If you searched for non technical interview questions for software engineers, then you are on the right page. Software engineers are like the ninjas of the tech world. They’re quiet, unassuming, and don’t get much credit. Then they come out of nowhere and prove that they know exactly what they’re doing through their intelligent code — whether it be a new program or an algorithm to predict customer behaviors with more accuracy than any human on Earth.
But if you’re looking to join their ranks, there’s one thing you’ll need: a quick-witted mind.
The following is a list of the most common questions software engineers are asked in interviews, and the tricks to giving them the answers they’re looking for. Plus, you’ll learn the reasoning behind each of these questions, so you can understand exactly what your interviewer wants to hear.
Non Technical Interview Questions For Software Engineers
“Tell me about yourself.”
Don’t take this question lightly — your answer could make or break an interview.
If you answer this question, a competent interviewer is going to start asking you questions about your past. If you’re applying for an entry-level position, this question is great — your interviewer likely wants to get a sense of how well you can work with others and how well you behave under pressure.
But as you progress in the job market, this question can be used against you — after all, it could mean that your interviewer has taken notice of your experience or skills in real life and wants to see if those translate over to the interview table.
The best answer here is one that shows what kind of person you are (for example “I’m outgoing” or “I like helping others”) but also highlights your qualifications. That way your interviewer can see that you’re also a good fit for the role.
Likewise, a poor answer could mean that you’re not the kind of person your interviewer is looking for or that you won’t be able to handle the job. It could also be seen as insecurity on your part, which will make them question everything else they hear from you during the interview. Remember that while they may ask this question more than once throughout an interview — and it’s perfectly fine to answer it — once you get the job, being asked about past experience isn’t going to be something you’ll want to do later on in your career.
“Why do you want to work for us?”
This question is designed to find out if you have the kind of drive and determination that a software engineer needs.
They want to know how driven YOU are by what you’re putting in (i.e., hours spent coding or studying) and how it relates to their product/company/interviewers. You’re showing them a side of yourself they likely wouldn’t otherwise see, but they want to make sure they can trust that side of you.
An answer that works for a beginning software engineer might not work for you once you’ve been in the industry longer. If you say “I want to work here because they’re the best in their field” and they’re a startup without much of a reputation to speak of, it could mean your interviewers aren’t getting the confidence boost they need.
Try saying something along the lines of “I really want to be part of this team” or “I’m particularly interested in this project/roles. Why don’t you fill me in?”
“Why did you leave your last job?”
If you’ve been with a company for years, this question will be easy to deal with. But if you’re brand new, it can be really tough. First of all, try not to criticize your previous company — even if your interviewer points out that it was your choice to move on. That way you won’t come off as someone who has issues working with others or doesn’t have the ability to stay in one place for a while. Focus on the positive aspects of your time at your last company, like “I was given a lot of responsibility early on” or “I got to work on a lot of different projects.”
If it’s time to explain why you’re moving on, be honest — after all, that’s what your interviewer is looking for. They want to know that you’re excited by the new opportunity and challenge they can provide you with. If they ask why you didn’t give them consideration when applying, don’t apologize — say something like “I wanted to work with more seasoned professionals.” It’s better to show them what they’re missing out on than it is to complain about what others have done wrong.
“What motivates you?”
Software engineers have to be highly motivated (something they’ll likely test during the interview, regardless of this question). You don’t want to come off as someone who is solely motivated by their paycheck. Instead, mention something along the lines of “I enjoy seeing my projects take shape”, or “I like working with a team that values communication and collaboration”.
Either of these answers says that you’re in the right profession and that you’ll be a great fit for their company.
But if you do get asked this question and can’t think of an appropriate answer, steer clear from topics like money or job security. See this article for more insights.
“What scares you?”
Don’t talk about how your childhood pet died or how much you dislike clowns. This is a trick question and the interviewer wants to see how you handle pressure. Instead of talking about an event that could happen in the future (“I’m scared that I’ll leave my job for the wrong reason”), focus on something you’ve experienced in the past, even if it was difficult.
For example, “I was walking home from school and I saw a chest-high brick wall. I was terrified of climbing over it but I eventually did.” Now, focusing on what motivated them to do so shows that they’re ready to take risks and learn new things.
Once you’ve answered a few of these questions, you shouldn’t have much trouble with the rest. Remember that answering these questions isn’t going to do anything for your education or experience — but it will give your interviewer the chance to assess whether or not they think you’re ready for prime time.
If answering the question feels like an interview in and of itself, give yourself some time to prepare — research the kinds of software engineers they hire(and look up employers who are hiring) so you’ll know what kind of answer they’re looking for.
Read an interesting article about open source development lifecycle.