Great Questions to ask at an Interview

Photo by TheoGeo

Throughout my experience, I have found a wide variation in the quality of work environments of my employers. Speaking as a software developer, some have been healthy & productive, while others have been bureaucratic and restrictive. Therefore, it became a goal of mine to compile a list of questions that I could ask an interviewer of a prospective employer to determine if it would be a place I would like to work. I didn’t get far.

Then recently I stumbled upon a great StackOverflow question. It is essentially an attempt to do what I had always wanted to do: collect a list of indicators about a company that should be viewed as warning signs.

With this content as inspiration I give you my small list of original questions as well as a summary of my favorite entries from Stack Overflow.  My questions cannot uncover all issues.  However, the questions are meant to be questions you can actually ask your interviewer and not be viewed as nosey.

What is the potential for Developers to have to do support? Is Developer support necessary during non-business hours?

Unless working for an EXTREMELY small company, you do not want to be responsible for first-level support. This is bad for several reasons: it limits your productivity, is not an efficient use of your skills, and can be unnecessarily stressful.

What access do other departments (e.g. Sales, QA, Technical Support) have with Developers?

This is simply another question to determine how often other departments may interrupt your productivity. If the person doing Technical Support asks you to fix every issue without troubleshooting first, then you are essentially doing first-level support.

What does the team typically do for lunch (e.g. going out, eating together vs eating at desks)?

The response you want to hear should be based on personal preference but I like to see that the team eats together a couple days a week and the other days work at their desks.

What is the make-up of the team (e.g. experiences, roles)?

I want to hear that the team is diverse. Most important, to me, is that there are at least some people who are more advanced than me. Secondly, I like to see different cultures & perspectives represented, such as males/females, different nationalities & attributes.

How are developers measured?

Lines of Code, although popular, is an extremely flawed metric.

Favorites from the responses on StackOverflow

  • Is the primary development language an in-house only product?
  • Was it too easy for you to get an offer from the company? (Are there no programming questions when interviewing a new developer?)
  • Is the work environment noisy making it difficult to concentrate?
  • Is the work schedule an inflexible 8-5?
  • What is your refactoring strategy?
  • Is access to the internet blocked at work?
  • Do the developers work on multiple projects in parallel?
  • What are developer workstations like? Single-Monitor?
  • What is the tester to developer ratio?

Remember, an interview is a rare opportunity for you to try and determine where you want to work. So ask these questions and good luck!


About Stu
I am a software developer living in Cincinnati, OH. I primarily focus on .NET and Microsoft technologies and have bounced around quite a bit in my short career between multiple cities in the Midwest (including Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, and St. Louis). I would like to learn more about programming, technology, marketing, and how to run a business. -Nathan Stuller

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