Preparing for Software Engineering Job Interview

I have received several requests about what to expect during the interview process for a software engineering position. Based on my experience, the interview process typically occurs in three phases. So don’t be surprised that this may seem like a lengthy process, it is.

The first interview is normally conducted by human resources or a general staff person filter through resumes. During this initial contact, the interviewer is looking for basic information. Questions will include:

  • How did you hear about this position? This is where they determine what career marketing strategy they are using really works, i.e., Careerbuilder.com, Monster.com, Dice.com, corporate website, friend, etc.
  • Are you willing to relocate? Although there was an initial push for telecommuter hires, it appears more jobs are being filled which require the new hire to report to a physical office location. So much for modern technology. More jobs are being moved to lower overhead locations. They need to know before they waste further resources, if you are serious about moving to the middle of nowhere for this job.
  • Can you work in the United States? Of course, this question is specific to American readers, but they need to know you work status.
  • How soon can you start? Be honest on this one. Don’t be too eager to take a job, when you have to tie up a lot of loose ends in relocating. They will expect something in excess of two weeks. You will have to consider selling your house or getting out of a lease, moving your lifetime collection of whatever, informing your current employer and completing any task you are currently working on for them. I believe 4 weeks is a minimum response in most cases.

The second interview will be conducted by someone with a technical background. At this point, you has expressed interest in a position and have shown a willingness to relocate to their facility. Now comes the part where they try to determine if you will be an asset to them or a good fit for their team dynamics. Here are some questions you are likely to hear:

  • What is your current job title? Although you may not currently hold a software engineering job title, there is still hope of landing a software engineering position. The interviewer is trying to make sense from the skills you put down on your resume versus what skills are required of your current job position.
  • Do you have any experience with team-based work environments? You may think this is a simple type of question to be asked, however, many people do not have to interact with other individuals to complete work tasks. As a software engineer, you will be required to interface with other team members, usually on a daily basis. Team work is not for everyone. If you have the type of personality that makes team-based work or decisions difficult, you should be honest with yourself. Otherwise, you may land a position you regret taking.
  • Are you willing to relocate? Yes, this question was asked in the first interview. The prospective company needs to know you intention for inquiring for this position. Companies receive a ton of applications from a variety of sources with many people applying just to test the market. Again, be honest about your willingness to relocate.
  • What type of programming experience do you have? Some companies may be in need of a language specific applicant, others may not. Be honest about your abilities, highlight your attributes and state your limitations.

The third phase of the interview process will likely come in the form of a skills test. This interview is prefaced on the fact that you have the requisite background they seek, and your willingness to work where the job is. The test may come in a face to face format, or many companies are using a proctored test format. For those unfamiliar with a proctored test format, essentially it requires that a neutral party is present to administer the test and to verify that time restraints are met and no reference materials are used. The proctored test can be given at a local library or university. The prospective company will handle the logistics of this arrangement and to see the test is delivered and received. Listed below are some links in reference to what to expect on the attitude test: