The Surprising Key to Success in a Software Engineering Job Interview

Dan Pickett

By Dan Pickett

November 1, 2023


True or false: Your software engineering job interview should feel like grabbing coffee with a friend.

Believe it or not, the answer is true.

If that surprises you, keep reading. An interview is easier to ace than you might think, but only if you go into the room with the right mindset.


Your Interview Dynamic Matters

An interview isn't an interrogation—it's a conversation. Just like with a friend, building a strong connection with the other person eases the tension and shifts the dynamic from critical to casual. You would never only answer questions in a normal conversation, so feel free to ask your own questions throughout the interview instead of waiting for an invitation at the end.

An interview isn't an interrogation—it's a conversation.

For example, once you've finished responding to a question about what you look for in a company's culture, don't be afraid to follow it up with: “So, what's the company culture like here?” This approach allows you to learn more about the company and demonstrate your confident, friendly personality.

Worried about coming off too strong? Think again. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Some jobseekers are so focused on specific answers that they forget to relax and connect with the interviewer. An interview should be conversational.” If you can achieve a conversational dynamic in your interview, you'll build a better connection and come off as more credible.

So, leave the imposter syndrome at the door. Smile, relax, and ask a follow-up question or two. You'll be glad you did.


Sample Questions for Software Developer Job Interviews

Insightful questions make an excellent impression, but an uninformed question can cause the interviewer to second-guess your suitability for the role. Make sure you’re familiar with the company before the interview so you’re not asking what product they make or how long they’ve been in business. Instead, use this opportunity to gauge if the role will be a good fit for you.

Use this opportunity to gauge if the role will be a good fit for you.

Now, if you and I were having this conversation in an interview, a great follow-up question would be: “Thanks, Dan! Can you share some examples of questions to ask during an interview?”

Of course. I’m glad you asked. 


Questions about company culture

Asking about a software engineering company’s culture provides important insight into the work environment, team dynamics, and growth opportunities. A dream software developer job on paper can be miserable in a toxic work environment, so get the facts on the front end.

Here are some questions to get you thinking:

  • How would you describe this company’s culture?
  • What type of support do junior engineers receive?
  • Is there a budget allocated for further learning and development?
  • What is the process for promotions and rewards?

Pro tip: Clearly connect your question to the current topic of conversation for a smooth flow. 

For example, if you’ve been discussing what you’re looking for in an entry-level software developer job, your follow-up question might be something like: “In my first role, I’m hoping to learn from more experienced engineers. How long has the lead engineer been with the company?”


Questions about business health and direction

Many Launchers get into software engineering seeking stability and a good paycheck. So, assessing a prospective employer’s longevity and vision for the future is essential. If the company CEO has changed three times in the past year and your interviewer can’t articulate a clear direction the company is heading in, you may want to look elsewhere.

Assessing a prospective employer’s longevity and vision for the future is essential.

Use these sample questions to learn more about the company’s health and direction:

  • Is the company venture capital funded?
  • How do you see the platform changing in the next three years?
  • How long has the current CEO been with the company?
  • Can you share information about the company’s expected gross revenue and profits?

Pro tip: Find out whether the company is publicly traded before asking that last question. The gross revenue and profits of publicly traded companies are—you guessed it—publicly available. 

For example, you can check out the annual revenue for Launch Academy hiring partners Wayfair or Fidelity. Demonstrate initiative by looking up the company’s stats yourself and asking a question based on your findings.


Pay Attention to Your Audience

Before planning the questions you might want to ask, take a moment to consider who’s interviewing you. Is this an exploratory call with a recruiter or an interview with the director of engineering? Tailoring your questions to the interviewer ensures you appear professional and prepared.

Tailoring your questions to the interviewer ensures you appear professional and prepared.

Recruiters are the gatekeepers of software developer jobs. The recruiter’s job is to verify you’re qualified for the position without knowing the technical aspects. Keep your language simple and focus on asking about outcomes, results, and work products. 

Pro tip: Close out a recruiter interview by asking if there’s any hesitation in advancing your application to the hiring team. This question gives you the opportunity to address any concerns, especially a simple issue like the recruiter misunderstanding a technical aspect of your resume.

For a more technical interview with an engineer, show off your knowledge by asking about specific open-source projects or examples of projects the team has worked on. Follow-up questions like these can spark a meaningful dialogue about what you can bring to the team.

Follow-up questions can spark a meaningful dialogue about what you can bring to the team.


Confidence Is Key to Landing Software Developer Jobs

You can control only two things heading into your first software developer job interview: your preparedness and your attitude. Approach the interview confidently, armed with questions that help you and the interviewer determine if you’re a good fit for the role and the company. 

And remember: treat a job interview like getting coffee with a friend—if you’re confident enough, you can even bring your own coffee.

If you want additional guidance, Launch Academy’s post-grad program helps prepare graduates for a successful interview process through mock interviews and resume assistance. Find out more here.