Senior Software Engineer Interview Preparation in 2023
Posted Oct 6, 2022 12 min read
Supposing you’re running an ambitious project, and it’s on the verge of launch. Your development team consists of dedicated professionals. However, you lack the expertise to review and improve the existing code, organize the team’s workflow, onboard newly hired juniors, and participate in the entire development lifecycle.
Sounds familiar? Then, consider hiring a senior software engineer. The one who will be an experienced leader, mentor, and advanced tech specialist.
Normally, such professionals are most in-demand by large businesses. According to Zippia, 50% of senior developers work for companies with more than a thousand employees.
However, with the rise of the agile approach and constant IT industry growth, many small yet promising tech startups may also benefit from involving such a specialist.
So if you consider hiring a senior developer, this post is for you. We’ve collected the key senior software engineer interview questions along with the possible answers to help you find a perfect candidate.
Ready to find out more? Let’s drill down to the details!
What does a Senior Software Engineer Do?
Initially, you need to understand what person is suitable for a senior developer position. Understanding their responsibilities will help you determine the skills you are looking for.
Basically, a senior is a professional who can perform any development duties on an advanced level.
In other words, such a specialist is a coding guru. They should review and improve the code, test software to eliminate bugs, and be aware of key technologies. At the same time, such a specialist should be ready to level up and master new knowledge with ease.
Not surprisingly, a senior software developer is one of the highest-earning development jobs worldwide. According to Statista, an average senior executive’s annual salary is approximately $117.000.
Average salaries of software developers worldwide as of early 2022, by role
(in 1,000 U.S. dollars)
Many define senior software engineers based on their experience, and indeed it matters a lot. A good candidate for this position should have sharpened their skills for at least five years. However, there are way more factors that are equally essential.
A great senior is a dedicated team member, deeply involved in every project. Such professionals should have great mentoring and management capabilities as they are responsible for helping and guiding the other team members. Also, senior engineers should be excellent decision-makers with well-established communication and business skills.
Senior Software Engineer Interview Process
Now, let’s reveal the key stages of the interviewing process. The following tips will help you conduct an efficient senior software engineer interview, avoiding potential mistakes.
Before the interview starts, ensure to prepare well and make the most of the opportunity to choose the right candidate. Here are a few essentials of senior software engineer interview preparation.
- Keep the candidate informed. During the first conversation with the candidate, ensure they’re aware of what will happen during the interview, how many rounds are scheduled, and what are the participants’ roles. Thus, you and your candidate will be on the same page.
- Prepare your questions. The questions you ask are the core of the interviewing process. They should help you get a clear idea of the candidate’s skills, qualities, and expertise. Ensure the questions are relevant and you know what answers you expect. Divide the questions into categories depending on their purpose. Also, rank the possible answers to facilitate the assessment.
- Do your homework. Most employers expect the candidates to be well-prepared for the interview, informed about the company’s goals, and interested in the project. Meanwhile, the employers’ attitudes should be the same. Before conducting the interview, carefully examine the resume, take some notes, and make up the questions based on what you know about the candidate.
Choosing the right senior software engineer often takes a few interview rounds. Discuss the time of the interview sessions with the candidate and pick the dates suitable for both parties.
Remember, it’s not a common developer interview. A candidate for a senior position should complete more complex tasks like working with an existing code and improving it. Thus, you will verify their mindset, approach, and analytical skills.
During the interview, it’s important to take notes. Pay attention to the first impression and discuss it with the other interviewers to assess the candidate’s performance fully.
Since a senior software engineer is one of the development team’s main figures, be especially careful when making the final decision. Weigh the pros and cons based on the interview and tests’ results.
Immediately after the interview, let the candidate know about your next steps and explain how the hiring process goes in your company.
Senior Software Engineer Interview Questions
The following senior software engineer interview questions will help you evaluate the candidate’s abilities at different levels and choose a perfect specialist for your company’s individual needs.
Depending on the questions’ purpose and the candidate’s skills or qualities they should reveal, we’ve divided them into four groups.
We’ve also provided example answers a good candidate might give.
Initially, an interviewer asks general questions to get common information about the candidate’s experience, mindset, and personality. It will be helpful to clarify certain details not mentioned in the resume to see if the candidate’s got sufficient motivation to join your company.
Here are a few examples of common general questions for a senior software engineer interview.
How Would You Describe The Qualifications that Help You Succeed as a Senior Developer?
I believe that my current skills and experience make me a good candidate for the senior developer position in your company. First of all, I’ve been dealing with software engineering for the last seven years. Namely, I’ve been deeply immersed in Angular and JS technologies. At the same time, I’m always willing to grow and expand my knowledge as I’m passionate about the latest development trends. And secondly, I adore managing projects, helping others succeed, and organizing teamwork.
More General Questions Examples
- Which of the latest development trends do you adore most?
- Describe the last time you had to apply your leadership skills.
- What do you know about our company’s latest tech projects?
- Describe your strongest skills regarding software architecture and design.
Situational questions are asked to reveal the candidate’s ability to make efficient and timely decisions, solve emerging problems, and act following the senior position’s responsibilities. The answers will show the person’s readiness to deal with multiple tasks, logically approach various situations, and lead the team.
These are several situational questions you might ask.
How Would You Onboard a Newly Hired Team Member?
In my opinion, the seamless onboarding of new hires is crucial for their successful adaptation to a new work environment. First, I would introduce them to their new team and briefly describe the company’s culture. Also, new employees often need help with paperwork and logistics. Next, I would assign a mentor to facilitate the new member’s adaptation period. It’s a good idea to provide recently hired developers with small and non-critical tasks, practice pair programming, and conduct regular check-in meetings.
How Often Would You Hold the Team Meetings?
As for me, the team meetings’ frequency directly depends on the project’s intensity and the team’s size. However, the importance of regular meetings is unquestionable. It helps all the team members be on the right track, understand each other, share useful advice, and enhance collaboration efficiency. Also, constant meetings allow the manager to monitor the team’s progress and overall productivity. On the other hand, I would recommend avoiding too frequent or long-lasting meetings that might be unnecessary and overwhelming.
More Situational Questions Examples
- How would you choose the technology for a new project?
- How do you keep software development documentation?
- How would you motivate an employee whose performance is poorer than expected?
- Which metrics do you consider the most efficient to track the team’s productivity?
The job-specific questions verify the candidate’s technical expertise relevance. This part of the interview primarily focuses on the person’s strong skills. It is set to determine if the candidate’s knowledge is enough to perform coding and other tech tasks at a sufficiently high level.
Which Tools Would You Use to Design a Scalable System?
To build a scalable system, I would analyze the existing architecture. I would turn to a microservices solution to allow for more opportunities to scale and facilitate the updating process. Also, I would consider the other influential factors like databases, queues, caching layers, etc. I would also use cloud storage and automated solutions since they offer a more efficient and affordable way to control the app’s scalability. Finally, I would monitor key metrics like customer retention to find efficient ways to improve the system’s performance.
Which Techniques Do You Use When Reviewing Other Developer’s Code?
To review the other developer’s code, I normally turn to the tools like GitHub, CodeScene, Visual Expert, Review Board, etc. My choice depends on the programming language the code was originally written in. Testing codes and finding errors that might become challenging or even critical were my direct responsibilities in my former job position.
More Job-specific Questions Examples
- How would you facilitate unit testing by refactoring classes?
- How would you choose between NoSQL and SQL databases?
- How would you manage the existing security concerns of a public application?
- What are the key advantages of working in an agile development team?
Behavioral questions help determine the candidate’s ability to react to certain work-related situations based on their previous experience. They will help you understand if the person has the required leadership skills and relevant experience coping with various workspace challenges.
Here are a few examples of typical behavioral questions.
Have You Ever Participated in any Seminars Related to Software Development?
I regularly participate in various seminars and conferences that help me keep up with the modern software development trends and expand my knowledge. The latest event I participated in took place in May last year. It was a global QCon Plus conference that allowed me to learn from the leading professionals and enrich my toolkit.
More Behavioral Questions Examples
- Have you ever dealt with rewriting an outdated legacy code?
- Have you ever had to manage a development team? How big was it?
- What was the latest project you’ve participated in?
- Have you ever built a scalable system? How successful was it?
How to Identify the Best Candidate
Remember that a senior software engineer isn’t just another tech specialist to staff your development team. This person should have many capabilities, including strong motivation, dedication, and willingness to learn new things. According to Indeed,
These essential senior specialists’ skills might help you make the right choice.
The major part of the lead developer interview questions is directly related to their technical skills that should meet your company’s needs. A good candidate should have deep knowledge and experience working with the company’s core technologies.
A take-home coding test is the most effective way to determine if the candidate’s technical skills and experience are relevant. The other option is to conduct an online interview, ask the candidate a few in-depth technical questions, and give them a chance to improve an existing code.
The required background will vary, depending on the specifics of the stack your company uses. However, here are a few ways to verify the candidate’s expertise relevance.
- Conduct a paired programming session
- Check the refactoring skills
- Verify the range of capabilities
Another important factor determining a high-level senior software engineer is leading the team and managing the development process. In particular, a senior will be responsible for the following workflow aspects.
- Reviewing and assessing junior developers’ codes.
- Mentoring team members and onboarding new participants.
- Monitoring team’s performance with the key metrics.
- Implementing the agile method.
- Testing software with the help of effective tools.
- Scheduling and conducting regular team meetings.
Good communication skills are crucial as they help accelerate the workflow and allow all the stakeholders to be on the same page.
A senior software engineer is responsible for managing many internal processes, reporting any tasks or issues, and delivering them to the team members. With such a person on your side, you will save much time and effort since any communication issues may result in misunderstandings, delays, and collaboration inefficiency.
Flexibility is a must-have for a good senior developer. This quality will allow the candidate to quickly adapt to the new environment, get along with the team members, and effectively cope with numerous responsibilities. Later, this quality will be useful for dealing with new projects, taking on more complex tasks, and managing several development teams.
For agile method implementation, flexibility is particularly crucial. The senior developer should be ready to switch roles, mentor the team, organize the ceremonies, and monitor the key metrics.
Decision-making and Troubleshooting Skills
Finally, a senior developer should make timely decisions and solve problems when they arise. Numerous challenges often occur during the development process, and coping with them is one of the key senior’s responsibilities.
Also, a good professional should keep the whole team on the right track and help each member when necessary. It will prevent potential lags and typical development bottlenecks.
Find a Senior Developer for Your Business Needs
Hiring the right person for a senior software developer position is a quite responsible and difficult task. However, using the principal software engineer interview questions we’ve provided in this post and tailoring them to your business needs will help you make a wise choice.
Remember that your candidate’s key capabilities shouldn’t be limited to advanced tech expertise. The person you’re looking for is a dedicated leader with high-level management, communication, and problem-solving skills.
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