Top 9 Computer Science Job Interview Questions
After completing numerous classes and countless programming assignments, you’ve finally reached the finish line for your computer science degree. Computer science (Comp Sci) is a difficult major, and after graduating you will likely feel very confident in the subject—but what happens next?
Job applications and then ... interviews.
Interviews can be stressful, and questions on your programming knowledge can make the interview process even more complicated. Fortunately, there are simple ways to prepare for your next interview as a computer science major. Whether you’re applying for an internship or a full-time job, here are the top 9 computer science interview questions you should know and be ready for.
As with any job interview, computer science majors should prepare to answer a few personal questions in addition to technical questions. Employers want a full picture of their candidates before extending an offer, and preparing answers to these questions will help them get just that:
1. Tell me about yourself – While this isn’t necessarily a question, it’s often the first ice-breaker in any interview. It’s important to prepare a short introduction to avoid any awkward pauses. Talk about your college career, any previous work experience, and the aspects of computer science that you enjoy most.
2. What are your strengths and weaknesses? – When an interviewer inquires about your strengths and weaknesses, you’ll want to be honest but prepared. Think about your previous accomplishments and struggles within the field, and try to back up your answers with real-life examples. Another way to look at your weaknesses is as growth opportunities, so make sure to tell your interviewer that you are up for a challenge and willing to learn and grow.
3. What is your five-year plan? – Potential employers want to know how this position fits into your career goals. Explain where you’d like to see yourself in the next few years, and always make sure to tie in the job you’re applying for as well as potential growth areas within the company.
Interview Tip – The person conducting your interview shouldn’t be the only one asking questions. Make sure to research the company and use LinkedIn to find some basic information about the person interviewing you. It’s a good idea to have a few questions lined up to show how interested you are.
However, it’s important to resist your inner detective and say no to conducting a deep social media dive on your interviewer. Stick to professional accomplishments and milestones, and you’ll do fine.
Once the small talk is out of the way, the real technical interview questions begin. For a computer science position, employers want to make sure you actually know what you’re talking about. Any candidate can list programming software on their resume, but those who can back up these claims with functional knowledge are more likely to get the job.
4. What is a file? – Most people are familiar with files, but a computer science major should be able to provide the technical definition. Make sure to mention that a file is a named location that stores data. You may also want to specify that files have primary and secondary names.
5. What is a programming language, and do you have a favorite one? – This is a common programming question, so brushing up on programming languages will be crucial when preparing for an interview. Explain that a programming language is a set of rules that instructs a computer to complete a task. When choosing your favorite, answer honestly and be prepared for follow-up questions.
6. What are objects and classes? – Objects and classes go hand-in-hand, so an interviewer may ask about them in the same interview question. Be sure to understand that a class is the blueprint for an object, and an object is the instance of a class.
7. Explain the difference between C and C++ – This is another common programming question. These two programming languages are commonly used in the computer science field. You’ll want to know the basic difference between the two: C++ is object-based and C is structure-based.
Interview Tip – Answering these common interview questions on a test can be easier than explaining them in person. In an interview, how you answer an interview question can be as important as the answer itself. Answer these questions with confidence to make a good impression on your interviewer. Before your interview, do some practice mock interviews with a friend by having them ask you these questions. Be sure to take your time, take pauses instead of using vocal filler like “uh” and “um,” and maintain eye contact with your interviewer.
Once you’ve shown an interviewer who you are and what you know, it’s time to explain what you’d bring to the position. Making a case for yourself as an employee will prove that you’re a perfect candidate for the job. Be sure to prepare answers to these employment-related questions:
8. Describe a time you creatively solved a problem – Programming can be riddled with problems. Even the smallest error may result in hours of extra work, and most computer science majors probably have a story that proves this. Before your programming interview, prepare an anecdote about a programming problem that you were able to solve in your previous work or school experience.
9. Why should we hire you? – This is typically the final question in any job interview, and there’s a reason why. Employers want to see your confidence and ensure that you truly feel equipped to handle the job. Highlight your programming strengths, relevant experience, why you would flourish at that specific company, and any benefits you can bring to a work environment.
Interview Tip – If you have previous work or internship experience, it never hurts to ask for a letter of recommendation from your previous supervisor or employer. If this isn’t possible, a list of references from prior employers can also help your chances of getting hired.
Bring Your Programming Skills into the Real World
Even experienced programmers need interview skills, too. The right balance of technical knowledge and personal confidence will be crucial to landing the computer science position you want.
If you’ve earned your degree in Comp Sci, there’s a good chance you know what you’re talking about. Just make sure to prepare your answers, study the material, and don’t be afraid to smile. Programming is your passion, now prove it in your interview!
If you think computer science could be for you, consider North Central College. Through North Central’s bachelor’s degree program in computer science, you’ll gain a strong theoretical foundation, learn the most widely used technical skills and languages, and find out about opportunities outside the classroom, such as internships and student research projects.
North Central understands that computer science isn't just about building programs for computers, it's about building systems for people. The North Central computer science curriculum helps develop skills employers consistently mention as highly valued but are often absent from the computer science major- communication skills. If you’re interested in learning more, visit the computer science degree web page for more information.
If you are looking for additional information regarding the average computer science salary, what’s different about computer science vs. computer engineering, or finding the answer to the question, “Is computer science hard?”, click the links provided.
Jacob Imm is a communications specialist in the North Central College Office of Marketing and Communications. He has 10 years of collegiate communications experience and has worked with hundreds of college students. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame and a master’s degree from Northern Illinois University.