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Career Development, Coding

How to Prepare for a Software Engineering Job Interview

General Assembly
June 12, 2024

Our Software Engineering Career Guide Series:

Given that it takes 120 software engineering candidates to make one engineering hire, the interview process is a whirlwind for hiring managers. These interviews often include skill assessments through programming language tests, algorithms, and problem-solving exercises designed to size up candidates’ work history, technical skills, and personality in lightning-fast meetings. The format and intensity of these interviews vary by role sought and company.

But here’s the good news: General Assembly has a proven track record of getting our Software Engineering Bootcamp graduates hired in 120 days or less. Our Software Engineer Interview Guide, the final installment of our Software Engineer Career Guide, provides key strategies and insights to help you shine through the interview prep process — and step confidently into your new career.

7 Tips for Acing the Software Engineer Interview Process

Software engineering interview prep can take several weeks to several months.  

Prefer a structured approach to interview prep? Consider a training program like a software engineering bootcamp, which includes interview prep as part of your engagement. Your exclusive mentor will walk you through the following steps described in this software engineering interview guide

Until then, follow these steps to set the stage for interview day success:

  1. Research the company.
  • Start by visiting the company’s website to learn about their core mission and values.
  • Familiarize yourself with company products, services, projects, and innovations. 
  • Identify the technologies and tools the company predominantly uses by checking for open source GitHub repositories. 
  • Analyze the specific requirements and skills outlined for the role in the job description. 

Knowing these details can help you align your responses to key software developer interview questions and demonstrate that you are a good fit for the role.

  1. Learn about the interview style.

Software engineer interview questions come in all different formats, including: 

  • Quiz: Early in the process, software or recruiters grade a structured series of questions with clear-cut answers to filter out unqualified candidates.
  • Online coding assessment: This early filter asks you to solve problems (like those posted to LeetCode), using an online coding interface such as HackerRank.
  • Phone screen: Using an online collaborative editing tool like CoderPad.io, you’ll introduce yourself, answering a few technical coding problems, and learn more about the types of challenges you may be called upon to solve at the company.  
  • Take-home assignment: Common to small and medium-sized firms, the assessment should take about 4–8 hours to complete and provides the company with a view of your working style, efficiency, and communication skills. 
  • Onsite interviews: Prior to making an offer, you’ll be asked to come in for one or more technical and behavioral interviews. You can expect to spend a few hours onsite. You may be asked to complete a whiteboard exercise with the interviewer or work on a coding problem on your own laptop. 
  • Lunch and learn: Some companies host an informal lunch session where you can learn more about what it’s like to work there.
  1. Choose a programming language.


Unless you’re applying for specialized roles like mobile or front-end developer, you have latitude to use any language for your coding interview. Opt for the language you’re most comfortable with and frequently use. Python stands out for its concise syntax and comprehensive standard library. Java and C++ are also solid choices, though they involve more verbose syntax. Lower-level languages like C or Go lack built-in functions and data structures, making them less ideal for software engineer interview problem solving.

Daddies of Tech featured image of father and son with laptop
  1. Practice for coding interviews.

Up for a challenge? Technical interviews add another layer of complexity, rigorously testing your problem-solving skills, knowledge of data structures, algorithmic thinking, and programming skills through whiteboard challenges, remote coding tasks, and onsite exams. 

Resources like “Cracking the Coding Interview” are valuable, but hands-on practice is the best way to prepare. Platforms like LeetCode and HackerRank offer extensive libraries of coding problems that mimic those you’ll likely encounter during technical interviews. 

Want more guidance? When figuring out how to prepare for a technical interview, software engineers often find it helpful to meet with a panel of experts online, where they can discuss practical tips and best practices, and get specific questions answered. 

And, when you’re ready, you can simulate real software engineer interview questions through Interviewing.io. Here you can book mock coding interviews with senior engineers from companies like Google and Facebook, which can translate into opportunities to land real interviews with top tech companies.

  1. Get ready to present your projects.

Just as Olympics marathon runners at the starting line draw attention with their brightly-colored, brand-name sneakers, software engineers captivate their audience with the polish and clarity of their project presentations. Here you’ll dive deep into each project, discussing your role, challenges faced, technologies utilized, project impact, and lessons learned. 

Ace your presentation by keeping these tips in mind: 

  • Passion and confidence are your best friends. Speak with gusto about your projects, keeping it clear and concise. No need to get bogged down in jargon — make those complex concepts easy to grasp to demonstrate your communication skills.
  • Show, don’t just tell. Interactive demonstrations are gold. Showcase key functionalities and user interfaces to really bring your projects to life.
  • Tailoring to go the extra mile. Make sure your portfolio discussion aligns snugly with the role and company you’re eyeing. Highlight projects that flex the skills they’re seeking.
  • Flex the power of feedback. Share moments where you took critiques and ran with them, showing off your adaptability and relentless drive for improvement.

Remember, your portfolio isn’t just a showcase of your tech prowess; it’s a window into your journey of growth and passion for problem-solving. So, use this opportunity to enthrall your interviewer with compelling stories, and let your projects speak volumes about your potential.

  1. Prepare for behavioral interviews.

Behavioral interview questions probe how well you employ your problem-solving, decision-making, teamwork, and resilience to manage common workplace scenarios. 

Here’s how to prepare:

  • Know the STAR format. Break down your answer into four parts: Situation (Describe the context that led to the task); Task (Explain what needed to be achieved or the problem that had to be solved); Action (Detail the actions you took to accomplish the task); Results (Share the outcomes of your actions and what you learned). Familiarize yourself with the most commonly asked STAR questions for software engineers.
  • Combine technical and soft skills. Soft skills — such as communication, collaboration, leadership, and the ability to explain your thought process — are just as important in demonstrating your potential to grow and adapt within the company.
  • Acknowledge multiple solutions. Ideal candidates can defend their solutions and consider alternative approaches. This demonstrates a broader understanding and flexibility in problem-solving. For instance, when designing a search function for a video streaming app, you might choose a quick but inefficient algorithm during an interview while acknowledging a more suitable one for real-world use. This shows depth in your understanding and a willingness to explore different methods.

These strategies will help you present yourself as a well-rounded and capable candidate.

  1. Seek feedback and negotiate the salary package.

While it may seem rigorous, the software engineering interviewing process helps you prepare to succeed in your new role long-term. Here you have an opportunity to demonstrate the technical and problem-solving abilities that are required to complete your day-to-day tasks. The hiring manager will also ensure that your career path and interests align with what the company’s offerings. Moreover, as you practice and refine your responses further, your confidence will grow, empowering you to assert your true value in the marketplace.

Before you wrap your interview session, be sure to:

  • Ask for feedback. After interviews, request feedback on your performance to identify areas for improvement. Politely phrase your request and express a genuine desire to learn. For instance, you might say, “In the hopes of having a better shot at the next opportunity with your company, I was wondering if you had any specific feedback about my application that you’d be willing to share with me?” Or, “I understand your time is valuable, so any feedback, even brief, would be greatly appreciated.”

And once you land the offer, carefully:

  • Negotiate the salary. Like trying on a new running shoe, you can expect some wiggle room in your initial salary offer. Recruiters anticipate candidates to push for more — and as such, the initial offer is rarely the best package a company can provide. To effectively negotiate, highlight your value and demonstrate knowledge of industry salary ranges (relative to your area and level of expertise), and present your counter-offer confidently. Mentioning offers from competing companies (if you have them) can significantly strengthen your bargaining position. Also, keep in mind, aspects of your salary package — such as bonuses, stock options, or other benefits — may be easier to negotiate than the base salary.

Preparing To Cross the Finish Line? 

Overall, enduring the challenges of the interview process can lead to fulfilling career prospects and personal growth. But you don’t have to train alone. Join General Assembly’s Software Engineering Bootcamp, where you’ll spend three to six months refreshing your skills and working with an exclusive mentor to build the resume, portfolio, connections, and confidence you need to sprint to the finish.

Wondering if a career in software engineering is a good move? Sign up for our next info session to learn more.

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