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The best questions to ask during software engineering interviews

You've made it through the technical and behavioral components of your software engineering interview, and it's time to wrap things up with some interview questions of your own.

As a job applicant, you've likely spent countless hours honing your technical skills, reviewing data structures and algorithms, and rehearsing explanations of different solutions and tradeoffs. Not to mention the time spent on perfecting your answers to behavioral interview questions. The time and effort you spent to get here were valuable, which is why it's important to avoid blindly accepting job offers without thoroughly vetting the company itself. Acing your job interview means not only demonstrating technical skills and problem-solving abilities but also evaluating whether the company aligns with your personal and professional goals.

Contrary to what some may think, being selective is actually doubly important if you're looking for your first software engineering role. As an entry-level software engineer candidate, you must ensure that your first job will provide valuable learning opportunities that will set you up for success in later roles. Ignoring potential red flags and settling for a toxic workplace to get your foot in the door can put you at risk for burnout.

As a rule of thumb, you should always come prepared with your own questions for hiring managers and, sometimes, recruiters. Many candidates overlook this critical aspect of the interview process: asking the right questions in return.

Today we'll look at 6 categories of questions you can use to find out if a company is a good fit or a road to nowhere.

Let's get started!

We'll cover:

  • The dos and don'ts of interviewing your interviewer
  • Software Engineer Interview Questions
    • 1. Company culture and work environment
    • 2. Team dynamics and collaboration
    • 3. Technical stack and infrastructure
    • 4. Professional development and growth
    • 5. Performance evaluation and feedback
    • 6. Company vision and future projects
  • Next steps for mastering interview skills

The dos and don'ts of interviewing your interviewer

In a job interview, remember that you're also interviewing the company to see if it's a good fit for you. Make sure you understand the company's mission and values. If you find a company whose values overlap with yours, you'll build a career that's both meaningful and rewarding.

Before we get straight into the interview questions, here are a few tips to remember as you prepare for the job interview. Most of these are just common sense, but a quick refresher on interview etiquette never hurts!


3 tips for using this guide

  1. Rank these 6 categories by order of importance. You have limited time to ask your interviewer these questions, so it's good to narrow them down in a way that helps you quickly identify whether or not a company aligns with your top priorities.

  2. Try answering your own questions. Jotting down a few notes about what you want to hear and what you don't in response to a question can help you consider offers more carefully. Having a set of defined standards in place will help you quickly flag any potential red flags that may arise in conversation.

  3. Tailor your questions where appropriate. If you have personal or professional goals that motivate a specific line of questioning, fine-tuning your questions can help the interviewer provide more relevant answers that directly address your interests.

    • E.g., "What opportunities are available for professional development and continuous learning?" can turn into, "I'm interested in developing expertise in System Design. Are there professional development opportunities available to help me reach my goal?"

Software Engineer Interview Questions

1. Company culture and work environment

These questions help candidates understand the company's values, work-life balance, and overall atmosphere.

  • Can you describe the company culture and what makes it unique?
  • How do you promote a healthy work-life balance within the team?
  • How would you describe the company's management style?
  • What do day-to-day tasks look like for a software engineer on the team?

2. Team dynamics and collaboration

These questions provide insight into how teams work together, communicate, and make decisions.

  • How are new team members onboarded and integrated into the team?
  • Can you tell me about the team I would be working with? What are their backgrounds and roles?
  • How do team members collaborate on software projects? Do you use any specific tools or methodologies for project management?
  • How are decisions made within the team? Is it a top-down approach or more collaborative?

3. Technical stack and infrastructure

These questions help candidates understand the company's technology stack and infrastructure, allowing them to gauge if it aligns with their skills and interests.

There's a lot of variety when it comes to software development tech stacks, so you’ll want to tailor your interview questions to suit your role in the development process — for example, if you’re looking for back-end developer roles, you’ll want to know more about what technology is used in the company’s back-end.

If you’re a front-end web developer, you can generally assume that HTML, CSS, and JavaScript will be part of your job.

  • Can you provide an overview of the technology stack used by the team?
  • Are there any plans to adopt new technologies, programming languages, or frameworks in the near future?
  • Can you describe the deployment process and release cycles?
  • How does the company handle infrastructure and deployment? Do you use cloud-based services, on-premises, or a hybrid approach?
  • How does the company manage technical debt?

4. Professional development and growth

Ensuring the company supports your growth is key to building a successful career. Consider these questions:

  • What opportunities are available for professional development and continuous learning?
  • What is the company's approach to continuous learning and skill development?
  • Are there any internal resources, such as workshops or training courses, available to employees?
  • How does the company support employees in attending conferences or industry events?

5. Performance evaluation and feedback

These questions give candidates an idea of how their work will be assessed and what kind of feedback they can expect.

  • How is performance evaluated for software engineers within the company?
  • What is the feedback process like? How often do employees receive formal and informal feedback?
  • Can you describe any mentoring or coaching programs available to current employees?
  • What metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs) will be used to evaluate my performance in this role?

6. Company vision and future projects

These interview questions allow candidates to understand the company's long-term goals, upcoming projects, and overall direction. It’s not necessarily essential, but it can be helpful to understand how the company handles project management and product management to get a better sense of the workflow.

  • What are the company's most exciting upcoming projects or initiatives? Can you share some insights into the company's long-term vision and goals?
  • How does the team I'd be joining contribute to the company's overall success?
  • How does the company plan to stay ahead of industry trends and competition?
  • Can you share any recent successes or milestones the company has achieved?

Next steps for mastering interview skills

Having strong communication skills during a job interview can make all the difference in landing a job offer. By asking thoughtful and well-focused questions, you show the interviewer you are serious and invested in learning more about the company and the role. Additionally, putting effort into making an informed decision reminds the interviewer that you're a high-value software engineering candidate with much to offer.

As a final piece of advice, we recommend coming up with a few "closer" questions to help wrap up the conversation and put the ball back in the interviewer's court.

Asking something like, "What kind of timeline are you looking at for the hiring process?" or "Based on our conversation today, do you have any concerns about my fit for this role that I can address?" can help set the stage for follow-up conversations.
If you want to learn more about mastering technical interviews, our Interview Prep Roadmap is a great resource to check out.

As always, happy learning!

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