Behavioral interview questions reveal important details about a candidate’s personality and past experiences. Armed with this knowledge, you can make an informed decision about which candidates will fit well with your team and company culture. This is essential to avoiding a mis-hire, which can result in poor team dynamic, lost productivity, and increased costs and turnover.
It will also help you identify the kinds of soft skills that make for an outstanding software engineer, such as problem-solving skills, adaptability, good communication, and the ability to work well with teammates.
In this guide, we offer a list of 19 key behavioral interview questions to ask software engineers. You’ll also find guidance on what to look for in candidates’ responses.
Keep reading to learn more about behavioral interview questions and ensure your next hire is the right one.
Behavioral interview questions allow you to assess an applicant’s past experiences, behaviors, and performance in specific situations. They prompt candidates to provide clear examples of how they’ve handled certain situations in the past, either professionally or personally.
This allows you to understand how they will approach similar situations in the future.. The behavioral questions below have been specifically selected for software engineers and will help you understand how they collaborate, adapt, solve problems, manage their time, communicate with others, and prioritize tasks.
In a nutshell, the way candidates have handled situations in the past can help you make informed predictions about how they will perform in your workplace.
What’s more, behavioral questions require applicants to provide clear examples of their skills and experience. This allows you to assess a range of soft skills related to software engineering, including problem solving, communication, approach to teamwork, and adaptability.
For example, a candidate's answers might show they have good problem-solving skills, but sometimes fail to manage their time well. If good time management is essential to the position you're hiring for, you may want to consider another candidate. And if they're otherwise a great fit, you'll know exactly what kind of additional support or training they may need.
Ultimately, the information you gather from behavioral questions will help you identify the strengths and weaknesses in a candidate’s approach to a variety of difficult or complicated situations.
A good mix of behavioral interview questions enables you to assess multiple key traits during the hiring princess. Here are 19 of the top behavioral questions you can ask software engineers and what to look for in their responses.
Look for the following key traits to ensure the candidate works well in a team setting:
Respect for and empathy towards other team members
Be able to participate in team discussions with clear, concise communication
Support other team members
Take responsibility for their role in the team
Show reliability and the ability to meet deadlines when working in a team
Candidates who demonstrate a preference for working alone or a reluctance to work collaboratively may not be a great fit for roles in team settings.
To assess teamwork skills, you can ask the following questions.
1. Describe a project that involved close collaboration with other team members. What role did you play in its success? What difficulties did you encounter and how did you overcome them? 2. Share an example of a time when you had to work alongside a colleague to troubleshoot a coding problem. How did you approach the situation together?
3. Tell me about a project that involved working with team members in different locations or asynchronously. How did you ensure strong communication and coordination throughout?
With the ever-evolving nature of technology, software engineers should exhibit strong adaptability; that is, the ability to adjust one’s strategy when faced with changing conditions.
Because of this, you’ll want to identify candidates who can quickly adapt to new scenarios and technology. This can include adapting existing plans, creating new plans, and learning new skills or information quickly and efficiently.
Here are some example questions that you can use to assess adaptability in software engineers.
1. Describe a situation where you had to learn a new skill, programming language, or framework to complete a project. How do you go about this, and what was the end result?
2. Tell me about a project where the requirements or end goal changed significantly midway through development. How did you handle this and ensure the project stayed on track?
Good problem-solving skills enable software engineers to identify and fix issues both large and small. It’s a crucial skill for software development and coding in general because it allows individuals to quickly and efficiently identify, analyze and resolve blockers and errors in code.
Solid applicants should exhibit the following in their answers to your questions.
The ability to identify and articulate problems as they arise
Analytical thinking and step-by-step troubleshooting
Creativity, innovation, and persistence
Resourcefulness and the ability to think outside of the box
Some questions you can use to assess a candidate's problem-solving ability include the following:
1. Describe an unexpected technical challenge you’ve previously faced and the steps you took to overcome it.
2. Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a particularly difficult software bug. How did you go about diagnosing the issue and what steps did you take to resolve it?
3. Share a time when you had to decide between using an existing code library or developing your own custom solution. How did you approach this and what factors led to your final decision?
4. Describe a project where you had to integrate multiple technologies or systems. What challenges did you face? How did you overcome these challenges?
Applicants with strong time management skills tend to be productive, both in a team setting and when working alone. This is especially important for software companies, where so many downstream activities, such as marketing, sales, and customer service, depend on software engineers meeting their deadlines. It’s also a critical trait if you’re hiring for a remote or work-from-home position.
Look for evidence of punctuality, forethought, organizational skills, and the ability to break down projects into smaller milestones. Also look for the ability to set realistic timelines based on a project’s complexity and deadline.
The following questions are excellent examples of what you can ask to assess time management skills.
1. How do you manage tasks and ensure each is completed on time when you’re working on a complex project with multiple deadlines?
2. Can you give me an example of a time when you had to deal with major interruptions while working on a time-sensitive project? What did you do to ensure the project remained on track?
3. Describe a situation where you had to plan a significant amount of work in advance. How did you manage your time and ensure you were able to meet deadlines?
Strong communication skills enable software engineers to collaborate with team members and effectively convey technical information.
For example, applicants should:
Be able to communicate technical concepts in a simple manner
Use visuals or examples to further simplify technical concepts
Understand the communication styles of others
Have good verbal and written communication skills
You can ask applicants the following questions:
1. Tell me about a time when you had to explain a complicated technical concept to a non-technical team member or client. How did you simplify the information to ensure they understood it?
2. Describe your experience working with team members in different locations or time zones. What strategies did you use to ensure smooth communication despite the distance or time differences?
3. Share an example of when you had to provide project updates to team members or a manager. How did you ensure the most relevant information was communicated effectively?
4. Tell me about a time when you had to lead a team meeting or present a project update. What strategies did you use to engage your audience and ensure the relevant information was conveyed?
The ability to appropriately prioritize tasks helps software engineers to work quickly and efficiently..
Good answers will demonstrate how candidates have prioritized tasks and for what reasons. Another invaluable trait is evidence of a clear method for assessing how urgent and important each task is.
Consider the following questions:
1. How do you prioritize tasks when working on multiple projects with different deadlines? What strategies do you use to identify the most important tasks and ensure they’re completed on time?
2. Explain how you handle situations where you receive multiple requests from clients or team members that require urgent attention. How do you decide which to work on first and how do you ensure all tasks are completed on time?
3. Describe a situation that required you to prioritize your professional development alongside your daily responsibilities. What strategies did you implement to balance learning new skills and meeting project deadlines?
Interviews are an essential part of the pre-employment screening process. They allow you to understand your candidates’ skills, experiences, and suitability for your position and team. For the best experience, you’ll want to use a variety of assessment tools when evaluating candidates.
TestGorilla can help you put together an effective pre-employment assessment for software engineers and developers. It includes a test library of more than 300 ready-made tests. These include not only a range of scientifically validated personality and behavioral tests, such as the Enneagram test, but also tests for hard skills, including a wide variety of programming assessments.
You can add custom interview questions to your assessment, too, including the key behavioral questions listed above. You can ask candidates to respond in writing or by using TestGorilla’s built-in one-way video interview feature.
Assessments can be shared with candidates via email or link, and they can complete it in their own time. You can view results and answers in real-time and rank candidates according to their performance. Plus, you can add and share notes with other members of your team.
The right behavioral interview questions will allow you to assess a software engineer’s experience and skillset. You can gain insights into their ability to problem-solve, communicate, adapt, work within a team, manage their time, and more.
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