Questions I'm asking in interviews 2017

Oct 10 2017

As my RC batch draws to a close, I’m interviewing once again. In the vein of Julia Evans’ great blog post, “Questions I’m asking in interviews”, here’s a set of questions to ask your recruiter, interviewers, and/or prospective manager.

Obviously you won’t ask all of these at once — here’s a strategy:

  1. Go through this list (and others such as Julia’s) and pick out a few that seem especially applicable. These might be pain points you’ve encountered at past jobs, must-haves for the future (accessibility? day care reimbursement? remote-friendliness?), or things you’ve always wanted in a job (standing desks! office pets! catered dinner!). Ask these to the appropriate people at each job.
  2. For each company, pick out a few more questions that particularly apply to them. Does this large company have flexible policies? Does this small company have good room for advancement and growth? Does this startup have a sustainable business model? Ask these to that company in particular.

Company

Questions to ask anyone.

  • What is your business plan? How does the company make money? (If the business plan doesn’t make sense to you, or if it’s vague, that might be a red flag)
  • What values are important to your company?
  • What is your plan for the next 6 months, 1 year, 5 years?

Hiring

Questions to ask your recruiter before your onsite. For larger companies, you’ll usually find answers to many of these in an initial email. Make sure not to ask a question they’ve already answered!

  • Tell me about your hiring process — how many rounds, how many interviewers?
  • Is there anything special about your interview process I should know?
  • Are coding interviews on a whiteboard or laptop? What resources do candidates have access to while coding?
  • What are you trying to figure out about a candidate in an interview? Why do you think your current process does that effectively?
  • What biases have you decided to accept in your hiring process? Which are you trying to change?
  • Assuming the process goes well, how long does your hiring process typically take?
  • How long do candidates who are given offers have to decide on an offer?

Team

Questions to ask your prospective manager.

  • How big is the team? What is its structure?
  • What is your management style?
  • Do you use a particular management system, such as Agile, XP, etc.?
  • Is your team diverse? Is diversity a priority, and if so, what do you do to promote it?
  • Can you tell me about a time you resolved an interpersonal conflict?
  • How often does your team hold meetings?
  • What does an average workday look like?
  • What is your policy on working from home?
    • How many people work from home, and how often?
  • What is your policy on working remotely?
    • How many remote workers do you have?
    • When working remotely, how do people stay in touch with the team?
  • What’s your team’s retention rate?

Tech

Questions to ask a manager, tech lead, or individual devs.

  • What is your tech stack? How did you decide on it?
  • How do you evaluate new techs? Who decides?
  • How do you resolve technical disagreements? Can you give me an example?
  • How much freedom do employees have to use different languages and technologies?
  • Do devs have a choice of machine/OS?
  • How often do devs get new machines?
  • What is your policy on contributing to open source?
  • Are devs required to sign NDAs and/or assign their IP to the company?

Office and Work Environment

  • Where is your main office located? How close is it to public transport? Do you offer any commuter reimbursement, bicycle benefits, or free/subsidized parking?
  • Does your company’s office have {bicycle, motorcycle} parking?
  • Is your office handicapped-accessible?
  • Is there a dress code?
  • Do you offer free food? If so, when and how often?
  • What is the office layout (open plan? cubes? offices?)
  • Are standing/treadmill desks an option?

Office Culture

  • How late do people usually arrive/stay? Are there any requirements on arrival or departure time?
  • Does your team use a chat system?
  • Do you use a voice/videoconferencing system?

Learning, Growth, and Advancement

  • What does the career track look like for this role?
  • How does promotion/progression happen? How often do you go through raise/promotion cycles?
  • What opportunities are available to switch roles? How does this work?
  • Are there travel opportunities (or requirements) with this job? How often and how far in advance will these be known?
  • What support do you provide for devs attending/speaking at conferences?

Benefits and Compensation

Questions to ask once you have an offer.

Compensation

  • Does your company offer 401(k) matching? If so, what percentage? Any vesting schedule or other restrictions?
  • Does your company have a bonus program? If so, how is the bonus calculated, and how often is it computed?
  • Is there a signing bonus?

Stock and equity grants:

If the company offers stock/equity as part of the package:

  • What are the particulars of that stock?
    • How much stock is there total?
    • Common or preferred stock? Any ratcheting or similar agreements in place with investors? How will employee stock be diluted in future rounds?
    • If options, what is the strike price/exercise date? When do options expire?
    • If grants (or RSUs), what is the vesting schedule?

Benefits

  • What health insurance plans does the company offer?
    • What is the required employee contribution?
    • Do the plans cover spouses/families?
  • What is your vacation policy?
    • For unlimited vacation:
      • How much vacation do people usually take?
      • How do you keep track, if you do?
      • Who approves vacations?
  • What is your sick leave policy? Is sick leave included in vacation time (sometimes called “Time Off”)?
  • What other benefits does your company offer?

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