linked lists representing n non-negative integers, the digits in reverse order and each corresponding node contain a single digit. Add n numbers and return as a linked list.

Solution tip: Make sure to study the number of nodes, node value, and that the list representing a number does not have leading zeroes.

Dynamic programming

E.g. Provided a matrix and target, return the total number of non-empty submatrices summing up to target.

Solution tip: Calculate the sum of a subarray using SUM[0-i]-SUM [0, j-n. If this equals target (subarray ends at i), find the number of occurrences of runningSum-target. Move from element to element and keep adding to runningSum. Finally, query the hashmap to find how many occurrences of running sum end at i.

Arrays or Strings

E.g. Implement a SnapshotArray which supports preset interfaces.

Solution tip: Study the provided interface thoroughly before you start preparing the code.

Recursion

E.g. Find the length of the longest path such that every single node in this path assumes the same value in a binary tree. The number of edges between them also represents the length of the path between two nodes.

Solution tip: Make sure to study the number of nodes, constraints, and maximum depth in the range of a given tree while finding the longest UniValue path.

Graphs or Trees

E.g. Considering a path starts and ends at any node in a binary tree, find its maximum path sum.

Solution tip: Keep track of each path in the given binary tree (node, left child, right child, etc.) and pick the maximum one in the end, such that the root of each subtree should return maximum path sum that at most, one child of root is involved.

Usually, interviewers will be overly eager to test your tech skills in the relevant field. So, a smart move will be to read the technical requirements mentioned in the job description. Make sure that you are well acquainted with the technical skills necessary for this role.

Additionally, you should also solve truckloads of software engineer technical interview questions surrounding various topics such as cognitive ability and logical reasoning, role-related questions, leadership and management, and culture fit questions. 

Software interview questions answering tips

Confidence

Experience tells you what to do; confidence allows you to do it.” – Stan Smith

For freshers and experienced coders alike, you must have come across some software interview questions in your career one time or another. One of the main reasons why applicants fail is because they lack confidence in their answers. Interviews need a display of confidence in your skills; only then will a recruiter believe that you are indeed a good fit for the company.

Observe

Before you go for the interview, research about the projects handled by the company. This study will give you a head start, as you will have some idea about what to expect in the interview. Once you have entered the building, start observing how the company functions, the power dynamics, inclusivity, diversity, etc.

Interact

It is highly unlikely that you will know the answers to each and every question. When you come across such a hurdle, do not lose hope; ask questions instead. Show your eagerness to learn new concepts and rectify your mistakes. Show positivity.

Finally, take deep breaths. With ample preparation using the computer engineer interview questions, you will blaze through the interview, showing your savvy analytical, communication, and problem-solving skills. 

Channel your inner Matt Rhule and shout to yourself, “Go, win it all!”

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