Common computer science interview questions: What to expect

You're interviewing for tech jobs. What computer science interview questions should you prepare to answer?
Written by Genevieve Carlton, Contributor

Landing a computer science job requires preparation. Beyond earning your degree, searching for jobs, and submitting applications, the computer science hiring process usually involves several rounds of interviews. You'll face general questions, behavioral and situational questions, and technical questions. 

Fortunately, you can prepare for these questions in advance — but only if you know what to expect. Before your interview, you need to know the most common computer science interview questions. 

What to expect when interviewing for a computer science role

Professionals in all career stages must get through the interview process to land in-demand computer science jobs

But what should you expect during a tech interview? And what kinds of computer science interview questions will the interviewer ask?

Most technical jobs use a multi-round interview process. 

Companies often start with a phone interview to screen candidates. Then, candidates may complete a technical interview, which might include tests or tasks. The next round can include meetings with supervisors or team members. Senior leadership may also meet with candidates for certain roles. 

During these interviews, the hiring manager checks that candidates possess the needed technical and people skills. Candidates with strong computer science soft skills often stand out during behavioral and situational interviews. 

At the end of the hiring process, you'll negotiate on topics like computer science salary and benefits. But to make it to a job offer, you'll need to impress the company with your interview answers.

Technical questions to expect in a computer science interview

Technical questions test your knowledge of coding, operating systems, software, and other technical material. Interviewers ask these questions to gauge your knowledge of the field and your ability to communicate technical information.

Technical questions will vary depending on the job. Web developers will face more questions about front-end and back-end frameworks, while information security analysts will answer questions about cryptography and security methods. 

Many job candidates find the technical interview the most intimidating part of the process. Build your confidence by preparing answers to common questions and researching questions specific to your field and potential employer.

  • What's your strongest programming language?

  • How do you use GitHub at your current job?

  • What is a stream?

  • Can you explain the software development cycle?

  • Which JavaScript frameworks can you use?

  • What's the difference between a class and a superclass?

  • What's the difference between primary and secondary memory?

  • What is a constructor?

  • What is an interface?

  • What is an array?

  • What's the difference between C and C++?

  • What is inheritance?

  • Can you name and define access modifiers?

  • What is the application layer?

  • What is a singleton class?

  • Can you explain how CPUs function?

  • What is a data structure?

  • What is deep learning?

  • What is machine learning?

  • How would you define artificial intelligence?

  • What's the difference between compiled and interpreted code?

  • How would you define an algorithm?

  • What is a chipset?

  • How do firewalls work?

  • What are the most common encryption methods?

  • What's the difference between HTTP and HTTPS?

Behavioral and situational interview questions

Behavioral and situational questions assess how you handle different situations at work. These questions often start with "Tell me about a time when …" or "Describe a situation where …" 

Interviewers ask behavioral and situational interview questions to learn how you approach conflict, work with others, and solve complex tasks. 

During an interview, you might struggle to present focused, relevant answers to these open-ended questions. Before the interview, prepare a list of examples to draw from when answering behavioral and situational interview questions. 

For example, list your professional accomplishments. Describe times you learned from a mistake, solved a complex task, or worked well in a larger team. You can also list examples of you managing projects, taking on leadership roles, and thinking creatively. Draw from these stories during interviews.

These questions may come up at any phase of the interview process.

  • How would coworkers describe you? How would your supervisor describe you?

  • Think about a time you achieved a goal. What steps did you take to accomplish your goal?

  • Give me an example of a time you made a mistake at work. How did you address the mistake?

  • Tell me about a time you took on a leadership role on a team. What did you learn from the experience?

  • Describe a situation where you resolved a technical problem.

  • Tell me about a time when you solved a complex task. What steps did you take?

  • Describe a situation where you disagreed with someone on your team.

  • Tell me about a project that failed. What did you do next?

  • Give me an example of when you solved a problem with an unusual approach.

  • Think about a time you gave bad news to your supervisor. How did you approach the situation?

General interview questions

Many tech interviews start with general interview questions — and they come up throughout the interview process, too. 

Make sure you have solid answers to open-ended questions like "Tell me about yourself." Practice describing your background, qualifications, and prior experience. 

Use your answers to these questions to show interest in the company and the position. Tie your answers back to the job description. Finally, express enthusiasm through your answers.

  • Tell me about yourself.

  • What is one of your most significant accomplishments?

  • What's your background in this field?

  • What programming languages do you prefer to work in?

  • What's one of your greatest strengths?

  • What's one of your greatest weaknesses?

  • What are some of your short-term and long-term professional goals?

  • Where would you like to be professionally in five years?

  • Why are you interested in this position?

  • Why should we hire you for this role?

In conclusion

Whether you're up for your first tech job or you're an experienced worker, the interview process might make you nervous. 

Researching computer science interview questions and preparing answers will boost your confidence and help you get to the next interview stage. Knowing what questions to expect might even land you a job offer. 

This article was reviewed by Brian Nichols

A head-and-shoulders photo of a bearded white man in a grey suit with a blue tie.

Born and raised in upstate New York, Brian Nichols began his IT education through a vocational high school where he focused on computer science, IT fundamentals, and networking. Brian then went to his local community college and received his associate of science in computer information science. He then received his bachelor of science in applied networking and system administration from a private college. Brian now lives in Kansas City and works full-time as a DevOps engineer. Brian is also a part-time instructor in cybersecurity. He's passionate about cybersecurity and helping students succeed. 

Brian Nichols is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education freelance review network. 

Editorial standards