Engineering Manager @Mixtiles
A list for things I am looking for in my next position, next employer, and any important criteria I might have (geographical area, big/small company, etc.). These things easily translated into the questions I asked when talking to the possibly ‘my future employer’ companies.
At about the same period I was looking for a new job, two other good friends of mine were looking for a job too. Talking to them, I realized they just don’t know how to ask the “right questions” to better understand the place they want to join. And how would they know?
One of them wasn’t lucky enough to have worked in good companies and hence didn’t know what a good work environment and culture was like. The other friend only worked in good companies and had no basis for comparisons and evaluation!
Since I’m a good friend and love sharing my lists (did I mention already I love making lists?), I helped them figure out what kind of things should be important when you’re looking for your next tech employer, and how to ask about them. I hope it will help you, too.
Step one — write down what you’re actually looking for in your next job: What position? What technologies? Methodologies? I know, you probably have a feeling of what you’re looking for, but until you write it down with a pen and paper, black and white, it can be a mess in your head. Go ahead and clear your mind!
Step two — do the same for questions that you want to ask the company. It will probably look very similar to your list from step one, with the exception that these need to be in the form of real questions you can ask (They should all end with a ?) You might have written down in the first step that you’re looking for a job as a Team Lead. But what does it actually mean for the potential company?
Write down some follow-up questions, such as “can you tell me what does a team leader mean to you?”, “what’s the ideal size of a team, as you perceive it?”, “how much hands-on does the position include?” — to later ask and match expectations.
Write down all the questions. Even those you don’t feel comfortable enough to ask your interviewers, you can always try to find someone who’s currently working in that company and get more genuine answers.
Questions about the company
How would you describe the culture here? (Essentially, what are the values the company believes in and act by?) Are there any conscious efforts from the management regarding the culture? Do you have any social events / routines?
Business stability & strategy: How much money have you raised? What is the annual income? What is the annual expenditure (and on what)? What’s your exit strategy? How much do you plan to grow? What are your biggest challenges? What do you think is not working so well now?
Transparency: How often and to what details does the management share the plans with the employees?
Work-life balance: don’t be afraid to simply ask about it. After getting an answer, ask more specific follow up questions, such as “how flexible are you?”, “do you allow working from home occasionally?”, “how many parents are in the company?”. If you can, try to schedule an interview to late hours (after 6 PM), and see how many people you see in the office to get a better sense of the work-life balance there.
How many women are in the company? How many women are among the engineers? A low percentage of women in the company might tell about the values of the company, and might not. In any case, it affects the culture and the atmosphere of the company, so you should take this into consideration.
Questions about the job / day-to-day
What is your Tech Stack? Why did you choose those specific programming languages and technologies?
How do you develop employees? Tech conferences? Tech guilds? Meetups? Do most of the managers come from inside or from outside the company?
Do you build a growth plan for your employees? Do you regularly check it and review the employee’s progress?
Methodologies — Scrum? Kanban? Deadlines? How do you manage the tickets? Where is the code hosted: GitHub? GitLab? Bitbucket? Something else?What does the day to day look like?
Development & deployment process: How does it work, from Product Manager’s idea, into a workable story, into deployment to production? Do you use Git/Svn? CI/CD? How often are the development cycles? Do you have QA?
Aligning on the job scope : for example, for a team lead position, you could ask: How do you define a team lead? How much hands on? What does hands on mean for them? What do you think is the ideal team size in your organization? What does the job include? Who would you mainly interact with— Product Managers? Business? R&D Architects? BI? Analysts? How do you plan the company roadmap? The team roadmap? How often is it done? Yearly? Quarterly?
How’s the onboarding? Both business wise and position / code wise?How much are they open to new technologies and new ideas? Ask for concrete examples.
“Gut feeling” questions
What do you like the most in working here?
Could you give me a couple of examples of some of the challenges you faced?
What doesn’t work so well in the company? Things that requires improvement?
What don’t you like in the company?
During the interview — ask the relevant people the questions you prepared. Don’t be afraid to pose the same questions to different interviewers of the same company, they usually don’t compare which questions you already asked. Moreover, it will give you some interesting insights about the company, a good tell is if you got contradicting answers by different interviewers. Some interviewers won’t know to answer some questions (for example questions about companies’ profits), and that’s another signal about the company’s DNA.
One last thing — I know how tiring and frustrating looking for a new job might be. Especially if you’re looking for a job while working in a company you’re not happy in. But don’t let that affect you, and don’t settle on the first company that wants to hire you! Ask the important questions, figure out which company fits best for you before signing anything. After all, you don’t want to find yourself looking for another job soon, just because you didn’t choose well..
Hopefully next time when you’re being asked if you “have any more questions” — you know what to do 💪
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Would love to hear your thoughts and ideas of other good questions to ask.