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What are everyone’s favorite questions to ask interviewers to learn more about the company/team?


I ask about their policy on OSS contributions because that's very important to me.

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I think those are insane. I even wonder if it's even legal in the Netherlands. Basically in the Netherlands it's stated you can do whatever you want in your own time as long is it's not bad for the company. And often you can even use company stuff like a laptop to do so.


The US is... "interesting"... as far as employment contracts go...


The whole "at will" employment is pretty nasty.


Yes, sometimes sounds like selling your soul to one company for eternity.


(I've actually had employment contracts adjusted to permit me to continue working on OSS projects without the company gaining any IP rights, before I would sign them)

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I do tend to see a difference with IT-related companies, that mostly do care, and government/education where they don't really care and they almost see It as a nuisance. With banks somewhere in between. But that's just from my experience.

Christian Pekeler09:09:27

“What is your company’s vision?” If the interviewer previously asked you why you want to work for that company, use the extended version “What is your company’s vision and why is it important to you personally?”


I usually just ask about stuff like, how often do people overtime and why 😄 But last time I literally just went for it and asked what they think about digital taylorism, and we had a very productive discussion about management methodologies and how they deal with it.

David Vujic09:09:02

I usually ask how the teams work on a daily basis, like if the do mob programming and if “yes” I ask how they do that (tools, hours, other teams …). Often that gives me an idea about company culture, if teams are autonomous and ways of working.


In a culture-fit interview after being given the strong points of the company’s culture, I asked which things do they personally see as the “weaknesses” of the company, what are things that have been recognised (and ideally written down) as needing improvement. Gets very different answers from different people: HR, management/leadership, engineering, and designers have different pain points.


One thing I'd ask now is how the company invests in its leaders: mentoring, training, and recommended book lists. Even at small places (10 people) I've seen this implemented well and it makes a world of difference


I ask the manager what is the most recent improvement they've made. I also ask what a 10% improvement in dev productivity would be worth. Both start good conversations.

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One of the things I ask for is if they’re ok with me spending my first two weeks to a month doing nothing but fixing bugs. I find that to be an excellent way of getting familiar with the code and technical ecosystem at a company. If they say no, then a) that is a red flag for me (never had a company say no, however) and b) I would ask them what their process is, in detail for getting familiar with their systems.


"What was your company's COVID response?" is a nice one (stolen from reddit)


(some great questions from folks here -- thanks @risinglight for kicking off this discussion!)


In a first call with a prospective employer, I like to find out: Work content: • What does onboarding look like for this role? • What is a typical week in the life of a person in this role? Evaluation and success criteria: • What does fantastic success look like for someone in this role? (i.e. when the person is hitting / home runs) • What does abject failure look like? Followed by their response to success or failure scenarios: • What happens if someone is succeeding? (Opportunities for growth / promotions.) • What happens if they are failing? How have you handled such situations before? Their rationale for the role, and their process with me, to better understand mutual fit and any obvious deal-breakers: • Why this role? (How does it fit in the charter of the team / org?) • Why now? (What organisational goals are you looking to achieve over time by staffing this role today?) • Why me? (What are good reasons to not hire me for this role? What would you like me to state or consider up-front before going forward with this process?)

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As an interviewer, this would be too much work for me to answer if an interviewee would've ever asked me. The first question often isn't even answerable, there is no typical onboarding, unless we assume typical people hired typically to do typical jobs. Don't like types this much.. Similarly, if the job can be reduced to a typical week, it sounds like something dull, without a chance for long term development. If you are a software developer, in almost any kind of software development, the tools are changing so much, that you need to adapt. Not all work is like that, and you can do old style programming, but it requires a special company to support such roles. Fantastic success would be where I would give up trying to explain anything, and just assume that the person doesn't expect real, actual, factual success, so they are striving for fantastic. The only really good question in my opinion from this list is "why now?". That's a great question 🙂


I think the first question is actually really important. I started at a company once and they didn’t have credentials set up for me so I couldn’t log in to my computer. I couldn’t do anything. I asked what I was supposed to be doing, “Oh, just you know… don’t worry, we’ll get you set up in a couple of days.” I thought, “Days? Really?!” Despite having interviewed and made me an offer prior to my starting day, they hadn’t prepared at all for me showing up that day. Knowing what the onboarding process is, I feel, an important indicator of how much thought the team has put into getting a new hire to a point where they can be an effective and contributing member. It is very disconcerting to be the new guy at a job just sitting around doing nothing.

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@U0VQ4N5EE To be honest, I don't think that says as much about you as an interviewer as it does about your company in general. Lots of places have some structure to onboarding and ramping someone up. I'd agree that individual weeks can vary, but you can still get some signal by seeing of there's a "set" so to speak of typical weeks (is it spent half fighting fires and half feature work? Are there lots of standing meetings? etc). And "fantastic success" just means going above and beyond expectations, not actual fantastical feats


Also these questions wouldn't be posed all at once but could be spread out over multiple people. If you get the chance to have a follow up call with the hiring manager that's also a great chance to ask more of these questions


No one says that the question is not important, I am saying that it might not have an answer. Different statements.


My goal is to try and understand what I might actually be getting into. The questions are mental guidelines and may not be framed as those exact questions. Usually one hour with an interviewer is more than enough to cover the above ground ("things about you"), in addition to the "things about me" part. Re: Aron's remark. If the company conveys "we don't have a typical onboarding and there is no typical week in the life of this person", it may either be a welcoming signal (someone thrives in unstructured environments) or a warning sign (someone struggles in ambiguity or chaos). Personally, I'm systems-oriented. I think it's very valuable to be mindful of seeing the structures that we create or those that emerge as a property of how we work in a team. To me, there's never "no onboarding", and "no typical week". Some structure is always there, but it may not be self-articulated or acknowledged by the interviewer / team / company. Jo Freeman's essay is my favourite articulation of that notion:


Yeah, so if I take the heights of people, and average it, is that average a real thing?


Or, am I trying to exert the tyranny of the structureless if I state that such an average is only imaginary?


Hey, sorry I don't mean to stir a debate, or imply anything about you personally. I'm only stating what is important to me. Feel free to take what is useful, and discard the rest.


(Also, I'd really encourage anyone seeing this to give the essay a chance. ☝️ The title is provocative, but boy does Jo Freeman make it rain :))


Not about debating, I am trying to understand what is important for you, to repeat the way you put it. To me it seems that what you described as important is something akin to total artistic freedom. Nothing short of that can give such abstract notions actual life, yet you talk about 'typical week' as real, sorry if inaccurate but seems to me a variant of "if I can imagine it, it's real". This is very similar to what I often experience from academics or people who have invested a lot in learning abstract knowledge, at some point the map becomes more important than the territory, and this is why I am - slightly, - so to say, pushing back here, against such questions. I fear that these questions cause real harm.


Somehow my comments have given you the opposite impression. I actually like structure and pragmatic constraints (principles, checklists, workflows, and systems). I rely on them to function effectively. (It is why I like Clojure :)) I accept you have a point of view that is different from mine, and I am not able to convey mine here. So shall we end this thread? I fear we're going off topic from the purpose of #jobs-discuss


We can end it, certainly, although what else should be part of a discussion under the topic jobs-discuss than what is important for us in our work, and how much of that is ideas (ideology) and how much is practice (results). What is weird for me is not your position or ideology, but that you describe it in such a way that you make it sounds like you agree with me, yet it's quite clear that we are at the opposing extremes. I would never ask such questions, not at an interview, not elsewhere, I think those are 'bad questions', because there are lots of answers to them, but neither is a practical answer.

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