Rocking your job interview is the first step to landing your dream job as a software engineer. And one of the best ways to make your mark is by asking the right questions. However, instead of coming up with them spontaneously, it’s better to create a list of questions to ask a software engineer interviewer in advance. Here are a few which you can consider using.
1. Why is this job open?
This is, without a doubt, one of the most important questions to ask in your software engineering interview. It will tell you a ton about the company’s motivation for finding someone for the role. Are you the first person to ever fill this job opening? Or are you going to replace someone who has left the company?
Before you go in for your interview, do a bit of research yourself. Look at Glassdoor, Google News, or the company blog to learn about the organizational culture and the leadership team. Try to find out which companies the management team has worked for previously. Chances are high that the organizations they’ve been a part of in the past have shaped their understanding of how a team should operate. It might also hint at the leadership style they follow – especially if you’re looking into the CTO or VP of Engineering.
Asking about the reason for the job opening and pairing it up with the information you find online will help you decide if you’d be a good fit for each other.
2. How will success in this role be measured?
Before jumping ship at your current job, it’s worth knowing what your potential future employer will expect from you, and how they will measure success. Dive deep and ask them about the metrics they’re going to use to evaluate your performance. Are they relevant and achievable? By asking this question you can:
Show that you take your job seriously and that you’re keen to excel
Verify if the company has clearly defined role expectations and success metrics
If it turns out that the interviewer cannot give you the answer, then treat it as a red flag. Businesses that take recruitment seriously should know what each role involves and what it takes to succeed.
3. What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the software team?
Unless you’re a daredevil, you’ll probably want to ensure that the company you’ll be joining is in good shape. One way of doing so is by asking about the current challenges that the software team and the business are currently dealing with.
You’ll get a good idea of the issues you’ll have to tackle. Are they demanding enough? Did you experience similar problems in the past, or are they a total novelty? Don’t hesitate to ask how the team is currently approaching these challenges. It will help you verify their way of thinking and see if you fit in. On top of it, you’ll also be able to decide if the learning curve is steep enough for you.
4. How are design decisions made in the company?
If you’re the kind of person who likes to make an impact, then be sure to find out who makes all the design decisions. Is there one ultimate decision maker, or is it a team effort? Do they invite team members to share their insights and opinions? This will help you check how collaborative the work environment is, and how the company approaches and resolves conflict. At the same time, you’ll demonstrate to the interviewer that you want to actively contribute to building the company’s future.
5. What tech stack does the software engineering team use?
Ask the hiring manager about the following:
Infrastructure used by the team
Their approach to CI/CD – whether they use Jenkins, TeamCity, CircleCI, Azure DevOps, or other
Architecture (is it service-oriented or monolith?)
Databases used (distributed, relational, open-sourced, etc.)
Software platforms for building, testing, and deploying applications, like Docker and similar
Depending on how extensive the job description was, you probably already know some answers to the above, but you might want to dig a little deeper. How many of the tools and methods are you familiar with? Are you hoping to learn new ones, or would you rather use a tech stack similar to the ones you’ve used so far?
If you decide that you want to join the company but some technologies are completely new to you, then you might be able to begin learning them before you start the job.
6. What technical blunders have happened recently? What process changes were made as a result?
The most successful companies are also the most innovative ones. And innovation requires a lot of experiments, which can sometimes result in failure. One of the questions to ask the interviewer software engineer is when the team has recently experimented with a new programming language, framework, or technology. What was the result?
If they failed, did it kill their motivation for further experiments or make them try harder? The interviewer’s response will show if the company has an innovative spirit or if they prefer to play it safe. In order to improve your skills, you need to be given a chance to learn and this cannot be achieved without experimentation and acceptance of failure.
7. What software development process do you use?
Companies approach software development differently. Try to find out what software development process your future employer follows. Consider asking about:
Who takes part in estimating work development, and is it done on an hourly basis or t-shirt sizing?
Who handles code reviews and how are they done?
Are applications tested locally?
How quickly is the code in the repository deployed to production?
How often do deployments to different environments happen?
Has the software development process changed over the years?
These insights will give you a good overview of the engineering culture, code quality, and your team’s openness to honest feedback.
8. What support or mentorship do you provide?
Having a mentor is crucial for career progression irrespective of your seniority level. It’s especially important for junior software developers. That’s why you should investigate how the company you want to work for approaches mentorship. Ask:
What training do junior developers go through?
How much time do senior developers spend per week teaching juniors in their team?
What tasks are juniors given initially?
Does the company offer a mentorship program?
Even if you’re an experienced developer, this question is worth asking as it will show your enthusiasm for learning / mentoring. Plus, employers are always on the lookout for developers who can positively contribute to the company’s development culture.
9. Why did you join the company? Why do you stay?
Asking the hiring manager about their reasons for joining and staying at the company is a great way to check how the employer treats their staff. Depending on the answer, you might learn about the potential career development paths, team morale, or even unique fringe benefits. On the one hand, many of these employee perks might have already been specified in the job description. Still, this will be your opportunity to verify how close the employer’s promises are to reality.
No to mention, when you ask this question, you indicate to the hiring manager that you’re treating the company as a potential long-term career decision. You show that if you’re given the opportunity to develop professionally, you’ll be fully committed to your work.
10. What does the team structure currently look like?
Your team members will be the ones you interact with on a daily basis. So, it makes sense to ask this question early on in the hiring process. Ask the interviewer about the number of people on the team. What different roles are there? How many senior-level specialists are there? And, most importantly of all, whom will you be interacting with most frequently, and how?
Bear in mind that there are no good or bad answers here. Based on the answer, you must assess if the team setup sounds like something that would make you comfortable and boost your productivity. While some software engineers enjoy working as part of a large department, others prefer a modestly-sized team where everyone gets to know each other well. Some enjoy a lot of overlap with Q&A and design specialists, while others would rather limit their communication with other departments to a bare minimum.
Speaking of interactions with work colleagues, this leads us to the next question.
11. How many meetings do software engineers regularly attend?
This will tell you a lot about how the product development process plays out in real life, and if the company follows the best async & sync meeting routines. You’ll understand how many hours a week you might need to dedicate to intra- and cross-team interactions, compared to engaging in deep-focus work.
Better yet, this might be an interesting test if you’re applying for a remote role, and your future team members are spread all over the globe. Which meetings are obligatory for all software engineers? How does the organization tackle time zone differences so that no one feels left out or has to jump on a call at 10 PM? Does the company allow those who can’t make it to a meeting to read meeting memos or watch the recording instead?
It’s important to understand the number of hours and types of meetings you are to participate in. Plus, knowing if they take place at your peak performance time will also affect your decision to work for the company.
12. What is the culture like?
Since you spend lots of hours at work, it’s better to be part of a business whose values are in line with yours, right? You need to be sure that the company culture appreciates programmers, and gives them a say in product development without unnecessary micromanagement. Don’t be afraid to be inquisitive about the relationship between the product team and other teams. It’s also worth finding out what the mechanism for getting engineering feedback is. According to Luca Bonmassar, the Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer of Gild, a lack of one should be treated as a serious red flag.
13. What are the company’s plans for the near future?
This is a flip of the classic “where do you see yourself in 2-3 years' time” question directed at candidates. The world of tech is evolving dynamically, so your potential employer could decide to do any of the following:
Switch to new coding languages or frameworks (which you might not be familiar with but want to learn, or the contrary, do not want to you circle your career around)
Decide to narrow their focus down to a single industry, which is quite common at software agencies and SaaS brands. If a company finds success in a specific niche, the team might want to dedicate themselves to winning more clients from the same industry.
Redesign the software development team setup – would you see yourself in the new hierarchy?
Some of these alterations might occur earlier than others. So, you have to ask yourself if what you hear in the recruiter’s reply aligns with your career objectives.
14. What does a day in this position look like?
Asking this question will show the hiring manager that you’re taking the job opportunity seriously. It also allows you to imagine what it would be like to engage in day-to-day responsibilities if you were to join the company. If you find yourself nodding your head in agreement as you listen to the recruiter, then high chances are you’d enjoy working for the brand.
At this point, you can also consider asking them if the sample coding tests that are part of the recruitment resemble the day-to-day tasks expected on the job.
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Questions To Ask Interviewer – Software Engineer Job
As you can see, “coming in prepared” means two things. First, it’s reading about the company and preparing responses to potential questions from the hiring manager. Second, it’s about having your own list of questions. Doing so will help you assess if the role and company meet your objectives; not only those of the employer.