As the great Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” While this phrase can be applied to many areas of life, it also rings true in terms of interview preparation.
Proper planning is critically important as candidates begin to ready themselves for an upcoming interview. Whether your discussion will be taking place in person or via videoconference, your interviewer(s) will quickly be able to tell whether you’ve truly done your homework.
Yet while the act of thoroughly “studying-up” on a company is pivotal for achieving interview success, candidates cannot neglect to put together a set of questions that can be posed to their prospective employer. Here are my top 10 questions that every software developer needs to ask in an interview:
1. What is the current structure of the team and how does this role fit into that structure?
How the hiring manager responds to this question will ultimately say a lot about the organization’s company culture. Not only will you be able to determine who is working in your department, but you’ll also discover if you will be supported by QAs and a testing team. Make sure you get a feel for the size of the development team that you could be joining. Will you be a “big fish in a small pond” or a “small fish in a big pond?”
2. What is the team’s largest challenge?
This question can be taken in several different directions, all of which could sway you towards or away from the company. For instance, if the department is understaffed, your position could play an instrumental role in solving a critical problem and increasing workplace effectiveness. However, if you discover that your team does not have the support of the company or are lacking the funds to execute their goals and objectives, this could be a potential warning sign.
3. How is success measured in this role?
It is important to grasp a sense of the standard that you will be held to if, in fact, you accept the position. Will there be certain performance KPIs that you will have to follow? What does an average timeline look like for project completion? How often will performance reviews be conducted? Some companies utilize their own specific measurements of productivity and effectiveness. Getting a sense of how your prospective employer quantifies success could be essential in your overall workplace experience.
4. What opportunities for professional development does your company offer?
In today’s world, learning and development (L&D) programs are must-haves for any company in their efforts to recruit top-tier talent. During your interview, be sure to inquire about the types of workshops and boot camps that your prospective employer can offer to boost your skillset. Ask if the company would be willing to pay for a course or certification that would help to improve your on-the-job performance. See if you will be able to take part in networking events or other professional development opportunities outside of the office. Investigate if any internal mentorship programs are available within the company to learn from upper-level executives.
5. What is the company’s goal for the product/service offered?
A significant part of your interview will center on discovering more about the company’s vision for the future. Not only should you learn where the company is in the present, but get a sense of where the organization is headed two, ten, or twenty years from now. If the hiring manager can answer this question correctly, you should be able to envision your potential role in furthering the company’s long-term growth.
6. How do you prioritize and plan projects?
Bosses can make or break your workplace experience. The way these leaders work to set priorities and delegate work is sure to be of significant importance to you. Be sure to have a good understanding of your department’s head and how they handle their business. If you could see yourself struggling to work with their personality or leadership style, this may be a cause for concern.
7. How are design decisions made on your team?
The goal of this question is to examine your expected degree of decision-making authority within the company. Will your input be heavily sought after in helping your department come to design conclusions, or will you play more of a backseat role in this process? This answer could be a crucial indicator of how the company views your prior work experience and anticipates your level of future engagement. Additionally, if organizational bottlenecks or excessive executive oversight seem to be prevalent issues, inquire about how the organization will combat them.
8. What technology are you currently using?
Make sure the company leverages technology that you feel comfortable and have experience with. Is the organization utilizing the best and brightest platforms on the market, or are they stuck with an age-old, archaic system? Ultimately, the more exposure you can receive to modern technology, the greater it will benefit your long-term professional development.
9. What is the newest technology/tool/framework that your team has implemented?
Seeking to find out how innovative the company really is? Look no further than this question! You’ll be able to identify the organization’s willingness to experiment with new platforms and software. If you’re a developer who needs to have his/her hands on the latest technology, be sure to pay close attention to how the organization issues its response.
10. Which software development methodology does your team utilize?
Get a sense of the processes and procedures that must be followed in the design and development of the company’s platforms and software. Discover if the organization utilizes the most effective methodology to support its size. Does the company lean on an agile approach, or do they prefer the traditional waterfall methodology? By learning more about the organization’s approach to constructing its product or software, you’ll be able to determine if the company’s workplace environment aligns with your personal strengths.
I always make sure to emphasize this point with my candidates: interviewing is a two-way street. Not only is the employer trying to get to know you, but you are also attempting to learn more about the employer. Asking the right questions during an interview will help you to develop a deeper, more comprehensive understanding of the company and whether you could visualize a future working for the organization. But first, be sure to do your research! Your sense of preparation will ultimately pay off in the long-run.