Do I Want To Work In This Company, or What Questions To Ask On An Interview

Elena on November 08, 2017

I've beenΓ‚ on both sides of interviewing for a while now. As a candidate - for 9 years, and as an interviewer - for 90 interviews. (What a beautifu... [Read Full]
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Saved into my "Questions for Interview" board.
Will try to use the list soon :)
Thank you for the article.

 

Same here! These questions are really good! I wish I had asked some of these in my current Role. πŸ˜…

 

These are awesome questions. I've used similar ones for years. They completely change my ability to choose better and better employers and assess what I'm about to commit to.

A question I specifically ask my future managers:

"Tell me about what you do leading up to taking vacation"

I get them to tell me the steps they take before they feel they can leave their teams for a while. I'm paying attention to a few things. Do they take vacations or is there too much to do? How many things to they need to arrange/fix/organize for their teams before they leave? When they leave do they actually leave or are they still calling and emailing?

I'll have a pretty good idea if this manager is someone who can truly trust their teams and delegate well or are they trapped feeling like they have to control everything.

I also ask everyone, "If you had authority, what one thing you would change here?" I wanna hear about the less glamorous side of things too.

 

I like the vacation question, great indirect approach! Thank you for sharing.

 

coming from someone with a similar level of experience as you mention with interviews... i find this super helpful, lots of food for thought

thanks for sharing : )

young me would have learned so much from reading this

 

Bookmarked this. Will come in very handy for my next interview. Pretty interesting list of questions here.

Thanks.

 

Awesome. I'll definitely add a lot of these to my own list. (And to everyone else reading, don't miss the implicit message here: go into every interview with a written list of questions (or at least keywords that will cue your memory) and take notes on the answers!)

 

Really good list of questions which you can ask the interviewer.

I generally don't ask any questions after the interview, but after reading this article, I may pitch few from your list.

 

I think you should! Otherwise, how would you know if it is a good place, right? :)

 

Nicely written Elena!!!

Well, I have a doubt. I literally feel embarrassed during question asking period at the end in case it didn't go well. How do I continue from there?

I mean does it make sense to ask the same questions? :P

 

Hi Pratik,
Hmm. I don't think you always know for sure they are going to wrap up with you. It might be just your nerves talking. I'd still ask questions. It doesn't hurt, right?

 

No, it doesn't, I mean it does. :D
Thanks for replying though.

Apologies for moving out of context but I think you can help me find the answer to following query.

I'm holding offer worth 100% hike on current compensation but looking for more.

How do I answer this question during HR Discussion,
"Why do you ask for more when you're already getting more?"

How do I convience em for more?

Hi Pratik,
Wow, congratulations! That already sounds impressive.
I don't think I'm so good at negotiating, unfortunately (for me). But I can recommend you these great articles:
kalzumeus.com/2012/01/23/salary-ne...
haseebq.com/my-ten-rules-for-negot...
Good luck!

Thanks for sharing links Elena!! Solved my queries from the Authors.. :D

Happy to help. I hope you succeeded with your negotiations :)

Process is in progress to achieve target of 150% #seemsDifficult :D

 

One of my favorites is, "What gets rewarded here?" I have learned some interesting things about companies when I ask this, because they can hand you their mission and values statement, and talk about their culture, but often what earns people raises and promotions in a company is a great proxy for the true culture and values.

 

Interesting one. Do you think it is often different - the written values and what gets rewarded?

 

Often! I actually got this question out of an article in some Harvard Business Review or similar publication. If I remember right, it's from a consultant who often asks companies if their values and their habits/practices align, and they say they do. Then the next question is let's make a list of what the values are--more in terms of what are the kinds of people you consider "Uber people" or "Google people" or whatever company it is--and they put that on a big whiteboard. Then they go to an empty whiteboard and write a list of what actually gets rewarded. The article said the difference between the two boards often triggers an "aha!" moment and the company realigns what gets rewarded with what they want their values to be.

I see, very interesting, thank you.

Do you think they will display such a misalignment on an interview though? It seems to me when it is an exercise to understand their values better, they would be more honest than on an interview, what do you think?

My experience has been that when you ask people on an interview it is such an unexpected question they are pretty honest. Either that, or you can sense the spin in what they're saying.

 

I am sorry, but while I concur with most of the assessments and thoughts here, I fear that the attention to diversity is once again overblown in what I see as one of the leading paranoias in tech right now.

The focus should be on hiring good people, not on flagging checkbox on minorities for the sake of it, lowering the bar for some candidates.

Implementing more neutral interviews might indeed be a better way, at least up to the last step, but assuming that if a company has no diversity program, then it has a toxic environment, it is a bit too much.

I worked in a few places in which the vast majority of the coworkers and the management where not anglo-saxon (or white, etc), absolutely no policy or explicit concern for "diversity" and guess what?

We were just fine, with people of any gender, religion, ethnic group or sexual orientation working and living happily (or, in a few cases, dealing with some unrelated conflicts, but nothing major). And everybody was hired for just one criterium: being good at what needed to be done.

Sorry if I sound too harsh above, but I cannot accept to see labeled as "toxic" places or companies like the one in which I worked in, just because they do not conform to a leading obsession in the industry.

[And before the flak starts for me being just a "white male", consider both that I discussed these issues with several non white or non male colleagues who were in absolute agreement with the necessity to not lower the bar to minorities (it would vilify or belittle their own achievements) and that I am an Italian national (that did not help necessarily much in getting hired and it was also a source of jokes and stereotypes in other places)]

 

I never said "lower the bar", nor "toxic" in application to diversity. I simply said "how diverse it is".

Talking about the bar shows you automatically think minorities are somehow "worse".
The criteria of "being good" can be twisted (consciously or unconsciously) to hire only team members who think and behave exactly like the manager, resulting in much less diverse team. In this case, removing some unnecessary criteria may feel like lowering a bar (i.e., overworking is a must, drinking beer after work every day, graduating from a specific university, having a github, etc). But I don't think it says anything about professional qualities at all.
The bar for minorities is often higher, not lower, than for majorities. If you have a colleague who thinks you were hired only because you're a minority, it's not fair, doesn't create a safe environment, and is, indeed, toxic.

I'm sorry you don't feel it is a valid and valuable question. But this is my list of questions, and it is important for me, and in my opinion this question can and will be useful to other people as well, that's why I feel neccessary to include it.

I strongly encourage you to think why this "paranoia" is happening.
Just a moment ago I read this tweet about how a manager regrets not creating an inclusive culture:
twitter.com/dizzyd/status/93022307...

 

Sorry, but I never said and much less meant that minorities are worse (I consider myself a minority as well, anyway), but having diversity programs means in almost 100% cases giving "diverse" (for what it can mean) candidates more chances.

You said, literally:

if they are a big company and don't care about diversity or solving conflicts between people, you can assume there is quite a toxic atmosphere.

And I objected that I worked in a place where they were not caring for diversity at all (no programs, no rules, no staff dedicated to that), but it was in no way toxic. To be fair we were also having regardless of any attention a lot of team members from any gender, sexual orientation, ethnic group, religion (AFAIK, I don't discuss it much), etc.

I could also state the other way around (being in a context with A LOT of nominal stress on diversity, yet still quite toxic), but that is beyond the point.

Having quotas is lowering the bar, having quotas means allowing people to think you are there because you are a member of some minorities.

I never claimed that you should change your mind, so I see no point in stating that it is your list of questions: of course it is, I just stated my mind and why I was disagreeing.

The paranoia is happening because of a strong emphasis on political correctness that a lot of people develop to cope with their guilt from having a privilege (real or just perceived); the tweet is just based on one's perception/assessment of reality, not a scientific research (which usually destroys a lot of claims, like the wage gap myth or the fact that woman are discriminated in IT hiring: blog.interviewing.io/we-built-voic... ).

Not saying there are no issues at all, but the popular consensus is not necessarily the voice of truth.

Hi Giacomo,
I said there can be toxic culture in a bigger company. If there are 3 people, chances are they haven't even hired anyone yet, and it's formed around a group of friends. If a bigger company, deliberately or not, excludes people who are not like the ones already working in it, it sounds wrong to me.
However, sorry, but I prefer to end this discussion now. I could cite other research as well, but I'm not interested in arguing with you on any topic, including whether there is a gender salary gap or not, or who has what privileges. I'm sorry you feel like a minority, and I hope you will pick jobs and companies you think are good for you - that's the whole point of this article.
Have a good day!

Actually you said one can assume that there is a toxic culture, which is not the same, as you are conveying the idea that any assumption in this regard is legit.

I was discussing of a company numbering in the thousands, my team alone was several tens of people. But it was not an anglo-saxon or even European company, so this irrefutable urge to be "diverse" was not felt at all.

I don't think they (or rather: "we", as I was doing interviews as well) were excluding anyone, and I am rather confident we were not even considering "similarity", but focusing on other criteria, as I didn't approve or recommend for hiring anyone of my same ancestry, age or education (same gender, yeah, as we didn't get even 5% female applicants, but definitely not because of the company or lack of incentives).

I don't see why you should not want to prove your points, honestly, nor I see how one can still buy into the cherry-picked stats about the wage gap in western countries in 2017, but ok.

Just don't feel sorry for me being a minority: I am pretty confident you can direct your thoughts and emotions to some better use, also considering that - then again - I am not anglo-saxon and I am completely fine being a minority. To be fair, I don't even see how I should be concerned with it [it would actually concern me more the desire of removing any difference and blend all mankind in some homogeneous molasses], save for the very minor annoyance of a few stereotypes on Italians (laziness, incompetence, etc) I might encounter.

Cheers

Where are all these places with quotas? I’m applying!

By the look of it, you don't seem to need them, but in case, you will find plenty of companies trying to flag a few more checkboxes and giving preferential tracks to minorities

That’s a generous assumption. I’ll take what I can get 🀣

 

Great list, but it's worth remembering that there are some organisations you might personally want to work at, whether that's for money, a great resume, experience, location or some other factor, where asking questions like this could get you marked as a troublemaker and result in you not receiving an offer.
That's not to say you can't work on the worst issues when you start, but sometimes you have to choose your words carefully.

 

It's your choice!

Personally, I wouldn't want to work in a company that labels me as a troublemaker for trying to understand if I like working with them - interviewing is a mutual process, it's not just them walking around the local market and picking the best pumpkin πŸŽƒ. And I probably wouldn't feel comfortable working there.

Then, many of these questions don't have the right or wrong answer - they will help you understand the company better and pick one being informed and prepared.

Maybe you'll have to make compromises, but at least you know what you are doing.

Finally, I think that it depends on the position you will work on. Maybe if they're hiring the first technical person ever for the CTO position, it's possible they don't have a plan for you - you'll have to do everything yourself :). (I've never done that, just guessing here.)

 
 

This is amazing 😍!! I'm actually building a simple tool (for Product Hunt's hackathon) to help people ask better questions during job interviews. It's validating to see that you take a similar approach and ask similar questions that tease apart what we really want to get at.

Thanks for sharing this, and hopefully I can show you what I've built pretty soon!

 

Nice, would be very interesting to take a look at such a tool! Sounds very cool :)

 

Wow, very very delayed, but I present to you: Culture Queries!

Would love feedback if you have any 😊

Oh, I didn't realize you are the creator of keyvalues.com! I tried it as soon as you launched it. I wish you expanded in Europe:).

Tried the Culture Queries now. Awesome work!! Brilliant idea to have a tool, and I think it fits your product very well. Don't know if you already do that, but at least theoretically, you could offer advice on these questions to companies who sign up and post job openings. "3 companies like you are good for families", "see what developers look for in your area", "how to make your team more attractive", etc.

Again, congratulations on having such a nice product!

I'm trying very hard to add teams based in Europe! I have a few now, but I'm sure it'll take some time. If you know of any, by all means, send them my way.

That's an interesting take. I've been focusing on serving job seekers and engineers, but there are certainly many features to help employers on the other side. That being said, I'm pretty cautious about encouraging people (on either side of the equation) to say things that they they think other people want to hear. If anything, I'm trying to cut the fluff and marketing copy.

Of course, the ideal scenario is that companies actually go through the work of adjusting their policies / traditions / hiring practices to be better for their employees.

Anyway, thank you very much!!! And I'll do my best to up the European profiles πŸ‘πŸΌ

Thank you for your reply, Lynne!
If I hear from someone in here, I will send them to you for sure.

Hmm. You are right: in many cases they will say what candidates want to hear. I kind of assumed they might just forget to add their values; but indeed, some of them can and will start telling people lies. On the other hand, if they want to deceive, they probably do it already.

Maybe an idea would be to offer companies some coaching services?.. But maybe it goes a bit too far then.

Anyway, best of luck with your great idea! I subscribed to you on twitter, will be watching you growing your business.

 

Thank you for sharing your questions, and especially your explanations to them. They are really insightful and will definitely help me for my next job interviews.

I've actually started a list of interview questions for software developers on Github.

It is a new project, and I hope that, with the help of the community, it will, one day, become a comprehensive list, to help developers find the jobs they want.

With you permission, I'd very much like to include your questions too.
I've already done it locally, but will wait to push it to Github until you say its ok.

Thanks again for that awesome article!

 

Hi Dominik,
Nice! In this article I tried to create such a comprehensive list as well. Nice to see many people thinking about the best questions helping to pick the best jobs.
I'd be happy if you tagged me somewhere there. A link to this article will do, for example.
Thank you!

 

Awesome, thanks! :)

I've created a section "Contributions", where I linked to your Twitter profile and this article.

 

You have amazing insights into what you ask from others! Thank you for sharing them. Another source that I have for questions that ask and may add to your list is from Julia Evans (aka @b0rk)! She has also published a lovely list of questions and I hope you and others find a use for it too.

 

That's an awesome list by Julia. Thank you so much for sharing.

 

Very useful list.

I think maybe another worthwhile one, perhaps as an add-on to questions about how they fix bugs & code reviews, is to ask about software security - e.g., are there any secure coding practices that the company follows.

 

Great advice! Of course, many questions about the craftsmanship may be added.

 

Some people might feel awkward or afraid to ask these questions, and they really shouldn't. Interviewing isn't just about trying to impress them so they'll let you work there, it should also be about finding out if you want to work there. Why should you accept an offer from them? You already know you're a pretty good fit for the job, otherwise you wouldn't have applied, right?

The question I ask in every interview is "What's the average lunch like here?" -- this can be telling since eating together builds relationships, and teams going to lunch as a group can be like it's own mini-meeting without the stress and structure of a formal meeting. If everybody just sits at their desk every day and works through lunch this may be a sign that the company does not value work-life balance as much as it should.

 
 

These are good. I will probably use some of them in the future.

In a given interview, how much time should a candidate spend asking the interviewer questions? Do you read from this list, or just ask them as you think of them?

 

Hey Dustin, when recruiting I think 50% asking questions and 50% answering questions is a great balance, but I'm sure organisations and individuals have different opinions on that...

One thing I find makes a huge difference is a candidate's ability to answer questions both well and succinctly by giving specific examples/evidence wherever possible. I find good preparation helps significantly. Plus, asking for clarification if in doubt, to be sure of answering the right questions.

Making sure to do that leaves more time for more questions.

In terms of when to ask, I think it's great if/when interviewers invite candidates to ask questions as early and as often as possible in the interview. If that doesn't happen, when I'm being interviewed, I aim to ask some of my questions along the way if/when they match the topics I'm being asked about, but to expect to ask some at the end of the interview.

I think it would help to make sure the list of questions is prioritised as well, so that even if it doesn't feel right to me to ask all of my questions, at least I can have the most important ones covered.

In addition, it's helpful to know in advance if it's a multi-stage recruitment process or not, and what those stages are. Maybe there are other opportunities to ask my questions.

Also, if I felt comfortable enough, I would just say, I have a few questions for you too, shall I save them to the end or what would you prefer? (That way, if time runs out, hopefully it's easier to have a conversation about possibilities for having questions answered another time.)

Elena, thank you for sharing your questions. Really useful for individuals and organisations alike.

 

Thank you for sharing your approach, LiLi. I think you're working with your candidates very well, leaving them space to ask questions and making sure you answer what they wanted.

 

That's a struggle for me so far:)). It takes lots of time to ask them. Will appreciate some advice!

 

I'm in the process of appearing for some leadership roles and these questions exactly reflect the questions I would want to ask the interviewer who interviews me (probably the CTO). Asking these questions is what differentiates an experienced matured lead from a novice developer. Typically, early in our career and in our hurry to secure our next job we don't ask these questions and make a careful choice before joining a workplace.

These questions would help us conclude whether joining this job would give us the happiness and peace we seek in our workplace and whether we would have natural opportunities to grow in this place, which in my humble opinion is more important than a competitive pay package.

 

Nice, happy you liked it :)

Although I tend to think that a competitive pay package is a way for a company to say they value and respect you. In this sense, I wouldn't give up on it easily. I wouldn't be able to achieve happiness and peace if I cannot pay my mortgage.

 

Hi. Firstly I'd like to thank the excellent post. I generally don't ask anything during my interviews, but because I never new what to ask and as very nervous to think.
Would it be considered a bad thing to ask too many questions during an interview? I mean, I liked all the questions you listed and have thought some of my own, but I afraid to spend half an hour asking questions and they think I'm too arrogant or something like this.

 

Hi Luiz, thank you for reading!

To me, it hasn't happened yet that they think I'm arrogant. (Or at least they didn't tell me:).

I usually frame it this way: I'm very interested in your company, I'd love to know more.

The interviewers usually tell the candidate that they have 10 minutes left for questions, of that they only have time for one more question, for example. Then the candidate doesn't have time to ask all of them, and will have to prioritise. Although it is usually possible to ask more questions by email afterwards, or arrange one more call.
Sometimes, I ask it by myself: I'm so interested in your company, I have so many questions, how much time do we have?

I think that the interviewers usually take questions as a sign you're interested in their company, which is good and flattering for them. Everyone is happy to talk about themselves.
Along with that, this is a sign that you pick your next place to work at carefully, which means you can choose. And this means you're a great professional and you have standards you applied to previous places as well.

 

Thank you for you reply. I get really nervous on interview, so know some questions to make ahead of time really helps.
I'll make sure to make more questions when I have an interview

 

Great post!

This is always a checklist I try to reference: joelonsoftware.com/2000/08/09/the-...

A few more questions I've come to realize are important (at least to me):

  • Remote work policies - e.g. can I WFH when I'm sick, inclement weather, and/or a few times a week?
  • Can I see team's working area? This was super important at my last job, which is where this became a question that I had to make sure to ask. The working area was pretty horrid, but maybe that's just because I was more accustomed to a more spacious environment.
 

Nice list, I'm definitely gonna need this later. I'm wondering tho, how many of these questions, or how many questions in general, am I typically allowed to ask when applying for an entry level job after graduation?

 

Hi there,
I don't think they can "not allow" to ask questions, that would be weird, wouldn't it?
Some answers they will give you themselves, when telling you about the company or asking you questions. I.e., "would you be willing to work overtime?" certainly tells you something about the work-life balance.
I would ask as many as I could, it's in my interests. If them have strict timing, they'll typically give you contacts of a person to ask further questions, and you can email/call them with the rest.

Good luck with the search!

 

Fantastic article. As a new comer to the industry there is a wealth of information here. I particularly liked the questions on how they support juniors, product quality over speed and diversity.
Thank you very much for sharing your experience and knowledge

 
 

Thanks for writing this. It affirms a lot of the questions I ask. I always feel a bit self-conscious asking or assuming there is a UX, QA or director role in place at an agency or company, especially when I can't see the team on the company's landing page...

 

Great,some are necessary but you have to keep in mind to ask them at the right time,at an interview after being the top candidate,I was disqualified because I pointed out the pay was so low

 

Then they didn't pass your test, did they? :)

 

no,to tell the truth it was a 3 step process,first technical js test,on submit they told me mine was the most efficient,then another programming test live with the founder to see that we didn't get help from sb else,passed even this, interview with the founder and to think that all these tests were for a position in germany as intern for 1000$ month???Can you even survive with so little,when only rent coasts you 500$??and I thought well let's try to talk to him this maybe he may raise it,but no ,he disqualified me!

I think it counts as you disqualified them. I'm sorry you had such experience, they don't seem like they understand what they're doing. I think you escaped luckily! I mean, you wouldn't agree on 1K per month, even if they didn't reject you, would you? I'm sure you'll find a much better place to work!

Sometimes you don't have much choice,but who knows still sharpening my skills but they don't create experience.

Wow. Is this why people say millennials are entitled? While I truly believe interns deserve to be paid fairly and also agree that payment is too low, I’m not sure I’d have the guts to tell them that in person. Then again, German culture is more direct.

In my time I did 3 unpaid internships.

 

What a coincidence stumbling on this article, going to be very useful for the interview am preparing for.
Thanks Elena πŸ‘πŸ‘.

 
 

When engineer candidates, above a junior level, don't ask me about code quality, agile fluency, and/or our ci/cd journey/current state, that is a flag in my mind!

 
 
 

Jesus, I wish I bumped on this article few years ago. Bookmarked and reshared with my closest friends and colleagues.

 
 

Such a great article! Universal and time-independent!
I wish someone told me that years ago ;)

 
 

Nice Article. By the way, I've a question,
What is best time to visit the Anne Frank House museum? :D

 
 

What are my professional perspectives? Career and compensation ones?

Could you explain this a bit more? I didn't really understand what this meant.

 

Sure!
What I meant is - what are the next positions I can be promoted to? For example, a company may say your career path will look like: junior developer -> middle -> senior -> lead developer, or team lead -> project manager -> director of the department. It's going to be different across companies, and if you're interested in a career, it may be worth asking upfront.

Compensation is essentially the same: how often are they going to review your salary (once a year? once a quarter? only when promoted?), do they give bonuses, stock options, etc.

I hope it makes sense now :)

 

Ah gotcha. I think 'professional prospects' might be an alternative word for that?

I was confused with the current wording.

Yeah, maybe this one is better, thank you!

 

You suggested many great questions I can add to my own list -- which by the way I hope I won't be needing for a while.

Thanks for writing!

 
 

Holy mao, you remember all these questions to each interview? I need a cheat sheet now 😁

 

I had two interviews yesterday, I wish I could've read this article before; it's amazing. Thanks!

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