Monday, January 6, 2014

Questions to Ask the Interviewer during a Job Interview

I recently switched jobs because I was unhappy with the business and technical directions at my previous employer. When I decided to switch, I remembered two things. First, during every interview, they always ask the questions, "Now, do you have any questions?" If the answer is "no" then it's either a unicorn job or else you need to have a moment with yourself to come up with some. Second, I didn't ask enough questions (or at least didn't pay close enough attention to the answers) during the interview process at my last employer. I could have kicked myself for falling into such an obvious trap -- the signs of a sinking ship -- water pouring in through holes in the windows -- were everywhere.

More recently when I went on the job hunt, I was very careful to come up with a comprehensive list of questions ahead of time -- most especially questions relating to the problematic nature of my previous employer. I think this strategy really paid off. My new and potential employers were much more engaged by the level of awareness I had going into the process. I feel like I've found a good career-home and I owe it directly to a strong interview process (and a good recruiter who agreed with my philosophy).

This morning I was forwarded a list of interview questions by Julia Evans -- not for your potentially new employer to ask you but for you to ask. There are a ton of questions and many of them are developer specific, but a lot of them are very good for general situations and for a starting point to get you going.

My advice: spend an hour before the interview and get a good 20-40 questions ready. You won't use them all during any given interview, but when you glance at the list, you should have a good idea of which ones are appropriate. Also, highlight your high priority questions. Those are the ones for which you absolutely need to know the answers.

Some examples from Julia Evans' blog:
  • Do you do code review? Does all code get reviewed?
  • Do you have an issue tracker?
  • Do people work on the weekend?
  • Do people check in when they’re on vacation? How often?
  • Do your employees speak at conferences about your work?
  • Is it easy to move to other divisions or offices?
  • How does internal communication work? This one is super important and I need to remember to ask it more.
  • How much are you planning to hire in the next year?
  • What do you wish you had known when you joined this company?

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