On Twitter, Kyle Shevlin was talking about how at the end of a software engineering interview, they’ll often offer a painfully-small amount of time to ask some of your own questions.
The worst part is, I often just blank in the 5 minute question time. I’ll come up with something because I’m good on my feet, but deep down it feels ineffectual. I’m not getting what I need in that time period, so let me just use the bathroom before the next interview.
I mentioned that I had a go-to list of questions that I literally printed and brought with me, and would bring out during this 5-minute lightning round. I definitely felt like a huge nerd pulling a set of printed questions out of a binder.
But it turned out to be really helpful, and at a couple of these interviews, my interviewer actually said, “Wow! That’s a lot of questions!” (it was 2 full pages) and offered that if there were any we didn’t get to, that I could send them over email.
This was years ago by the way, long before COVID, when pretty much every interview was in-person. The shock factor of pulling out 2 pages of questions wouldn’t translate so well to Zoom, haha. But still: if time runs out, you can mention that you still have a bunch of questions, and could please email them afterward.
Interview Questions for Your Interviewer
Here in its raw unedited form are the questions I used.
They’re short on purpose, because I wanted to be able to skim the list quickly under pressure.
I suggest, if you decide to use these, to read them over and make sure you have an idea of how you’d form them into actual human sentences… or, if you think that might trip you up, then expand them on the page before you head into
battle the interview.
And hopefully, by the time you get to these questions, you’ll already have answers to some of them. (Another benefit of them being short: you can scan past those ones quickly)
How big is the company? Why did you choose to work here? Do you enjoy this particular project? Is there flexibility within the org to move around to different projects? What's a typical day like? Software dev process? (agile/tdd/pairing?) Bug tracking system? Version control system? Dev. desktop vs server OS? Developer machine hardware? Is the product live in production? If not, what's the schedule for developing it? How often are releases done? Who supports the product once it's released? Pager duty? Monitoring email? Where do feature + bugfix requests come from? Who does the "design" of the product? Internal designers, devs, both? Would my work be full-stack, or focused on backend/frontend? How big is the code base? Lots of ties to external/legacy projects? Typical working hours? Flexibility? Crunch times? Working from home? Regularly vs. Snow days? Do you have a favorite part of the job? Least favorite? Do you have a time tracking system? Centralized IT dept? Gov’t contractor? Clearance required? Potential for clearance? Regulatory compliance? PCI, SOX, etc. Annual training? Do people hang out outside work? Company outings? Lunch? Budget for conferences? Internal lightning talks/brown bag lunches? Dress code? Does the company seem stable? Profitable? Any plans to sell? Bonus structure? Management style/structure? Frequent catch-ups aka one-on-ones? Something else? Room for advancement? Learning opportunities?
I hope this helps you prepare for your interview – and not just to pass their interview, but to make sure you get to interview them a bit, too. You’ll have to work with these people, after all! It’d be good to try to figure out if you’ll enjoy it.
Charity Majors (@mipsytipsy) has this great post titled How can you tell if the company you’re interviewing with is rotten on the inside?
If you have a list of your own somewhere, let me know and I’ll add a link here!
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