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Ten questions to ask your interviewer

By Chris AbramsMarch 16th, 2023

As a hiring manager here are some questions that I like to ask candidates. I have also included some questions that I like to ask when I am the candidate.

1. Why is this role open? Is it a new role or replacement?

This question should be asked to gain insight into the company's current situation and potential growth opportunities. Understanding whether the role is new or a replacement can provide clues about the company's priorities and future plans. If it is a new role, the candidate might infer that the company is expanding and there may be more opportunities for growth in the future. If it is a replacement, they might want to know why the previous employee left and if there are any challenges associated with the position. Additionally, knowing why the role is open can help the engineer determine if they are a good fit for the company culture and working environment.

Some companies can be strangely open about this question, especially when the scenario is the previous person for the role left or was dismissed. If this scenario does happen and you feel you are a good fit for the role, ask to speak with the head of engineering at the end of the interview cycle (if it is not part of the normal interview cycle). They should be able to give you a better idea of the situation and if the role is a good fit for you. If you don't walk away feeling better you should probably not take the job.

2. What kind of person do you believe would be a good fit for this role?

Asking this question shows the candidate is interested in more than just the technical aspects of the job. It also provides insight into the company culture and values, allowing the candidate to determine if it aligns with the company goals and work style. By understanding what qualities are valued by the company, the candidate can better position themselves as a strong candidate during the interview process.

Ask this question early so that you can have a mental picture of how you would look in the company and role.

3. Can you walk me through a typical day in this role?

This question allows the candidate to gain insight into the day-to-day responsibilities of the role. It also provides an opportunity for the candidate to ask questions about the role and the company. This is the start of the back and forth between the candidate and the interviewer.

This question is intended for the hiring manager or the team lead. If they struggle with this question it is a good sign the company has not defined the role. If you are told "this role will wear many hats" what they are actually saying is "we don't know what this role will do yet you'll need to figure it out for us."

4. What's a big pain point or gap that your team hopes to achieve with this role?

By asking this question, the candidate can gain insight into what they could contribute to the company and how their skills could help solve problems. The core skills of the candidate should align with this answer. It is a great way to weed out roles that are not a good fit for you.

It is not an uncommon scenario for a company to list a job but then the pain point requires a different skill set. It's unfortunate but it happens. Better to figure that out early in the process.

5. What are the challenges this role would face?

A candidate can better understand whether they have the experience and skills necessary to succeed in the position. Additionally, by understanding the potential obstacles they may face, the candidate can prepare themselves mentally for the job and develop strategies for overcoming those challenges. Ultimately, asking about the challenges of the role shows that the candidate is proactive, thoughtful, and committed to succeeding in their work.

This is a great question to ask potential peers as well as the hiring manager. You are looking for consistency in the answers more than anything else. Rarely, red flags will occur from this question. I remember a job posting that said the tech stack included React but the role was working on a KnockoutJS application and the company wasn't sure when the product would be migrated to React.

6. 6-12 months from now, what does success look like for this role?

Asking this question shows the candidate's interest in understanding the expectations for the role and aligning their goals with those of the company. It also helps them assess whether the role is a good fit for their career aspirations and personal growth. By knowing what success looks like, candidates can set realistic goals and prioritize tasks accordingly. Ultimately, asking this question demonstrates initiative, commitment, and a desire to contribute to the company's success.

This question is a great way to separate the really polished companies from those that don't know what their own roadmap looks like three months from now.

7. How does management support the team?

A supportive management team helps ensure that employees have the resources they need to succeed in their roles and feel valued for their contributions. Additionally, a strong management team can help foster a positive company culture, which can attract top talent and improve overall productivity. This is a good question to ask the hiring manager and the team lead. Consistency is key but it also helps shape management's day to day involvement with the team.

In my opinion a candidate should be looking for teams that are excited to talk about their manager or management team and how those teams receive support.

8. What is the company culture like, and how does it support individual growth and development?

Understanding the company's values, attitudes, and practices can help the candidate determine if they will be a good fit for the organization. Additionally, a positive culture that supports individual growth and development can lead to opportunities for learning and advancement within the company.

With this question, a candidate should find comfort visualizing their self in the company.

9. What is a neat concept about the company that you think would be interesting to share with a candidate?

What makes this particular company unique? Additionally, it allows the interviewer to share information that might not be readily apparent from a job posting or website, giving the candidate additional insight.

Often nothing of interest comes from this question. However, it's worth asking because every once in a while a company will tell (or hint) about a product which could be much more exciting than what is on the surface.

10. What can I take off of your plate right now?

Asking what can be taken off the interviewer's plate shows that the candidate is a team player and willing to contribute in any way possible. It also demonstrates their ability to prioritize tasks and manage time effectively. By offering to alleviate some of the interviewer's workload, the candidate shows initiative and a desire to make a positive impact on the company. This question can also provide insight into specific areas where the company may need additional support, allowing the candidate to provide any last minute opportunities to showcase their skills or experience.

It's not necessary to end on this question but it's good for the interviewer to leave the interview knowing you are interested in how you can contribute to the problems of the person and not just the company at large. At the end of the day (unless its a large company) you are very likely interviewing with people who will be your peers and/or manager(s). It's also another opportunity to get insight you might otherwise not get about the role (but will be asked of you if you join).

Bonus Questions

  • Can you tell me about a particularly challenging project the team has worked on recently?

  • Can you discuss any exciting upcoming projects or initiatives the team is working on?

  • How does the company approach incorporating user feedback into product development?


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