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Asking The Right Question In The Interview

steveblue profile image Steve Belovarich Updated on ・2 min read

Sometimes it feels like you are on the losing end of the interview. The engineer across the table is hammering you with technical questions. 45 minutes later, you've talked through the answers to some technical problems.

Then it happens. The engineer asks if you have any questions.

If you reply with a resounding "No" you may have just passed up a huge opportunity.

The time after the obligatory technical interrogation can be the most informative. You can find out if you are a culture fit, learn more about the project, ask about team dynamics, find out more about the stack, or figure out the answer to anything else on your mind.

You can use this time to directly engage the other person on a level that you normally would on the job. Treat them as a peer. You could convince that person you are a good fit for the team. If you are interviewing for a leadership role, feel free to flip the script and take command of the interview for a few minutes. "What motivates you everyday?" "What is the hardest problem you had to solve recently?" "If you could change one thing about the team, what would it be and why?"

If you're in the first panel of the day, maybe ask: "What kind of person are you looking to fill the role?" Then respond to their answer with examples of how you fulfill their version of the ideal candidate. Knowing who the team is looking for could help you progress in other panels throughout the day.

Prior to the interview it helps to make a list. Conduct some research. No matter how well you make think you know that company, recent news and events, the contents of their quarters earnings call may alter your perception. Jot down any questions you may have. Be sensible who you ask each question to, because not everybody has the answer.

This time could be the most important part of the interview. Some of the best places to work are looking for people who are creative thinkers, who are able to break the mold and innovate beyond their peers. Given the churn involved with JavaScript, some engineers want to work with others who can't stop, won't stop learning.

Asking questions demonstrates a willingness to cooperate and learn, an ability for critical thinking. Don't forget to have questions ready for every stage of your next interview. Maybe someone is waiting for you to ask the right question nobody else did.

Posted on by:

steveblue profile

Steve Belovarich

@steveblue

full stack web engineer, creative coder, teacher, cultural critic and indie music fan.

Discussion

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I made a list of questions when I was interviewing, and got some really positive responses! I think my favorite out of these is

"How will you know if I'm doing a good job?"

Another good one I've seen on Twitter is,

"What would the process be if I wanted to purchase a book necessary for work?"

I like both of these because they pretty subtly get into a whole deep rabbit hole of bureaucracy without being confrontational.

 
 

I try to research the company and prepare some basic questions about the company and the position prior to the interview; mostly because in the moment my nerves get to me and I tend to forget what I was going to ask.

Is this a good thing or not?

Honestly, I'm not sure if a question has landed me a job, but my husband was asked what he does in his free time and got a job because he stated he does a lot of what the job description had at home (he works in IT).

 

Research πŸ‘

Nerves getting to you during an interview are normal. I’m usually very confident but can falter like anyone else, even after many years.

It’s OK to have notes handy in an interview, so you don’t forget.

It can be good or bad thing to say you code in your free time. Some companies really value that their employees have a healthy work life balance, while some teams appreciate contributions to the community. Usually it’s good to show you have a healthy balance in your life, in my opinion.

 

I think you should come with a notebook, write down what they say is their own problem, note the exact words that they are using, and then basically happily surprise them because you are able to explain exactly what is it that they say they needed. Oh, someone who isn't self absorbed and who listens!

 

i agree, this is how to get truly stellar questions. Still, go in with a prepared list as a fall back :)

 

Oh I forgot, my truly stellar question at the end is simply:

Did I understand you correctly or I am missing something?

 

"Do y'all have any personal hobby projects you are working on or thinking about?"

I asked this at the end of a technical interview with potential future team members and we got into a really fun convo about our hobby projects. It was also a question designed for me - i wanted to know i'll be working with people who build stuff for fun as well.

You might come up with great questions as you are being interviewed. Make sure you have a notepad with you - if you come up with a question, you can write it down and ask at the end. Taking notes in an interview is a very smart thing to do.