How to answer - Why do you want to be a software engineer?

As a software developer the best way to answer “Why do you want to be a software engineer?” is to be personal, genuine, mention specifics, and most important show some passion. Show the company that you are a developer who loves your job and is keen to learn.

Even though answering why you want to be a developer can seem daunting, the benefit is that the answer can be personal. Everyone has their motivations for joining the industry so in a sense there isn’t a right or wrong answer. However, there are certain things you want to mention and better ways to answer the question than others.

Let’s take a look at the best ways to answer the question “Why do you want to be a software engineer”. We’ll first explore some general tips, then understand why companies ask it, and then give some example answers.

Why do companies ask this question?

a woman writing on a whiteboard

Tech companies ask candidates why they want to be software developers because they want to know:

  • Your motivations for being in the industry
  • How passionate you are
  • Your long-term aspirations
  • The type of developer you are
  • Whether you will fit in at the company

Typically you will be asked why you want to be a software engineer in most junior roles, or if you have recently switched careers. It isn’t something that is usually asked of developers with a decade of experience.

It is asked to gauge how interested you are in the industry and the job as a whole. Companies want to see that they can invest time and money in helping you improve and that in return you will be competent and passionate. Think of it as a long-term gamble from the company and they want to make sure you have the motivation to make it pay off.

Tech companies also want to understand whether you will fit in with their company culture. Not everyone is a good fit at every company. That is why it is so important, to be honest. There isn’t a right or wrong answer per se because everyone is looking for something slightly different.

The most important thing when answering this question is to show passion and interest. Show that you are interested in the industry and have a burning desire to learn and improve your skills.

While the salary and package may be a motivator for you, now isn’t the time to bring it up as your primary reason for wanting to be a software engineer. The answer needs to be considerably deeper than that, reflect your motivations as a developer and show what type of person you are.

At the end of the interview, you can also use the answer to ‘Why do you want to be a software engineer?” to ask them questions. Make sure that their company culture and work practices are something you want to be a part of. After all, if you love the latest tech and want to be a front-end developer, there is no point going for a company that uses a legacy tech stack and wants you to focus on a full-stack role.

Tips for answering “Why do you want to be a software engineer”

Unlike a lot of questions in software developer interviews, discussing the reasons why you want to be a software engineer usually isn’t overly technical. Displaying a good level of passion when talking about your motivations can even help overcome some of your technical shortcomings. Businesses want to work with people who they see are motivated and looking to develop, so it's important to demonstrate this.

The best tips for answering, why you want to be a software developer, include:

  1. Be specific
  2. Be personal
  3. Be passionate

Be specific

There are plenty of reasons why you want to be a software engineer but it is best to be specific in your answer. Before the interview, pick one or maybe two things to give a deep dive into why they are the reasons you want to join the industry.

Try to pick things that are beyond the surface level benefits like salary and bonus. Opt for longer-term ambitions and discuss what you enjoy about software development. Avoid just rattling off endless positives about the role.

Be personal

As a junior developer, you won’t have much experience so you have to leverage other things to catch the eye of potential employers. Giving a personal and well throughout response as to why you want to be a software engineer will help with this.

Discuss how you got interested in the field, what your favorite language is, and give background on when you first started studying, as well as the personal projects you do in your spare time. Remember there may be a lot of people applying for the job so giving a personalized response and showing you have a real interest in working for the company is positive.

Do your research beforehand and try to link the company into your response too.

Be passionate

What you lack in experience you can make up for in passion. Interviews are a good chance to show off your passion for software development and even the company you are applying for. Businesses want to know they can invest time and effort into making you a better developer so let them know how passionate you are by discussing the various languages you like and the projects you have used them in.

Your passion can come across as a major strength in an interview.

Reasons to choose software engineering

The key to successfully answering why you want to be a software engineer is having a deep understanding of your motivations. Everyone has their reasons for becoming a developer. If you are struggling to think of why you’d want to be a coder, we have provided some example reasons which include:

1. High demand for skilled software engineers

As technology continues to advance and play a larger role in everyday life, the demand for skilled software engineers continues to grow. This means that there are plenty of job opportunities available for those with the right skills and training.

2. Good salary and benefits:

Software engineering is often a well-paying career, with many engineers earning six-figure salaries. In addition, many companies offer generous benefits packages to their employees, including health insurance, retirement plans, and opportunities for professional development.

3. The ability to solve complex problems

Software engineering involves designing, developing, and maintaining complex computer systems. This means that software engineers are constantly challenged to think creatively and solve complex problems.

4. The opportunity to work on cutting-edge technology

Software engineers often work on the latest and greatest technology, meaning they are at the forefront of innovation and progress. This can be incredibly exciting and rewarding for those who are interested in staying on the cutting edge of technology.

5. The potential to make a positive impact

As software engineers develop and maintain complex systems, they have the opportunity to make a positive impact on society. For example, software engineers may work on applications that help people stay healthy, make financial decisions, or connect with others.

Example answers to the question: Why do you want to be a software engineer?

The point of this question is to show employers you are a determined and passionate developer who has a lot of interest in the tech but has yet to gain the experience to go with it. Let’s take a look at some sample answers to questions about your motivations for joining the tech industry and different options for various approaches.

Switching careers:

After working for a long time in a job I wasn’t passionate about, I spoke with a friend who was a software engineer and realized it was time for me to change careers. I have always been interested in solving problems and enjoy keeping up to date with the latest technologies.Once I learned my first programming language and was able to put together simple programs I became hooked, the world was my oyster. After building a portfolio of projects I now want to put my skills to the test in a bigger organization where I can solve more in-depth problems and take on some responsibility.

Making a difference:

I have wanted to be a software engineer for as long as I can remember. I studied programming at school and even spent summers doing coding camps. The ability to make a difference by building programs that help people has always drawn me to technology.At school, I started building things to make studying easier, but soon this grew to build software to help with household chores, and then a website for our local church. Landing a job as a software engineer means I can continue to make a difference and help those around me buy life easier.”

Continuous learning:

I’ve always been someone who enjoys learning. At school, I would take on more after-school clubs and societies than I could handle, but I enjoyed the challenge. One of the beauties of software engineering is the need to be continuously learning and keeping up with industry trends. It means I get to sharpen my skills daily and move into new areas as technology emerges.For my projects, I've learned a wide breadth of languages and information so it would be good to deepen that knowledge by working on real-life problems at your company.

What is interesting about software engineering?

Software engineering is far from boring. It balances a fine line between technology and creativity but allows you to make cool stuff. In case you aren’t sure about the job as a whole we have compiled some reasons why software engineering is interesting, these include:

  1. The challenge of solving complex problems through creative and logical thinking.
  2. The opportunity to work on cutting-edge technology and constantly learn new skills.
  3. The satisfaction of seeing a project come to life and making a positive impact on users.
  4. The potential for a high salary and job security in a rapidly growing industry.
  5. The ability to work on a variety of projects and industries.
  6. The potential for collaboration and teamwork with other skilled professionals.
  7. The potential for personal and professional growth and advancement.

Remember as well as the more generic things that are interesting about the industry, you also need to personalize them and make the interviewer understand why you want to be a software engineer.