Top Interview Questions to Ask Software Engineers

Top interview questions to ask software engineers

What is software engineering?

It is a branch of engineering concerned with the development of software using well-defined scientific principles, methods, and procedures. Software engineering results in an efficient, reliable, secure software product.

Software is a program or set of programs containing a set of instructions required to do the desired function. Engineering is the process of designing and building something that serves a purpose and finds cost-effective solutions to problems.

Software engineering is a systematic approach to the design, development, operation, and maintenance of software systems.

Software engineering has been used for a long time since the advent of the first programming languages. With time, instructions started getting stored in the first of storage devices, and hardware and software terms were generated. The stored programs were software. There are different types of software – system software, application software. The application software is further divided into many branches depending on the use.

Software engineering has become a very important subject of study for students pursuing. Almost everything is getting digitized in today’s world and getting automated. For all these advancements, there is a need for software engineers. Software engineers participate in the software development life cycle connecting the client’s needs with the applicable technology solutions.

Objectives of software engineering:

  • Maintainability: software should be able to evolve with the changing requirements
  • Correctness: the requirements should have been implemented as specified in the SRS (software requirements specification) document
  • Reusability: the different modules of the software should be such that they can be reused to develop new products
  • Testability: Establishment of the test criteria and the evaluation of the software with respect to those criteria
  • Reliability: The extent to which the software can perform the desired function over a period of time
  • Portability: software should be such that it can be transferred from one computer to another computer
  • Adaptability: the software should be able to work on new system and configurations by making small changes

Software engineer vs Software developer

Many people think that software developers and software engineers are the same people but those two roles are different. A software developer knows coding and has the technical skills required to build meaningful products. A software engineer follows a systematic process of understanding requirements, working with stakeholders and developing a solution that fulfils their needs. Software developers might work alone, but software engineers work in teams. A software engineer knows to develop software like a developer, but their work is not only limited to develop a fully functional app, but to make a software that has good documentation, presentable, easier to debug and that matches the expectation of the client.

Work related to software engineering

Software engineers work with businesses, government agencies and non-profit organizations. Some also work as consulting software engineers in their own firms. Some of the organizations keep specialised software engineers to perform all the different software development processes while other organizations have different software engineers for different tasks. A software engineer will be having the role of leader, consultant or individual contributor to the projects. 

  • They are expected to provide analytical advice to implement new information technology methods to help clients and companies in obtaining strategic objectives. 
  • They are to manage resources, coordinate the development and supervise technical project plans. 
  • They collaborate with the IT operations and development staff in the software development cycle.  
  • They need to be able to work effectively with other engineers in the team.

The software engineer goal is not to make the cleverest software, but their goal is to make a software which has a very well defined source code, that doesn’t need lots of effort to understand. 

  • Must have to oversee complex system analysis, design and development programs.
  • Software engineers should have technical expertise in working with a wide range of tools and projects. 
  • They need to be excellent with software design and be able to create fault tolerant systems. 
  • They should be knowing automation also, as the world is moving towards automation day by day. 

Those who do not adapt to automation techniques, are at loss of losing their jobs. They should be knowing to create and maintain IT architecture, large scale data storage (databases) and cloud based systems.

The job of a security engineer will usually include research, design, development, testing of software with compilation and distribution. Modification of existing software to remove defects and improve its performance. Analysis of user needs and make the software based on the requirements and constraints. Consulting with customers about the specification and design. Coordination of system software for deployment and installation. Supervising the work of technologists and developers.

Software engineering interview

For the role of a software engineer, the interview can be quite tough and grilling. Also, depending on the company interviewing. Software engineer plays a very big role, and the person is expected to know lots of things. So the interviewer tests the candidate from all the major subjects, also checking the analytical skills and intelligence of the candidate. The major subjects for questions are DBMS, OS, Data structures and algorithms, Software engineering. These are the topics that a candidate must know to sit in the interview. Also, there can be some questions related to networking occasionally. A lot of questions could also be asked related to current technologies like blockchain, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, big data, machine learning, cybersecurity as lots of work is going on in these domains. Other than the theory questions, there are also the coding questions, and these coding questions are a very important part of the interview. The candidate has to be fluent with all the important data structures and algorithms as well as with their implementation and use. There will be a programming question, and the candidate has to solve it in stipulated time.

Solving the programming question means not only writing the pseudo-code of the function but writing the full code that could be ready for production. The written code should be properly indented, documented, and easily readable. The question will surely be having lots of edge cases, and the candidate is expected to clear all of them. It is advisable to discuss with the interviewer about the question clearly and there should be no confusion. The candidate should also keep on saying about the approach they are taking so that the interviewer could also guide them to the correct way. The programming questions are generally from the concept of dynamic programming, trees, graphs, etc. and most of the candidates get eliminated in this round itself. The interviewer will keep on demanding more and more efficient solutions to reduce the time and space complexity repeatedly. The approach to present the answer should be like this: first, the candidate starts with the naïve approach, the brute force method, the longest method with the most time complexity. After that, the candidate has to keep on making the program more and more efficient till the final solution.

Common and important questions for candidates preparing for Software Engineering Interview

SDLC Interview Questions to Ask Software Engineers

  1. What is the SDLC model and describe its stages?
  2. What are the development models in software engineering?
  3. What are the different categories of software?
  4. What is the main difference between computer programs and computer software?
  5. What is STLC?
  6. What is Black box testing?
  7. What is White box testing?
  8. What is Smoke testing?
  9. Explain the Waterfall Model.
  10. What is verification and validation?
  11. What is Dynamic Testing and Static Testing?
  12. What is Sandboxing?
  13. What are the different levels of Testing?
  14. What is the COCOMO model?
  15. What is the equivalence partition?
  16. What is the difference between alpha and beta testing?
  17. What is the meaning of debugging in the software development process?
  18. Which SDLC model is the best?
  19. What is software scope?
  20. What is project estimation?
  21. What is SRS?
  22. What is the difference between quality assurance and quality control?
  23. What is software re-engineering?
  24. What is the baseline?
  25. What are the elements to be considered in system model construction?
  26. What does system model engineering accomplish?
  27. What is a software metric?
  28. What are the merits of incremental models?
  29. What are the disadvantages of spiral models?
  30. What is modularization?
  31. What is the limitation of the RAD model?
  32. What is cohesion?
  33. Name the Evolutionary process models.
  34. Define software prototyping.
  35. What are the advantages of evolutionary prototyping?
  36. Define System Context Diagram (SCD)?
  37. Define Quality Function Deployment (QFD)?
  38. What is a state transition diagram?
  39. What is a feasibility study?
  40. What is DevOps and DevSecOps?
  41. What is coupling?
  42. What is a data dictionary?
  43. What is structured design?
  44. What is Software Quality Assurance?
  45. What is the agile software philosophy?

C/C++ Interview Questions to Ask Software Engineers

  1. Difference between C and C++?
  2. What is garbage collection, and how does it work in C++ and Java?
  3. Difference between C++ and Java?
  4. What is a vector?
  5. What is the difference between linear and non-linear data structure?
  6. What is the difference between calloc and malloc?
  7.  What is the difference between structure and class?
  8.  Can there be a try block without a catch block?
  9.  What is STL?

Coding (DS/Algo) Interview Questions to Ask Software Engineers

  1. Which is the fastest search algorithm?
  2. Explain the process of divide and conquer.
  3. When do we use arrays and when do we use linked lists?
  4. Give one example of graph data structure in real life.
  5. What are the different sorting algorithms and what are their time complexities?
  6. What is the fastest sorting algorithm?
  7. What are asymptotic notations?
  8. Describe Kruskal’s algorithm.
  9. Describe Prim’s algorithm.
  10. Describe Dijakstra’s algorithm.
  11. Explain the different types of tree traversal.
  12. What is a B Tree?
  13. What is Dynamic Programming?
  14. What is Backtracking?
  15. What is the Greedy Method in a programming approach?
  16. What is hashing and give examples of some hashing techniques?
  17. What is the difference between data structures and databases?
  18. What are the different types of data structures?
  19. What is a stack and tell about two basic operations of the stack?
  20. Derive the time complexity of quicksort.
  21. What is the difference between stack and queue?
  22. What is the difference between procedural oriented programming and object oriented programming?
  23. What is the difference between local and global variables?
  24.  What is exception handling?

Java / OOPS Interview Questions to Ask Software Engineers

  1. What is OOP?
  2. What are the features of OOPs?
  3. What is dynamic and static binding?
  4. What is inheritance?
  5. What is an abstract class?
  6. What is the interface?
  7.  What is the difference between String and String buffer in Java?
  8.  What is a pointer and why doesn’t Java support pointers?

DBMS Interview Questions to Ask Software Engineers

  1.     What are the different types of joins in the database?
  2.    What is SQL?
  3.    What is the difference between DBMS and RDBMS?
  4.    What is a view in DBMS?
  5.    What is the difference between drop, truncate and delete commands in SQL?
  6.    What is a transaction in DBMS?
  7.    What are the ACID properties of databases and describe each of them with examples?
  8.    What is NoSQL and what are some of its examples?
  9.    What is a primary key and how is it different from foreign key?
  10.    How can we find the row from a table of students with the third largest score?
  11.    What is SQL injection?

Operating System Interview Questions to Ask Software Engineers

  1.   What is a process in the Operating System?
  2.  Differentiate between kernel and shell.
  3.  What is process scheduling and its different methods?
  4.  What is the use of cache memory?
  5.  What are disc scheduling algorithms?
  6.  What are job scheduling algorithms?
  7.  When do we use sets and when do we use a map?
  8.  What is the difference between mutex and semaphore?
  9.  What is the difference between thread and process?
  10. What is a deadlock and how to resolve a deadlock in processes?
  11.  What are the necessary conditions for deadlock to occur?
  12.  What is the difference between UNIX and Linux?


  1.  What is Active Directory?
  2.  What is the difference between scripting language, programming language?
  3.  What is the difference between encoding and encryption?
  4.  What is change control?
  5.  What is the version control system, and what is git?
  6.  What is Github?
  7.  What is the difference between GET request and POST request?
  8.  What is REST API?
  9.  What is strong typing and weak typing?
  10.  What are CASE tools?
  11.  What is SEO (search engine optimization)?
  12.  What is the difference between EXE and DLL?
  13.  What is responsive design and what is the difference between fluid and fixed design?
  14.  What is the difference between React.js and React Native?
  15.  What is the difference between synchronous function and asynchronous function?
  16.  What is the process of communication between client and server?
  17.  What are the client and server-side programming languages?
  18.  How will you find out the node of joining in a circular linked list, where the start node is not the end node?
  19.  How would you explain the concept of cloud computing to a child of standard 7?
  20.  What are some of the ways to make a website faster, name some techniques?
  21.  Why is HTML not considered a programming language?
  22.  What is the difference between functional requirements and non-functional requirements?
  23.  What goes behind the online payment gateway such that it is considered secure?
  24.  What programming language do you mostly use, and what are your three most preferred programming languages?
  25.  How will you explain what is an API to a non-technical person?
  26.  Explain the process of inserting a node in the middle of a linked list.
  27.  Is python a programming language or a scripting language?

HR Interview Questions to Ask Software Engineers

  1.  What was the last project that you worked upon, and tell about some of the technicalities of that project?
  2.  What was the toughest process you have encountered till now, and how did you manage that project?
  3.  What are the different tools and frameworks that you have used?
  4.  Have you ever disagreed with your boss/manager and what did you do in that case?
  5.  When do you consider a product to be finished?
  6.  If you have a task, for which you know the deadline is very less, what will you do?
  7.  You got a project from a client, the project is ready and at the last stage of deployment, the client says he doesn’t want the project. What will you do then?
  8.  Have you considered open-source projects and if yes, tell me about some.
  9.  What would you do if a member of your team does not complete his/her part of the project on time?
  10.  Why do you want to be a software engineer?
  11.  Why should we hire you?
  12.  Why do you want to join our organization?
  13.  What kind of work environment do you prefer?
  14.  Can you work effectively with a team, as this job would be majorly a teamwork throughout?
  15.  Which technologies are excited about and confident about doing a great job?
  16.  How do you make sure that your code handles different types of errors?
  17.  How to find errors in a large file without removal of which the process cannot move forward?

Also read: Questions to ask in an interview?

Top Interview Questions to Ask Software Engineers

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