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The last couple of minutes of an interview can feel liberating. Finally, a weight has been lifted off your shoulders, but don't relax just yet. When the tables have turned and it's your time to ask questions, don't miss the opportunity to really interview the company. There are two ways to view your 5-15 minutes of questioning:
- Additional signals to the interviewer of your interest.
- Interviewing the company means you can gauge deal breakers or makers in their org. (Is this really a good fit for you?)
Most companies, if they have their interview process public, focus on bullet point #1. On their websites they’ll have a line that says, “This is your time to get to know us better!” or “Ask us interesting questions that signal your interest in the role!”
When I was interviewing for new grad roles, it was easy to fall in the trap of asking about the company rather than the team. Asking about the prospects of the company or their plans for Q4 are moot, partly because either the interviewer cannot actually answer honestly and because those answers won’t tell you anything about whether or not you’d enjoy working there.
With this in mind, we will be focusing on questions that will best serve your interests (point #2) if you did work for the hiring manager and team. Chances are, you will be interested in multiple companies throughout your search, be it due to familiarity with their product or name, friends working there, prestige, or etc. It is important to narrow down your choices based on what best fits your work preferences.
Questions to Ask at the End of the Interview
This first section focuses on work-life balance. When companies mention having "start-up energy" or talk about having a "fast-paced environment," I would take their word for it. But, I’ve also found that interviewers that don’t like using the term “work/life balance” have the worst balance… go figure. If this is important to you, read ahead. These are some questions that focus on keeping work at work and avoiding the demands of working more, without using the term "WLB."
- How many hours do you typically work?
- What are your expectations for this role?
- How flexible are the hours and location of this position?
- What does a day look like in this role?
- How many days off do team members usually take during a year?
- Are employees required to be reachable by phone during the weekend?
- What are the busy periods of the year like?
- If this role is remote, what are there core working hours for the team? In what time zone?
This next section focuses on the team you would be working with and how they work. Ideally, these questions would be asked of the hiring manager, and not HR in the intro call.
- How does the team plan projects?
- How does the team communicate and work together?
- What is the culture like in the engineering department? The team?
- What is the team’s biggest challenge?
- How are decisions made on the team?
- What software development methodology does your team use? Waterfall/Agile?
- How often does leadership address the org?
- What technologies are you using? What is the latest framework/tool/tech that the team has implemented?
- Does the team work with other team members or teams in different time zones? (Think different countries.)
- How is failure handled on the team?
This last group of questions goes through the overall strategy and longevity of the workplace and the role you are interviewing for.
- What is your diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) strategy?
- What do you like and dislike about working for the company?
- What are learning/professional development opportunities in this position?
- How is success measured in this role?
- What does a bad day look like in the company?
- What are the growth opportunities in this role?
Here's an example of questions that I'd use in an interview.
How many days off do team members usually take during a year?
With unlimited PTO becoming more and more common, some companies are abusing the perk and guilting employees for using any PTO. This questions addresses that while also helping determine the team's culture on work/life balance.
What are the growth opportunities in this role?
Depending on where you are in life, this question is nice as it covers both types of questions (interest signal & finding dealbreakers). It gives an idea of how formalized the promotion structure is (some companies just want you to do your one role and never grow).
- How is failure handled on the team?
This is a great one for finding those major red flags. If I start hearing the words "blame" or "your fault" out of the interviewer's mouth, I'll know it's not the right fit for me.
Remember: the most important objective when interviewing the interviewer is to make sure the company, organization, and team align with you. It’s always better to find out early, before the first day on the job, whether or not you will enjoy your new role.
These are some of the questions I’ve used during interviews to realize if the company and team were right for me! Are there any other questions that you would ask? Have any thoughts? - let's discuss on Twitter and get this party started.
As always, good luck on your search. May the right job find you.