17 Software Engineer Interview Questions and Answers for 2024

Finding and hiring a Software Engineer or Developer for your growing team can feel like an uphill battle. But with the right interview questions you’ll be able to uncover which candidates have the soft skills and technical skills you’re looking for.

Read on to get unique, fair and challenging interview questions to ask your candidates in your next interview. You’ll also find insights on what to listen out for in answers from your candidates.

<div class="inpage-callout-container"><p class="inpage-banner-text">💡 Pro Tip: Don’t forget that your candidate is also interviewing you about what it is like to work at your company. They need to feel confident in their decision to join your team. Be prepared to answer candidate questions and share information that’d get them excited about accepting an offer to be your next Software Engineer or Developer.</p></div>

📣 How to hire a software engineer (without a professional recruiter)

<h2 class="h2-small">1. Can you tell me about your previous experience in Software Engineering or Developer roles?</h2>

Yes, you have a candidates CV and they likely answered job application questions, but you’ll want to hear more from your candidate directly about their background in software development. What drew them to this career? What did they do, if anything, before working in software?

Listen for: An easy-to-follow story of how they landed a career as a Software Engineer. With this interview question, remember that you’re not looking for a linear career path — it’s okay (and welcome!) if your candidate has taken an unconventional career route.

<h2 class="h2-small">2. What are you hoping to gain from the next role that you’ve lacked previously?</h2>

This Software Developer interview question can help you gauge whether their career aspirations align with your company’s needs. It will also help you understand what motivates them at work, which is an important part of keeping your team members happy and thriving for the long haul at your company.

Listen for: What really makes this person tick and what it’ll take to keep them around for the long haul. That could be money, growth opportunities or a passion for the work. Listen without judgment and try to meet them where they’re at.

📣 Want more? Here are 30 remote work interview questions to ask your candidates

ℹ️ What to know about technical assignments for Software Engineers and Developers

It’s common for Software Engineers to be given a short coding assignment as part of the job interview process. This could be in the form of a take-home assignment, a whiteboarding session or a live-coding session. If you’re planning on doing any of these, be sure to accurately and fairly prepare your candidates for what’s ahead.

We recommend sending a short email or even sharing an internal document about what candidates can expect from the interview. It can (and should) include:

  • How long the assignment will take
  • How many sessions might be included in the assignment
  • Who the candidate will be meeting with
  • What the candidate needs for the assignment (a device with a particular program, a strong internet connection, a quiet space, etc.)
  • Your company’s tips for a successful coding assignment

<div class="inpage-callout-container"><p class="inpage-banner-text">💰 In the Software Engineering world, it's not uncommon for employees to pay candidates for their time when conducting a technical Software Engineer interview. Consider this when setting up your interviews. Think about what your company is able to pay candidates to ensure a fair interview process that shows you respect their time and skills.</p></div>

<h2 class="h2-small">3. What project are you most proud of and why?</h2>

This is your Software Engineering candidate's chance to brag and demonstrate their skills. It will give you a glimpse into their personality, passion and dedication to their work.

Listen for: Excitement or pride as they talk about the project they are most proud of being involved in. Listen for what exactly motivates them at work and consider if you as an employer can meet that motivational need.

<h2 class="h2-small">4. What was it about the environment at a previous company that helped you thrive? What got in your way there?</h2>

Ask this question to get a better idea of what type of environment your candidate might succeed in and consider if this is something your company can offer.

Listen for: A sense of introspection. Work environments are all about personal preference. The purpose of this question is to make sure you’re aligned with your candidate. You’ll also want to listen out for their desire to be effective in your own company’s particular work environment.

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<h2 class="h2-small">5. Tell me about a recent day at work that was really fun. What made it so enjoyable?</h2>

This interview question is about uncovering how your Software Engineer candidate can find joy in their job. Work isn’t going to be 100% smooth sailing every day, but the right candidate should be able to find the positives.

Listen for: If the candidate enjoys interacting with their fellow teammates, reaching a common goal or successfully completing a project.

<h2 class="h2-small">6. Can you describe a situation where you had to work with a decision that you didn't agree with?</h2>

Being part of a team sometimes requires you to accept certain situations that you may not agree with. A good Software Engineer candidate needs to know how to speak up but also understand when they may be wrong about something.

Listen for: A mix of humility and assertiveness in response to this Software Engineer interview question. The right candidate should be able to clearly communicate their thoughts and concerns in a timely. manner, while also understanding that someone else’s opinion might take precedence.

📣 More job interview question templates to help you make smarter hires

<h2 class="h2-small">7. What drew you to apply for this job?</h2>

Direct questions like this can tell you a lot about your candidates. For starters, it’s an opportunity for them to talk about what they admire most about your company, which can also end up giving you interesting insight into why candidates want to work for you. Secondly, it’s an opportunity for them to sell themselves and their skills for this role.

Listen for: If they show a genuine interest in the product you’ve built, your values or something else that is specific to your business.

<h2 class="h2-small">8. Tell me about a time when you needed to overcome obstacles to complete a task.</h2>

With you conduct your next job interview, you can ask this question to learn a lot about how your Software Engineer candidate works. Ideally, the candidate will have a real-life example to share in response to this question.

Listen for: Signs of their perseverance and proactive behavior qualities. You’re looking for a teammate who doesn’t just give up when the going gets tough.

<h2 class="h2-small">9. Can you tell me about a time when you received constructive feedback? How did you act on it?</h2>

Feedback is a vital part of a Software Engineer’s professional growth and development. As a future employer or team member, you need to know that your candidate will be able to embrace constructive feedback on their work.

Listen for: Someone who approaches feedback as an opportunity for growth and personal development. Their response should show you that they can both receive and deliver feedback professionally and positively, without getting overly defensive.

<h2 class="h2-small">10. Describe a technical mistake you have made recently. What did you learn?</h2>

Technical mistakes are bound to happen in a Software Developer’s day to day. A strong candidate should be able to take those mistakes and use them as learning experiences to employ in the future.

Listen for: How your candidate recovers from all sorts of mistakes they might make and come back stronger. They should be able to acknowledge that they’ve made an error, analyze it, get feedback, apply lessons they’ve learned and reflect on the entire process.

<h2 class="h2-small">11. What's the most difficult/challenging problem you have had to solve?</h2>

Ask this Software Engineer interview question to discover how your candidate deals with and resolves complex problems, along with what they consider to be challenging in their job.

Listen for: A real-life example of a problem they have effectively and successfully solved. Make note of the lessons they expressed that they learned from the experience and the steps they took to remedy the situation.

<h2 class="h2-small">12. Can you tell me about your experience with mentoring and mentorships?</h2>

Feel free to rephrase this interview question based on the type of Software Developer you’re hiring for, their seniority level and their specific work experience. Mentoring is a big deal in the software developer world, no matter the experience level. So, it would be useful to ask about their experience with being mentored or mentoring their fellow peers.

Listen for: A desire to help grow their teammates’ careers or an appreciation for their own mentorship experience. The right candidate should be open to lending a hand and they should also see the value in the mentor and mentee relationship.

📣 Hiring templates to help you level up your recruitment process

<h2 class="h2-small">13. How do you deal with conflict and disagreements that may arise with team members and managers?</h2>

Workplace conflicts are inevitable. The right teammate shouldn’t let them simmer and affect productivity and morale. Pose this question to learn how your Software Engineer candidate encourages and enables resolution.

Listen for: How your candidate shows their leadership, conflict resolution, fairness and people skills in their response. It can be hypothetical or a real-life scenario.

<h2 class="h2-small">14. What do you consider to be your biggest failure? What did you learn from this experience?</h2>

Despite how it might look, this isn’t a “gotcha” question. It’s genuinely helpful to hear from your candidate, in their own words, what they believe they could have done better in the past.

Listen for: What your candidate learned from this formative experience and what they took away from it. Your Software Engineer candidate should be able to embrace failure while being self-reflective.

<h2 class="h2-small">15. Tell me about a disagreement you had with a coworker or manager where in retrospect you felt that you were wrong.</h2>

This fascinating question allows your candidate to show their humility and self-awareness. Not everyone can be or will be right all the time. You need a candidate who is able to admit when they’re wrong in a graceful and professional way.

Listen for: Their conflict resolution, empathy, communication skills, openness to feedback, and willingness to speak out when something isn’t right.

<h2 class="h2-small">16. Tell me about a project or task that was ambiguous or underspecified. What did you do to move forward?</h2>

Not everything in a Software Engineer’s job is going to be crystal clear — it’s expected that your candidate will encounter some uncertainty and ambiguity in their role. You need to understand how your potential hire deals with these tricky situations.

Listen for: Their tech depth, how they deal with ambiguity on the job, a sense of perseverance and how proactive they are.

<h2 class="h2-small">17. If your colleagues could describe you in three words, what would they be?</h2>

The words your candidate selects can say much more about a person than you might think. This is an opportunity to get insight into who they are around their fellow teammates and how they themselves view them.

Listen for: Words like “organized”, “adaptable,” “creative”, “flexible”, “determined”, “focused” and “innovative” — any adjective that best describes the ideal candidate for the role.

Organize your Software Engineer interview process with Homerun

Now that you’ve got the interview questions, it’s time to get set up with the right hiring software to make recruitment easier, faster and more successful. 🎉

Homerun helps you organize and streamline your interview process, creating a positive experience for candidates. With Homerun you can:

  • Schedule candidate interviews using built-in templates and invite your team to join in
  • Keep team interview notes in one, centralized place
  • Set to-dos for your team, reminders, roles and permissions
  • Easily and automatically confirm candidate interviews, share coding exercises and much more

Try Homerun Free to post one job slot per month or get started with a free 15-day trial of Homerun (no credit card required).

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Brook Fischer
Brook is 1/3 of the Homerun Content Team. With a background in education and journalism, she’s spent the past 18 years crafting and editing insightful content for small to medium-sized businesses. Her current favorite topics in the hiring space include employer branding and how to create a positive candidate experience. She lives in Toulouse with her husband, two sons and one sweet Staffy.

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