Software engineering is one of the most sought-after career choices today. Successful professionals in this competitive field have to balance their technical, business, and personal skills to stay ahead in the game.
Moreover, technological advancement is accelerating and disrupting industries. So, it is critical to keep abreast of the fundamental concepts. Through this article, we will touch upon the top software engineering interview questions and answers to guide you in your preparation.
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Before we move on to the Q&A, let us first take a glance at a few job designations that you can take up in this domain:
- Software designer
- Full-stack developer
- Software programmer
- IT project manager
- Information systems manager
- Data scientist
- Machine learning engineer
- Cloud engineer
- Cybersecurity engineer
When interviewing for any of the above positions, your prospective employer would test your conceptual knowledge and skills. Therefore, aspiring software engineers can benefit from combining their degrees with practical experience, whether through hands-on projects or internships.
Besides, your communication ability and team-orientation can play a significant role in setting you apart from your competitors. So, as you get ready for the hiring cycle, keep these things in mind.
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With this, it is now time to delve into the most-asked questions in software engineering job interviews.
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Software Engineering Interview Questions and Answers
1. List the different types of software.
Computer software can be classified into the following categories:
- System software
- Application software
- Web applications
- Embedded software
- AI software
- Scientific software
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2. Differentiate between a computer program and computer software.
A computer program comprises a programming code capable of performing a well-defined task upon executing. Conversely, computer software includes files (documentation and user guide) in addition to the programming code. Therefore, both program and software contain a set of instructions, but the purview of software is broader compared to a program.
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3. Explain the main steps of SDLC.
SDLC is a short form of the Software Development Life Cycle. It is composed of many stages, including:
- Planning: Software estimation and other aspects of project planning
- Feasibility analysis: Requirement analysis, listing software specifications
- Software design: Deciding design patterns, developing prototypes
- Software development: Translating requirements into working code
- Testing: Checking the code for stated requirements, quality, secure development practices, etc.
- Deployment: Implementing the software and integrating it with different systems to create a fully-functional product
- Project documentation: Gathering the resources and organizing the software files, including codes, documents, and licenses.
- Training and support: Communicating the use, functionalities, and possibilities of the new technology and facilitating an effective knowledge transfer
- Operations and maintenance: Reporting issues and making improvements in the product
4. List a few basic SDLC models and methodologies. According to you, which is the best?
Waterfall, V-Model, Iterative, Spiral, Big-bag, and Agile are some of the most popular SDLC models.
As for the best-ranked methodology, there is no single answer as the solution depends on the need of the software development process. For example, the Waterfall model is suitable for long-term projects where flexibility is preferable. The V-Shaped model works well when there are unknown requirements. The Spiral model is ideal for highly-customized projects, and so on.
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5. What do you mean by software re-engineering?
Software re-engineering aims to improve a software system. It is the process of updating the software without interfering with its current functionality. It can include maintainability tasks, like adding new features to make the software product more efficient and user-friendly.
6. Define the following in the context of software development: (i) verification (ii) validation (iii) debugging
(i) Verification involves performing a set of activities to ensure that the software can implement a specific function.
(ii) Validation is about confirming that the software meets the clients’ needs.
(iii) Debugging is a part of the testing process, including the removal of errors.
7. How would you ensure that your code is fast and secure?
If the code execution is slow, you will calculate the time complexity of the program. It refers to the number of times a statement is executed, which depends on the programming language, operating system, and processing power, among other factors.
Also, irrespective of the programming language you use, there are several ways of securing your code. Here, knowledge of secure coding practices becomes essential. For instance, scanning the code with free tools can help you detect vulnerabilities in the open-source packages on GitHub.
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8. What are the functional and non-functional software requirements?
Requirements are the descriptions of the software system, its desired features, and targeted functionalities. They can be divided into functional and non-functional requirements.
Functional requirements are what the users expect from the proposed product, and non-functional requirements relate to aspects like the look, performance, security, and user-interface.
9. How would you keep track of software requirements?
There is a wide variety of tools available for gathering and managing software requirements in the market. Modern Requirements, ReQtest, Jama Connect, and Orcanos are some of the most sought-after RM software among practitioners today. The selection is based on the methodologies and goals and differs from project to project. Nevertheless, the first step in the tracking process is to list the requirements and create an Excel sheet with details like type, dependency, priority, etc.
10. What do you know about modularization and cohesion?
Modularization divides the software system into discrete modules. Here, every module is expected to carry out specified tasks independently. Cohesion measures and defines the intra-dependability among the different elements of a module.
11. What does a software project manager do?
A project manager is tasked with responsibilities like project planning, progress monitoring, and communication. In the software development process, a project manager’s primary duty is to manage the resources, balance the risks, and deliver the intended product adhering to time, cost, and quality constraints.
12. What is software scope?
The software scope includes all the activities required to deliver a software product. It defines the following aspects to streamline the development process:
- What the product will do
- What is not a part of the project
- Project estimation (with the help of consultants, experts, or formulas)
13. How will you determine the feasibility of your project?
A feasibility study helps measure the practical benefits that a software development project may bring to an organization. Software analyzers consider three main factors before preparing their final report. We have explained them in detail below:
- Economical: Cost of additional features and tools, training costs, and the final project’s overall cost-benefit analysis
- Technical: Suitability of machines and operating software, including the possibility of developing the proposed system with the available technical support and human resources
- Operational: Ability to make adjustments and keep up with the demands and the project’s worthiness at the estimated cost.
14. Mention a few software analysis and design tools.
The software analysis and design procedures help translate requirement specifications into implementation. Here are some standard tools:
- Data flow diagrams
- Data dictionary
- Structured charts
- HIPO (Hierarchical Input Process Output) charts
- Entity-Relationship or ER diagrams
- Decision tables
15. What is the difference between Structured English and Psuedo Code?
The native English language used to write a program module’s structure is known as Structured English. It includes programming language keywords.
In contrast, the Pseudo Code methodology closely resembles the programming language but without any specific syntax.
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16. How will you find the size of a software product?
You can calculate the software size by calculating the lines of delivered code or the function points. Function points are considered a relevant measurement as they represent the features offered by a software product.
17. What are software metrics?
Software metrics refer to the measurements of the requirements and the product itself.
- Requirement metrics include aspects like length and completeness.
- Product metrics relate to the number of coding lines, design, test metrics, object-oriented metrics, etc.
18. What are some useful project estimation techniques?
Project estimation is an integral part of sound software project planning. Here are some widely-used methods:
- Decomposition (Software sizing, problem-based, and process-based techniques)
- Empirical (regression analysis, constructive cost model, and the software equation)
19. How would you measure project execution?
The review of software implementation would entail activity monitoring, milestone checklists, and status reports.
Project management tools provide a comfortable way of checking progress. Gantt Chart, Pert Chart, and Resource Histogram are some other examples.
20. Define software configuration management.
Configuration management is about tracking and controlling changes in a software project. It is vital to maintain the consistency of the software system with organizational rules and regulations.
21. What is the difference between quality assurance and quality control?
Quality assurance checks are done to find out whether the proper development process was followed. On the other hand, quality control is concerned with maintaining the quality of the end product.
22. Compare Interface-oriented, Object-oriented, and Aspect-oriented programming.
Interface programming is a contract-based architectural pattern applied for achieving modular design at the component level.
Object-oriented programming deals with writing granular objects having a singular purpose.
Aspect-oriented programming aims to segregate the code so that multiple objects carry the main tasks and independent objects carry the subsidiary tasks.
23. When to declare a class as abstract?
A class containing an abstract keyword in its declaration cannot be instantiated. It is best to declare a class as abstract in the situations mentioned below.
- When at least one of the methods in the class is declared as abstract.
- When a class inherited from an abstract class still includes abstract methods.
24. Mention the main difference between: (i) Stack vs queue (ii) Object-oriented vs component-oriented design (iii) Thread vs process (iv) EXE vs DLL (v) Tags and branches
(i) Stack follows the Last In, First Out (LIFO) principle. Whereas, Queue is always FIFO, i.e., First In, First Out.
(ii) Object-oriented design can be incorporated in the component-based design to some extent. However, the converse is not possible.
(iii) ‘Process’ refers to an instance of a computer program under execution. It is heavier and requires more context-switching. A ‘thread’ is a lightweight process that a scheduler manages independently. A single program can have more than one thread.
(iv) Both EXE and DLL are programs that require storage space to run. While EXE is a basic executable program, DLL is more dynamic. It is an external code repository that you can load and execute, hence occupying less space.
(v) Tags remain on a specific version of the code and usually do not change. They act as temporary holding places for versioning releases. Branches always point to the top of the development line. So, they get deleted once a new commit is pushed or when changes are merged into the trunk.
25. Is it a good idea to use catch (exception)?
Catch (exception) should be used when the exception types are known. It is a bad idea as you cannot read the exception when no variable has been defined.
26. Which is preferable between the two: strong-typing or weak-typing?
Strong typing is supposed to one-up weak typing as it checks variables at compile time. Also, it can considerably minimize system bugs. A weakly typed language performs conversions only at run-time and may produce unpredictable results.
27. What is a structured design?
Structured design conceptualizes the problem following the ‘divide and conquer’ strategy. This systematic approach entails breaking down the problem into its sub-elements and dealing with these smaller issues individually. Due to this tactic, it is also called the solution design method.
28. Describe functional programming.
The functional programming method involves the application of mathematical concepts. It provides a way to compute mathematical functions, thus generating results regardless of the program state.
29. How do you prioritize requirements?
First and foremost, you have to evaluate the data structure. Then, you would need to formulate a code structure to support the same.
30. What do you know about CASE tools?
CASE is the abbreviated term for Computer-Aided Software Engineering. It consists of a set of automated software applications that support SDLC activities. CASE tools can enhance and strengthen software projects by offering these services:
- Requirement analysis
- Structure analysis
- Code generation
- Test case generation
- Document production
- Reverse engineering
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The Bureau of Labor Statistics (United States) projects the demand for software developers to grow at 22 percent through the next decade. And India is likely to encounter the same surge in demand.
According to the ‘Workforce Report for India’ by LinkedIn, software engineering job postings on its platform were the highest across multiple industries in the first half of 2018. As we move ahead, the opportunities in prominent sectors like education, legal, and design would continue to rise. Read about software developer salary in India.
As observed through the questions listed above, someone looking to enter this profession would need a wide range of interrelated competencies. Here is a snapshot of the hard skills you would be required to grasp:
- C++, C#, Java
- SQL, Python, Bootstrap
- Object-oriented design
- Debugging and testing software
- Coding in modern languages (Ruby, Go, R, etc.)
- Knowledge of artificial intelligence projects, and so on
Apart from these technical abilities, you would need to master the art of multitasking, communication, time management, attention to detail, and teamwork.
As for the educational qualifications, a bachelor’s degree in computer science or related fields typically covers the minimum eligibility criteria for entry-level jobs. But everyone’s career path turns out a little different. Some may have entered the workforce through self-study, online courses, or coding bootcamps. Others may have pursued an advanced degree after having worked in IT for a few years.
Having postgraduate-level credentials can help you jumpstart your career and even earn a coveted job promotion. Check out upGrad’s Master in Computer Science certified by the Liverpool John Moores University. It aims to equip you with industry-relevant skills through a highly interactive pedagogy.
You can also go for Executive PG Programme in Software Development – Specialisation in Full Stack Development by IIIT-B or a specialized PG certification, depending on your interests and career aspirations. Such certificates have a shorter time commitment as compared to master and diploma courses. They allow you to demonstrate your skills in a particular area, such as back-end development, front-end development, cybersecurity, DevOps, big data, and cloud computing.
With this, we have covered the top software engineering interview questions and answers. We attempted to include general as well as technical topics. Also, we mentioned the potential career choices and provided an overview of the trends and prospects in the IT industry. Use this information as a signpost for your learning journey and streamline your preparation strategy!
What is Software Engineering?
Software engineering is a computer science-related branch that deals with the needs of the users by identifying their needs. Furthermore, these needs are fulfilled by designing, creating, and testing the software so that the requirements of the customers are met. Software engineering is oriented around the product’s growth, and its use of concepts, methodologies, and procedures. The process is fine-tuned with a certain set of principles and best practices to ensure that the technological advancements meet the software needs. The end result of a software-engineered product is that it is effective, efficient, and dependable. It is the responsibility of software developers to create programs and design the user interface to cater to the needs of the customers.
What are the characteristics of software?
Any software can be divided into six major characteristics. The first functionality of software is what it is supposed to do. For example, a calculator is used for mathematical calculations. The second is reliability which is the degree of failure-free operational software that will be deployed to the environment. Portability is next, which is the ease of use of software and how easily it can be transferred from one environment to another. Through efficiency, the ability of software is explored, along with how well it can provide resources. Maintenance comes next, which defines how a software code can be improved and repaired. The last one is usability which is entirely the experience of the user when they are using the software.
How to prepare for a software engineering interview?
Start with gaining some confidence before you start off with a software engineering interview. Secondly, make sure to research the company and learn more about it. Matching yourself against the requirements is also something that you should do. During the interview, always showcase your previous achievements, and explain how you got there. Finally, and the most important thing is to prepare a list of questions that you will ask the interviewer in the end. You can ask questions about projects, job roles, and future responsibilities.