For both novice and seasoned interviewers, interviewing for a technical position can seem daunting. If your company is looking to hire a specialist in-house, it may mean you’re in the position of hiring for a role you know little about. If you find yourself in this position when hiring a software engineer, the below guide will help you get the best out of the experience.
What is a software engineer?
The first thing you need to do in preparation for conducting the interview is to understand the role of a software engineer. Software engineering is a segment of computer science that focuses on building and developing computer and applications software. So, when a company wants to hire a software engineer, they will typically refer to either applications engineers or systems engineers.
- Applications engineers develop user-focused programs such as databases and web browsers.
- Systems engineers develop programs such as operations systems and computing utilities.
You or your business may consider employing a software engineer due to the increasing use and reliance on sophisticated and customised technologies, such as mobile technology.
Key skills to look for in a software engineer
Software engineers are in high demand for their skills in developing business applications, middleware, operating systems and network control systems. So, what specific skills do you need to look for on their CV?
Depending on the purpose of hiring, you should look for experience and knowledge in:
- Algorithms and data structures
- Debugging software
- Design and architecture
- Fundamentals of computer science
- Information analysis
- Programming and codebases
- Testing software
It would help if you also looked for the following soft skills, many of which you might look for when interviewing for other roles within your business:
- Attention to detail
- Communication skills
- Cooperation/working well in teams
- Love of learning/innovation
- Project management
Ten technical questions to ask a software engineer
To get you started on the right track towards hiring the best software engineer for your needs, you can weave these software engineer interview questions into your preparation:
- Describe a time you explained a technical project to non-technical stakeholders. How did you ensure everyone understood it?
- Which systems do you use for managing projects and tasks?
- Which programming languages are you most familiar with?
- Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a colleague who had a negative impact on the team. How did you raise the issue of their behaviour and what was the result?
- Describe a situation you’ve encountered when several teammates disagreed. How did you resolve the problem, and what might you do differently in the future?
- When a project leader or manager hands you a task, how do you ensure you’ve completely understood all requirements?
- Tell me about a time you were the lead on a product or application development project. How did you make sure the team worked together to ensure the deadline was met?
- Describe an instance where you had a critical application error. How did you and your team work through the emergency, and what you might do differently in the future?
- Which of the following have you used: Agile, XP, Scrum, Lean, or PRINCE2? Which is your favourite project methodology?
- Describe the process you use for writing code and how you make sure it is capable of handling various error situations.
You might also like to delve deeper into your candidate’s experience in updating outdated systems, designing scalable applications, and working under stress.