Interview questions for Graduate Software Engineer

We analyzed 886 interview reviews for Graduate Software Engineer from various job sites, social network groups and forums.

Here are the most frequent job interview questions asked by HR managers during initial phone or onsite interviews. This list does not include technical or factual questions.

10 frequent non-technical questions for Graduate Software Engineer:

Tell me about yourself
Tell me about a successful project you were involved in. What was your role? What was the result?
What is your greatest weakness?
Tell me about your greatest professional accomplishment
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Describe a time you worked on a team with individuals from different cultural backgrounds
Why were you successful in your last role? Give a supporting example
What are your drivers? What motivates you?
Walk me through your resume
Tell me about a time when you failed to meet a deadline. What did you learn?

According to our research, hiring managers looking to fill Graduate Software Engineer role ask soft skills interview questions 50% less frequently than for other roles.

Graduate Software Engineer interview question statistics

1. Tell me about yourselftop question

How to answer

This question may sound vague, but it actually requires a matter of fact, concise and relevant answer. Here’s how you can approach it.

  1. About Yourself

    What is your current occupation? Define yourself professionally in one statement.

    Pick 3 key skills that make you great at your work (your Key Selling Points). How have you applied these skills?

    Try to give some numbers to support your statement.

  2. About The Company

    Research the company.

    Based on what you know about the company and the job description, why are you interested in the position you are applying for?

  3. About The Fit

    • Based on your Key Selling Points and your knowledge about the company, why do you think you are a good fit for this position?
    • Can you support your statement with relevant examples from your past experiences?

    Try to be concise and stay within 1-2 minutes.

Pro Tip

You can also end with a question like:

Do you know what the current needs in the company/department are, where my skills and experience can help?"

That can help you learn more about the company and the job, turn the "interrogation" into a conversation and will allow you to relax some tension.

Read our blog post to learn more about how to answer this question.

Take a quiz

Take a quick quiz and check if you’re ready to answer this question at your next job interview:

Pick the best answer:

AMy name is Andrew Franklin, I am 28 years old, and I am looking for a job that pays well.

BHello, my name is Natalie Price. I have two children and I love playing billiards and travelling. I am 33 years old.

CHi Mr. Simon, my name is Stanley Clark and I am a certified Project Management professional known for completing projects on time and on budget. I am passionate about building agile work culture and delivering results.

DHi Mr. Simon, my name is Dorothy Hanson. I have previously worked as an accountant in retail, but currently I am trying to transition into the field of healthcare.

2. Tell me about a successful project you were involved in. What was your role? What was the result?

How to answer

In the modern business environment, work is often organized in the form of projects. This allows companies to plan objectives and milestones in order to reach their goals, to monitor progress and performance, to clearly define deliverables and success.

With this question, the interviewer gauges whether you have the right mindset for a project-oriented work style.

  1. About Yourself

    Remember a few projects you have been involved in. Depending on your work experience and career level, these may range from small projects like organizing a party to large-scale multinational projects with participants and teams across the globe, million-dollar budgets and high risk and reward stakes.

    For each project you participated in, write down the following:

    1. project name
    2. its reason and goal
    3. your role in it
    4. the duration of the project or its phases (in case only some phases were successful)
    5. the approximate number of people or stakeholders involved in it.

    • What were the top 3 challenges?
    • What was the end result?
    • How did the company (or other stakeholders) benefit from the results?
    • How can you define your contribution in 3-5 key phrases? If you received any praise for your efforts from your boss, peers or clients, what did they say exactly?
  2. About The Company

    Based on the research you did on the company, what kinds of projects can you expect here?

    • What do you know about the goals they are trying to achieve?
    • What do you know about their current challenges?
    • Can you imagine what success will look like for the projects in this company?
  3. About The Fit

    Which of your examples fits best with the projects you may expect at this company?

    Practice telling your story, use the STAR method.

Pro Tip

End your answer by asking the interviewer how they define success for the role you are applying for.

This will provide you with an insight into the company environment and expectations for this role, as well as will help transform the “interrogation” into a conversation, which will give you a break to pull your wits together for further interview.

3. What is your greatest weakness?

How to answer

This question ranks as the most challenging for many people. Fortunately, Mr. Simon is here to help!

Interviewers ask this question to gauge your level of self-awareness, your honesty and openness, and your capability for self-improvement.

  1. About Yourself

    No one is perfect and your interviewer doesn't expect you to be perfect either.

    While it is good to be honest and open, it will not help you to put yourself down.

    What's important is to find a weakness that you have overcome or something that is not related to the position for which you are applying.

    For example, one of our clients admitted that he is not very good at public speaking and that he has recently become a member of Toastmasters International to improve. What a respectful answer and approach, in my view!

  2. About The Company

    Research the company (website, social media, etc) to learn about the company culture.

    What personal and professional qualities do they value?

  3. About The Fit

    It is important that the weakness you decide to talk about is not one that will prevent you from performing the job for which you're applying.

    For example, if you're applying for a front-end developer position, do not talk about how you are struggling to understand HTML code.

Pro Tip

Use this question to sell yourself!

It's important to show how well you've overcome a weakness by motivating yourself and learning a new skill to grow professionally.

Take a quiz

Take a quick quiz and check if you’re ready to answer this question at your next job interview:

Which of the following would be the best answer:

ASometimes I just work too hard

BI have trouble saying “no” when a colleague asks for help and I have my own work to finish

CI am a perfectionist

DI cannot think of a single thing

Now that you have read some of our recommendations, you may wonder: “Ok, so what’s next? I seem to understand these concepts quite well and they kind of make sense to me, but how do I make sure my answers are actually in accordance with these recommendations, and I will stand out as a strong candidate in my upcoming interview?”

Good question. Assuming you are indeed qualified and fit for the position you are interviewing for, the best thing you can do is make sure the interviewer sees this fit.

There are two ways how you can leverage Mr. Simon’s expertise to help you shine your best:

  1. Go ahead and practice with the Mr. Simon app - it is a completely free, fun and helpful experience!
  2. Request a mock interview with a real human career mentor. During the session we will help you identify your Key Selling Points to emphasize in the interview, and to present them in a way that strongly communicates your value to the company. The 1-hour session costs USD 79.99 and is supplemented by 2 weeks of support via email, free of additional charge.

To request the session, shoot us an email to coaching@mrsimon.ai and attach your resume and job description to expedite the process.

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Natalie helped me feel calm and confident. She helped me break down the job description and relate it to my experience. After working with Natalie, I received 2 job offers in the same day.

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4. Tell me about your greatest professional accomplishment

How to answer

Of all your accomplishments (and I am sure you’ve had a great many of them!), you should choose the one most relevant to this job position.

  1. About Yourself

    Write down your Key Selling Points - your top 3-5 skills that make you a strong professional.

    Write down a list of your top 3-5 professional accomplishments that you are most proud of. No need for lengthy descriptions, just 1-2 words for each one to help you recall each situation.

    Make sure you have developed the story behind each accomplishment and have a strong command of the details of what happened so that you can tell the story clearly and distinctly.

    Along with each accomplishment, mark which of your Key Selling Points they showcase. How exactly?

  2. About The Company

    Based on your research of the company, what are their current needs?

    • What are the major projects going on?
    • What are the expectations for the position you are applying for?
  3. About The Fit

    Try to imagine yourself being an employee of the company you are applying to, say, at your 6th month into the job.

    • Which of your Key Selling Points and accomplishments would be most relevant to the company?
    • What “have you accomplished at your new job?”

    Choose the most relevant accomplishment from your list and then practice telling your story.

Pro Tip

Most enterprises are now going through major transformations, often called Digital Transformation.

Do your research on what it means and what is often involved, to get a better idea of the current goals and environments in companies. But one thing that definitely characterizes this transformation is striving for agility.

In particular, for startups (if you are applying to a startup or a small business), agility is their middle name, in order for them to survive among bigger sharks in the market.

So, demonstrating qualities like agility and adaptability should generally be helpful and quite a safe choice in most circumstances today.

Take a quiz

Take a quick quiz and check if you’re ready to answer this question at your next job interview:

Why do interviewers ask this question?

AThey want to know why you think the accomplishment you chose is your greatest, to give them an idea of what you think is important

BThey want to hear a specific example of your work to see if your problem solving skills fit in with the issues and problems their company might be experiencing

CThey want to know if you are a great multitasker who can get 10 different things done by the end of the day, no matter how long you have to stay at work to complete it all

5. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

How to answer

This question belongs to a family of behavioral, or even more precisely, reflective questions.

The interviewer wants to see whether you are reflective about yourself, whether you are ambitious and strive to grow as a professional, whether you like to learn and develop your skills.

They are also looking for your ambitions to fit the career path opportunities related to the position you are applying for.

  1. About Yourself

    Presumably, you are interested to grow professionally.

    Think about the possibilities that may lie ahead for you: take a personality test (I recommend 16Personalities which is based on Myers-Briggs test), research the internet on what career paths are possible with your skills and current job.

    What challenges do you like overcoming?

    For example, if you are applying for a software tester position, you may find it fascinating to master automated testing in full and eventually become a software engineer, or you may be a natural trainer and love coaching other people which may lead you to become a QA team or department lead, or you may be more interested in understanding business aspects of requirements which may logically lead you into a Business Analyst position.

    However, if you are happy just where you are and want to further your current skills, that is also fine as long as there is a growth path for you that can be imagined and described.

  2. About The Company

    Research the company to learn what career opportunities may be available in the department you are applying to, and what the trends are in the company in general.

    • Is the business expanding, are they opening new locations, or starting new projects?
    • Or are they heavily automating and cutting staff?

    Let’s say you are applying for a UX designer position for a brand-new product.

    In the future, if the product becomes a success - which is what the company hopes for - the company will hire more designers and you may become a lead designer, or you may become a product manager.

    On a side note: If you train your mind to be open to opportunities you will be amazed at how much this world has to offer to you!

  3. About The Fit

    And, of course, try to see where the perfect fit lies between your own potential and aspirations, and the company’s trends and hopes.

    However, beware of the risk of showing too much excitement for future opportunities compared to your attitude towards the current position.

    If you aren’t really excited about the position you are applying for and you demonstrate this lack of enthusiasm, the interviewer may conclude that you are not a good fit for the current position.

    Try to find a source of excitement in the current position as well, otherwise, you may be doing yourself a disservice by applying to a position you will find boring in 2-3 months.

Pro Tip

This question gives you a good opportunity to showcase your Key Selling Points (e.g. “As I am very good at delegating tasks, I can easily see myself leading a team of software testers in the future…”), and end your statement by asking about current initiatives and goals at the company.

It is generally NOT a good idea to say something like:

“Oh, I cannot imagine what happens to me tomorrow, let alone in 5 years”.

This will show you as a person who is unimaginative and not forward-thinking enough to grow with and be a good fit for the company.

6. Describe a time you worked on a team with individuals from different cultural backgrounds

How to answer

Why do interviewers ask this question?

Nowadays many companies rate global and cultural awareness as a key competency for all employees. For most jobs today, it is essential to be able to work well with diverse teams, including individuals who understand international and cultural differences and can interact respectfully with individuals from diverse cultures, political affiliations, races, religions, ages, genders and sexual orientations.

  1. About Yourself

    Answering this question highlights your ability to navigate cultural differences at work.

    Think about your team experiences and times when you’ve had to overcome differences with colleagues.

    • How do you adapt to working with team members of different communication styles?
    • Are you open-minded enough to consider all their ideas even if you don't agree?
    • How do you handle the differences in attitudes and values between you and people from other countries or backgrounds?
    • Do you show respect and are you diplomatic with those people?

    Maybe you haven’t worked with people from different cultures, but you may have been studying or been friends with people from different backgrounds.

    Address your personal life, if necessary, and emphasize your curiosity and openness to other cultures.

  2. About The Company

    A careful review of the job description, along with some research of the company will help you anticipate what aspects of global/cultural awareness are most important for a particular role in the company you are applying to.

  3. About The Fit

    Demonstrate your openness, inclusiveness, sensitivity, and the ability to interact respectfully with all people and show your understanding of individuals’ differences.

    Your task is to prove to the interviewer your ability to build strong and caring relationships based on trust and shared goals.

    Use the STAR method to tell a story about how your experience helped you to create an open and inclusive workplace environment, so all team members felt empowered to contribute.

    Ensure the interviewer that you are very comfortable working with team members from other cultures and possibly with different communication styles. Make it your advantage.

    For example, you can say something like: “At my recent work, representatives of different cultures participated in one common project. As a result, our team was able to approach the tasks from different viewpoints to reach a successful conclusion.

Pro Tip

Working in a multicultural team has both advantages and challenges at the same time. In such a team you can broaden your outlook.

Challenges that you have to overcome are: to understand other people’s language and culture, to get used to the different ways they think and work; to reduce mistrust that can be a barrier to understanding each other, and to promote awareness of cultural diversity in the workplace.

If you overcome these challenges, you will be the ideal employee at any job.

7. Why were you successful in your last role? Give a supporting example

How to answer

Questions about your successes allow an employer to learn more about your work ethic and your previous accomplishments.

It helps the interviewer to determine whether you will be driven to achieve such results in the future.

This question also allows to understand how you define success, and what milestones in your career you consider important.

It’s the numbers and the facts that most accurately describe you as a good candidate.

Examples of your successes will be summarized in your resume and you should be ready to elaborate on them in the interview.

  1. About Yourself

    Think of the question as an invitation to discuss the professional characteristics that you're proud of or a particular achievement in your last job.

    • What steps did you take to become successful?
    • What personal and professional qualities did you use to reach your goals at work?
    • How did your actions help your team and the company to succeed?
    • What challenges did you overcome to become successful?
    • What are your lessons learned?
  2. About The Company

    Research the requirements of the company you applying to and review the job listing. Make a list of job qualifications and skills that match the preferred qualifications of the ideal candidate.

  3. About The Fit

    Explain your most important achievements at work, using the STAR method to provide specific examples of how your past work and achievements show how you will be an asset to the organization you're interviewing with.

    It’s your chance to tell about your Key Selling Points – skills that make you a successful employee.

    Emphasize the 3-5 strongest of them that helped you to achieve results at work to answer the question.

    It's important to provide the interviewer with evidence of how you achieved success in the workplace.

    For example, if you are in publishing, tell your story about how you ensured the timely release of 20 issues of the magazine, despite any problems you faced.

    The role of such an achievement for the company was particularly important and demonstrates how your work contributed to the business. Difficulties and ways to overcome them, new ideas, daily work, and its results will help the interviewer to assess your experience correctly.

Pro Tip

Do not be afraid of blowing your trumpet and making yourself look good.

If you are a good employee, then make sure you tell them so.

Try to show a high level of ambition.

Your goal is to demonstrate your determination and willingness to take on challenges and achieve results.

8. What are your drivers? What motivates you?

How to answer

Motivation is what we use to drive ourselves forward to complete tasks and bring results.

Why do hiring managers ask this question?

They want to get a sense of your personality. But more importantly, they want to see your resiliency and determination.

They do not want to hire someone who will quit when encountering difficulties, whose focus will be elsewhere, or who will just waste their time.

Enthusiasm ranks very high on the list of qualities employers are looking for in a candidate.

If you can demonstrate that you are genuinely passionate about your profession and interested in the position you are applying for, your chances of getting hired will improve significantly.

  1. About Yourself

    This question requires serious self-examination; you should be asking it yourself long before the interviewer does.

    Look back on everything you’ve done in your life, job, and career so far.

    • What was it about your best days that made them the best?
    • Can you take those feelings and apply them to specific moments from your life and past work experiences?
    • Are you ready for tough projects or for being asked to do something that isn’t quite on your job description, or for having to stay at work till late instead of another team member?
    • Will meeting deadlines, learning new things, finding a way to solve problems or overcoming a challenge inspire you and make you want even more?
    • What gives you a sense of accomplishment when you can look back on and say "I achieved that"?

    Look deep inside.

    Analyze your experience by types of tasks, by type of environment, type of feedback, level of responsibility and stakes? Do you prefer independence, or being part of a team?

    1. Task type: if you were given a whole day or even week at work to focus on just one of your tasks, without interruptions or multitasking, which one would that be? Why?
    2. Environment: do you feel motivated in a dynamic environment with lots of action, communications, deadlines? Or would you rather disconnect from the outside world and immerse into a single task, with your headphones on?
    3. Feedback: are you better motivated by positive feedback, or by healthy criticism? Or maybe by customers’ smiles and “Thank you” messages?
    4. Responsibility and stakes: are you motivated to do your best when you know that the stakes are high and your contribution will make a great impact on the bottom line? Or do you feel better in a more safe and relaxed environment when someone else is responsible for making big decisions?
    5. Financials: what is the salary range that makes you feel comfortable and respect yourself? Let’s be realistic, this is one (although definitely shouldn’t be the first) of the drivers.

    Be creative, this list is not exhaustive.

  2. About The Company

    Take a long look at the job you’re applying for.

    • What kinds of tasks will you be responsible for?
    • What will the environment be?
    • What do you know about the possible kinds of feedback you will be receiving?
    • What is the level of stakes in this role?
    • What do you know about the salary they can possibly offer?
  3. About The Fit

    How comfortable are you with the drivers the company can offer, comparing to those of your own? Pick those that have a match and give some examples.

    For instance, if you’re applying for a software engineer job, describe how you are motivated by solving complex technical challenges.

    If the job involves teamwork, give an example showing that you love collaborating and accomplishing big things as a part of a team.

    That is what drives you to do your best each day. You can say you enjoy meaningful work creating products that change people’s lives, if this is relevant to the company.

Pro Tip

Be enthusiastic. The more enthusiasm you have for what motivates you, the more enthusiasm the interviewer will have for you!

9. Walk me through your resume

How to answer

This question is often asked at the beginning of the interview.

The interviewer wants to hear a brief overview, a summary of your professional experience, in order to have a starting point from which they can dig deeper.

Structuring your answer wisely gives you a good chance to emphasize your Key Selling Points and to channel the conversation in the direction you want.

  1. About Yourself

    Print out your resume. For each of your recent job experiences (at this point do not go back more than 5 years), write down 3-5 key points at which you feel you are strong.

    For example, for your current (or previous) job, you may want to list skills like “Excellent presentation skills,” “Employee Engagement guru,” “Analytical skills,” “Attention to detail” (they don’t have to be all soft skills, but being aware of at least a few of your strong soft skills is important). Make sure you have examples for each of your statements.

    If you have difficulties to think of these points, search online for job descriptions for similar job roles, and figure out which of those keywords appeal to you. Look for people on LinkedIn that have jobs similar to the one you are applying for. Their profiles often contain many keywords that you can use in response to this question.

    Now that you’ve gone through all your recent experiences, are there any points that repeat more often than others, or are especially important to you? These are candidates to be your Key Selling Points -highlight 3-5 of them.

  2. About The Company

    Research the company and the role for which you're being interviewed. When researching the company, find out what skills and qualities they value the most. Carefully consider the job requirements. What is it that you will be responsible for?

    Now, write down 3-5 keywords from the job description that you find of utmost importance for this job role.

  3. About The Fit

    Try to establish the match between your own highlighted keywords, and those of the job description. These are your Key Selling Points! You should normally limit yourself by 3-5 such keywords or phrases.

    Now, craft a story based on your career history. You don’t have to go in chronological order - you can start with your current or last job experience, and then go back to your previous ones, or focus on just the experiences that are relevant to your story, and only briefly mention the less relevant ones and only if needed.

    Select one point to highlight for each phase of your career. Make sure you ingrain your Key Selling Points in the interviewer’s memory - after the interview is over, you want them to remember you as someone who is strong at XYZ, or experienced in A, B and C.

    It's okay to focus more on stellar achievements and brag a little bit about them.

Pro Tip

Don't bore the interviewer by going through your resume line-by-line.

Instead, WOW them by succinctly (keep it within 2 minutes) telling a story of how your career path has brought you to this point and how you are the best candidate for this role.

Super tip: The more you practice with Mr. Simon, the better you'll be at telling WOW-worthy succinct stories!

10. Tell me about a time when you failed to meet a deadline. What did you learn?

How to answer

The ability to meet deadlines is crucial in most roles.

However, nobody is perfect, and deadlines will be missed from time-to-time.

This is not a "loaded" or “gotcha” question, designed to catch you. It is a genuine question, asked by the interviewer who knows that there will be times when deadlines pass, and projects go sideways.

  • What they want to know is - how you reacted?
  • Are you someone who is able to turn a negative into a positive or a person who would allow yourself to be sidetracked by such a failure?
  1. About Yourself

    Here are some questions to ask yourself regarding missing and meeting deadlines.

    Knowing the answers to the following questions will help you formulate your answer to the overall deadline question.

    Use them to tell about a specific situation where you missed a deadline but were able to turn it into a positive.

    • Do you take personal responsibility for failing to meet a deadline? (Don’t attempt to put the blame on others, this should be about you)?
    • How well do you work under pressure?
    • What helps you to stay focused when faced with a major deadline?
    • How do you prioritize your tasks?
    • What will you do to keep missing a deadline from happening again in the future?
  2. About The Company

    When you research the company, try and find out what kind of challenges they are facing.

    • What responsibilities will you be tasked with?
    • Will there be a degree of pressure like hitting targets, meeting deadlines or managing multiple tasks at once?

    The job description may also be a good source for understanding what types of tasks might need to meet deadlines.

  3. About The Fit

    When answering a question relating to not meeting deadlines, it is important to look for a story that has a positive outcome regardless of the initial failure to meet a deadline.

    Use the STAR method to tell the story in which something fairly important didn’t go right due to your personal actions (or lack of actions).

    Emphasize that you took personal responsibility for the shortcoming and talk about what you did to improve the situation, how you were able to turn the situation into a positive and what you did to prevent it from happening again.

    Ensure the hiring manager that you learned your lesson and have practiced good work habits since that time.

Pro Tip

Here is an example of a possible answer to this tough interview question.

Last year I missed a project deadline for an important client because I underestimated the need for support staff on the project. Despite working overtime, I missed the deadline by three days. When I realized that the deadline was fast approaching, I called the client and apologized for the delay (as well as informing my boss). I took full responsibility for the inconvenience and provided a new timeline that I could meet. I met the second deadline that I promised the client, and they were impressed with my transparent and honest attitude throughout the process. Since then I have not failed to meet a deadline."

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This page has been updated on July 17, 2021.

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