Sep 9 2011

What questions should you ask if you are the interviewee?

Category: MiscMatt @ 07:44

Here’s another one for the non-.NET category.  I’ve been involved in both sides of the interview process recently.  I previously outlined the types of questions I ask if I’m in the interviewer seat, but what about about when I’m the interviewee?  Asking the right questions as an interviewee is just as important (if not more important) than asking the right questions as the interviewer.  The position you are interviewing for is going to play a major role in your life.  You need to find out now if it isn’t a good fit for you.  Here are some of the questions I like to ask.

Can you tell me about the sort of person you’re looking for?

This is probably the most important question you can ask, as it’s going to tell you what qualities and skills the interviewer values most.  Pay very close attention to the answer.  Are they looking for skills or qualities that you yourself don’t value?  If so, steer clear.

Can you tell me about the rest of the team I’ll be working with?  How long have they been with the company?

If everyone on the team has only been there a few months, it may be a sign that the project is burning through talent.  Be sure to dig in and find out if anyone has left recently and why.

What does your technology stack look like?

What versions of .NET are they using?  What versions of SQL Server?  Are they using ASP.NET MVC or ASP.NET WebForms?  Are they committed to staying current and upgrading to new releases?  While you might think “Eh, it’s ok, .NET 2.0 isn’t all that different from 4.0,” be wary.  Working with out of date technologies is going to lower your net-worth in the future and make it more challenging for you to stay current within the industry.

What does your development process look like?

Are they practicing agile?  Have they implemented scrum?  Who decides priorities, and more importantly, how are disagreements over priorities resolved?  Unless you enjoy working in chaos, they should be able to describe some sort of process that they use to manage work.  If not, I’d recommend passing.

How much overtime do you typically work, and what’s the most overtime you’ve worked in the last year?

Ask the developers what their typical work week looks like.  Unfortunately overtime is quite common in our industry. You’re unlikely to find a position where there won’t be the occasional long week, but avoid places that answer with “We hope to someday become a 40-45 hour shop.”  (Sadly that’s an actual quote I once heard during an interview.)  You want to find somewhere that respects personal time and is committed to providing a sustainable pace for the development team.  These places aren’t really the norm, but they are out there.

What sort of hardware are developers provided with?

Again, you’re going to be spending a big portion of your life working here.  You want to be sure you’re going to have decent hardware.  Software development is stressful and challenging enough without having to fight crappy hardware.  An important follow-up question to ask: how often are developers provided with upgraded hardware?  I’ve heard tales of places that give developers new top-of-the-line workstations every 6 months, and I’ve been at places where you have to fight for an upgrade after 4 years.  Which place would you rather work at?

What does a typical day look like?  

Ask at at least one developer on the team to describe what a typical day for them looks like.  Your life is probably going to be somewhat similar to theirs, eventually.  Are they spending most of their time doing things you don’t enjoy?  Do you hear hints of frustrations as they describe performing different aspects of their job?  Dig in and ask follow-up questions to anything that makes you uncomfortable.

 

What else?

Those are a few of the big ones I always ask.  I’m sure I’m forgetting other great questions that I should be asking as well.  What questions do you ask when you’re being interviewed for a position? 

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