20 Non-Technical Interview Questions for Software Developers

Even though getting the technical aspects right during an IT interview is mandatory, more and more employers also focus on your attitude, behavior, and problem-solving skills. All these are very easy to assess when stumped with a difficult or weird question. Therefore, we have gathered the most common non-technical interview questions for software developers that might come up during your programming interview. We also prepared some short and in-depth answers for these questions that generally address common sayings in office environments, and plenty of resources!

1. What Does Shameless Plug Mean?

This non-technical IT interview question might stumble some interviewees but it’s actually quite simple. Advertisements are also referred to as plugs, therefore the shameless plug saying mostly refers to blatant efforts of advertising a product, service, or person. The term should make you think of situations in which advertising would be inappropriate or when it is done shamelessly.

For synonyms, examples of shameless plugs, and sentences containing this saying, make sure to check out our article on the meaning of the shameless plug saying.

2. What Does Cake Eater Mean?

The cake eater saying is one of the most confusing non-technical interview questions for software developers even if you’ve heard the saying before.

The generally accepted meaning of the saying cake eater is that of a rich person, usually young, that has no real accomplishments and relies on family wealth and status instead of on knowledge, personal drive, and other mental and physical attributes. However, some harsher definitions also imply the cake eater is an effeminate individual that rejoices in life’s simple pleasures and leads an unproductive life.

The military and Navy also have their own definitions of cake eaters and they couldn’t be more different from the generally accepted definition. See these meanings, plus the origins of the saying and how to use it in a sentence in our article on the meaning of cake eater.

3. What Does Low Life Mean?

The term low life is also spelled low-life or lowlife (lowlifes or lowlives in plural forms) and refers to a person with low social status and/or morals and who is not accepted by their community. Most often, the term low life also implies the targeted person is not reliable, despicable, and is suspected or convicted or criminal activity.

The expression first came together around 1847 and makes for one of the most challenging non-technical interview questions for software developers. To see its origins, synonyms, and how to use it in a sentence, check out our article on what does low life mean.

4. What Does See Eye to Eye Mean?

To see eye to eye with someone on a certain matter means to agree with someone, strike a bargain on a product or service, to concur. It’s mostly used when reaching an agreement after a (long) discussion or fight. Surprisingly, the expression dates back to ancient times and is even mentioned in the Bible. To see the Bible quote, its synonyms and similar expressions, and how to use it in a sentence, check out our comprehensive analysis of this idiom.

5. What Does Putting Lipstick on a Pig Mean?

One of the newest idioms and sayings on this list, putting lipstick on a pig became very popular after being used by Obama in a speech during a 2008 event. The saying refers to the futility of making cosmetic or otherwise shallow alterations to mask the faulty essence of a product, service, or person.

See the detailed origins of this saying and how to use it in a sentence in our article on putting lipstick on a pig!

6. What Does at My Wits’ End Mean?

The at my wits’ end saying refers to the upper limit of someone’s abilities to handle a certain task, situation, or emotion. It’s generally associated with confusion, irritation, worry, and distress, and also comes from the Bible. Originally, the saying was used to refer to an individual relying on faith when they cannot understand the reasoning behind a request or action. For examples on how to use it in a sentence and a deeper look into its origins, see our article on what does at my wits’ end mean.

7. What Does Per Annum Mean?

One of the most straight-forward non-technical interview questions for software developers, per annum means per year, annually, or yearly. This saying dates back to the 4th-5th centuries and is mostly used in official documents and discussions. To see how to use it in a sentence and get a better idea of its origins, make sure you check out our article on what does per annum mean.

8. What Does Touch Base with You Mean?

To touch base with someone means to contact, get in touch with someone – usually referring to a short discussion about a specific topic. This saying comes from baseball where, to score a run, players have to touch all the four bases on the playing field.

See how to use this saying in a sentence in our article about the touch base with you saying, or check out more non-technical interview questions for software developers below:

9. What Does the Elephant in the Room Mean?

The elephant in the room refers to a situation, topic, or person everyone is aware of, but nobody addresses or challenges because it is uncomfortable, difficult, or sensitive. The saying became popular in Russia in 1814 when it was used by a Russian poet and fabulist in one of his writings and was even mentioned by Dostoevsky in the Demons novel. However, it’s believed it dates back even further – check out our complete guide to the elephant in the room saying for more info!

10. What Does to Run a Tight Ship Mean?

This saying refers to having firm control over a company, a department, and/or employees. It generally suggests discipline, professionalism, and dedication are required of an employee. At its best, running a tight ship means productivity, efficiency, and growth; at its worst, it can mean micromanagement that can become unproductive. To find out more about this saying, check out our article on the running a tight ship saying, its origins, and how to use it in a sentence.

11. What Does Wearing Your Heart on Your Sleeve Mean?

To wear your heart on your sleeve means to be honest and transparent about your feelings and opinions on a certain matter; to be authentic and vulnerable. It’s one of the many sayings that was brought together by Shakespeare in the iconic Othello and one of the many non-technical interview questions for software developers that address the English language.

To see how to use this saying in a sentence, check out our page on the wearing your heart on your sleeve saying.

12. What Does Just a Heads Up Mean?

The just a heads up saying is a warning that a dangerous, uncomfortable, or unforeseen event will unravel. Just like touching base with you, the heads up saying also comes from sports, where it’s usually yelled out when throwing a ball or seeing one being thrown. However, it’s also used in office environments or casual talks.

To see its synonyms and how to use it in a sentence as naturally as possible, check out our article on what just heads up means.

13. What’s the Meaning of Lip Service?

Lip service refers to an insincere compliment or promise that has no real basis and will never be put into practice. The saying is believed to have originated in the 1600s but, like others on this list of non-technical interview questions for software developers, it might be based on a bible verse. See more about this saying in our article about the meaning of lip service.

14. What Does Pushing the Envelope Mean?

Pushing the envelope refers to testing and exceeding current limits and was made popular by a book about the space program in 1979. The flight envelope refers to all probable conditions of symmetrical maneuvering flight which enable a pilot to maneuver the plane safely and effectively.

To find out more about the origins of this saying and how to use it in a sentence, check out our article on the meaning of pushing the envelope.

15. What Does Put on the Back Burner Mean?

To put a matter on the back burner means to postpone or not give too much importance to a task or a discussion since it’s not a priority – just like a pot that doesn’t require constant supervision, so you put it on the back burner!

Learn how to use this saying in a sentence and what you can replace it with in our article on the meaning of putting something on the back burner.

16. What Does Having a Chip on Shoulder Mean?

To have a chip on shoulder about something means to be sensitive about a matter, become defensive when it comes up, or hold a grudge. The saying comes from ancient times, when ship builders abused their right to take leftover wood home from the Royal Navy Dockyards. It’s one of the most difficult non-technical interview questions for software developers you could come across – check out the full explanation of the chip on shoulder saying.

17. What Does Tip of the Iceberg Mean?

The saying tip of the iceberg refers to an event or fact that is part of a bigger and, sometimes, darker one and was first used in 1969. It’s believed the saying was inspired by the sinking of the Titanic, but it also makes sense generally as, on average, only 9% of an iceberg is above the water. Another idiom that has more or less the same meaning is “doesn’t even scratch the surface”. For more synonyms and how to use this saying in a sentence, see our full article on the tip of the iceberg saying.

18. What Does Let’s Play it by Ear Mean?

The let’s play it by ear saying refers to not making definitive plans for the near or far future, improvising as you go along. This saying comes from the music industry where artists sometimes play or sing a tune without following the sheet, or simply reproducing the notes they already heard (by ear). It’s often used in office or casual settings when it comes to giving a definitive answer, making a decision, or a plan.

To find out more about the let’s play it by ear saying and see our examples of using it in a sentence, check out our article on the let’s play it by ear saying.

19. What Does Thrown Under the Bus Mean?

To throw someone under the bus means to betray or sacrifice them for your or someone else’s benefit. It’s generally used to refer to events that ended a positive relationship, be it a personal or professional one. The saying is quite new and only dates back to 1982 when it was mentioned in The Times.

To see who the article was talking about, make sure you check out our article on the thrown under the bus saying.

20. What Does Robbing Peter to Pay Paul Mean?

To rob Peter to pay Paul means to means to take money or resources from one side to provide for another, or to solving a debt by incurring another one. It’s believed it came up before the Reformation of the Roman Catholic Church; Saint Peter and Saint Paul are actually names of churches that existed in that time period, but it looks like the saying might have already been around.

To get all the info on this saying, make sure you check out our article on robbing Peter to pay Paul!

Conclusion

These non-technical interview questions address sayings that are bound to come up in an office setting. Make sure you also check out the complete collection of non-technical interview questions for software developers!

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