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Question to ask interviewers

I have a couple of upcoming job interviews and have been thinking of general questions to ask that might reveal the "culture" of the company.  So far, I have come up with the following:

1) How well do you deal with incompetents?

2) Have you ever fired anyone for stealing?

3) What is the latest you will allow an employee to come into work?

4) How soon until I'm promoted?

5) Are you OK with employees talking down to you?

6) What would you do if an employee didn't show up for work and didn't call in?

I think this is a good start and the answers will let me know if I want to work there and, if I did accept the job, how long I might last.  However, I would like to see what questions others on this board ask to reveal the "cultural heart" of a potential employer.  Fire away!

the real world
Friday, June 25, 2004

uhhhhh....it would appear to me that some interviewers might interpret those questions to mean "How much can I get away with, steal, and slack off on before you fire me?" and maybe not as "Am I going to be working with a bunch of lazy incompetent thieves?"

Might want to be careful in how you phrase those...

Aaron F Stanton
Friday, June 25, 2004

If you ask those questions, you won't need to worry about how long you'll last...

sgf
Friday, June 25, 2004

I have to agree with the previous posts. It would be better to ask about the turnover rate, if the position you're interviewing for is a new position or a replacement position and if it's a replacement position, ask why, ask if the company offers 'flextime', etc.

Full name:
Friday, June 25, 2004


In the last year, I've stopped applying anywhere else, but I'll give you a checklist I carried with me on paper to put forward to the interviewer when they'd finished interviewing:

(1) Who is the company owned by?

In trying to ask how this company is financially owned. It happens that many companies here call themselves MNCs to lure candidates, but they're actually not truly MN_C_s. It is good to be wary of _one_man_dictatorship_firms who call themselves MNCs just because they have some relative outside your country with a small office space.

You also get to know how democractic the management is, if you know it is publicly held or at least a deemed public company, even if it is not listed on any stock exchange.

(2) Are you a "project-based" company or a "product-based" one or a hybrid?

Here you're trying to ask, "Do you have fixed budgets for projects and once the project is through, no matter how good I am, you won't have the funds to sustain me and you'll start ticking names."


(3) How many employees do you have?

(4) What are you working hours? How often is it that developers are required to stay back. Do you have an overtime policy. Most of the software companies don't have an overtime policy but this question should tell you how much overtime they usually _force_ on developers.

(5) Try and look around if they have the basic amenities to keep developers who work late hours comfortable. Like do they have water coolers, proper rest rooms, air conditioning, proper chairs. I say these things because my company lacks on all these fronts. I have had to take naps on my desk and it is _very_very_very_ uncomfortable. They do not have a room where you could take some rest.

Plug: The first chapter of Microserfs says it is common for developers to take a nap in their _closed_door_cabins_ at Microsoft and no one minds it if you're doing overtime and taking a siesta. Over here, its sinful even if you work your ass off.

(6) How many leaves in a year are paid? What is your leave policy?

(7) Later on, when you're selected, you can ask them how and when they pay - what date of everymonth, what mode - cheque, auto-credit etc.

(8) Do they have a library? Very important question. Some companies invest a lot in learning resources even if they cannot afford to train you through some corporate training program, having a good library with all the _delicious_ books can be a good bait. It also shows you'll be working with some developers who read something.

(9) What quality environment do they have - ISO, CMM?

I forget there are more.

Sathyaish Chakravarthy
Friday, June 25, 2004

You've already thought about questions they might ask you.  Take your favorites, figure out why they're important to you, turn them around and ask the appropriate interviewer/s.  The trick is asking questions a bit sideways, just like good interviewers do - if there's an obvious right answer, you won't learn anything.

If I were interviewing tomorrow, for example: I'm very technology agnostic, so I'd ask a technical interviewer "What's the worst thing about $your_dev_language, and why?" and see how long they sputter, how intelligent the resulting discussion is.  I hate bureaucracy, so I'd ask a lead developer or a PM to tell me about the last major process change that happened, and see how long it takes them to remember, how long ago it was, etc.

As to the "are my coworkers morons?" question, I'd try reversing it, and ask everyone you meet to talk about some of their favorite people in the company to work with.  Asking for a single name, you're going to get pauses and noncommittal "I like everybody" answers, but I'd expect better with 'some.'  A list of qualities the interviewer thinks are important, at the very least.  Maybe the chance to talk to some of the people named and evaluate them myself.

Disclaimer, those are just the questions whose answers say the most about me, and anyone else's are likely to be completely different.

Mikayla
Friday, June 25, 2004

If it's a small company that doesn't have a dedicated hiring staff:

"So what do you do?"
(pause)
"Is that all? How much do you get for that?"

Nearly Nameless
Friday, June 25, 2004

In the past I've asked "what do you enjoy the most about working at Company XYZ?" Then I generally follow up with "What is the most difficult part about working at Company XYZ?"

For me, it gives insight into the office environment and makes the interview feel a bit more personal if the interviewer is willing to share some info about the good AND the bad.

How do you guys think about such questions?

Pete
Friday, June 25, 2004


Please dont take this personally but I have a staunch aversion towards that question,  "what do you enjoy the most about working at Company XYZ?"

Unless it is a truly great company, a huge corporation with a large building, plush tilings on the floor, a huge cafeteria and stuff that already tells you it is rich, this is a hackneyed question that will get you a cockneyed, stammering response. I've tried it, and it goes like, "The best thing about this place is that it provides you with a challenging environment. The work is very challenging. We may not pay that much, but we have projects like not many companies have. The work is cutting-edge."

I interpret it as: "I don't get paid enough and they expect me to work on things I don't quite understand. The employer is a dictat and this place is boring."

Sathyaish Chakravarthy
Friday, June 25, 2004

Pete, I think it's good to ask non-managers to name their favorite and least-favorite things about working there.  Managers will give the party line, but at the end of a couple hours of technically drilling you a software engineer will often be more honest with you than maybe he should.

Brad
Friday, June 25, 2004

'Sup fool?

You forgot one:

"You gots any cute daughters, Daddy-O?"

Peace out.

Mr Fancypants
Friday, June 25, 2004

Mr Fancypants,

I like the way you think. You've got 'management material' written all over you.

Bob
Friday, June 25, 2004

"The trick is asking questions a bit sideways, just like good interviewers do - if there's an obvious right answer, you won't learn anything.
"

Incredibly insightful. It's the key to ANY question asking where you're seeking the truth.

Mr. Analogy
Friday, June 25, 2004

"So far, I have come up with the following:"

May as well add:

7) Has an employee here ever gone ballistic and killed several coworkers?

The questions you list are silly.

Seriously, do some research before the interview; it helps a lot to know the company's ownership, product line, revenues, profitability, etc.

The only question I can suggest: Is the opening you are applying for due to an increase in staff or a replacement for someone who left?  And if it's a replacement, try to find out why the other person left.

Anony Coward
Saturday, June 26, 2004

How about what are you company's strengths and weaknesses?

Bill Rushmore
Saturday, June 26, 2004

Sathyaish Chakravarthy:
"put forward to the interviewer when they'd finished interviewing"
Great!
Just 9 Questions!What about adding more!?
Did you get the job?

Just wanted to know...
Saturday, June 26, 2004

Yeah, that original list is great. Here's a couple more:

Do employees with STDs get extra sick leave?

What are you wearing under those clothes?

and of course...

Do you swallow?

Jorel on Software
Saturday, June 26, 2004

It seems I've started a trend talking about job interviews as if they're flirting.

"As a new employee, what's the #1 thing I can do to get up to speed and be productive in the shortest amount of time possible?"

www.MarkTAW.com
Saturday, June 26, 2004

Who are you and what is this trend you've deluded yourself into believing you started?

the real world
Saturday, June 26, 2004

And, for some of our trusted readers:

1. Who gets to ride in the back of the Bradleys and who has to ride in the (unarmoured) cars?

2. Does everyone get a Kevlar vest, or only senior officials?

3. Are armed escorts provided for all transport movements, or only at night time?


Saturday, June 26, 2004

One of the most important things to look for IMO is whether the culture is blame-oriented or solution-oriented.  A blame-oriented environment will have you watching your back, reluctant to speak using anything other than politically-correct verbiage, reluctant to own up to mistakes.

You also want to get a general feel for the place, which you can do by just noting the general mode of the people who interview you.  Are they enthusiastic, open and interested?  Are they engaging you in a real dialogue or are they testing you and probing for weaknesses?  Do they seem to have difficulty answering general questions about what things are like at the company?  Are they reluctant to discuss any possible problems the company has?

Last, I have heard of a guy who asks one question wherever he is interviewed: "What's the Dilbert rating around here?"  He'll ask the manager and one of the developers who he'd be working with.  Since I don't know him personally I can't ask him how well it works.  But I'm tempted to try it myself next time I start looking.

Should be working
Sunday, June 27, 2004

Surely this has to be a spoof thread?

Very funny questions though.. :-D

In case the questions were serious, I would look for a positive way to address each issue.

For example, rather than ask how do they deal with incompetant employees, ask how do they reward achievers, or motivate personnel. You would hope the answer would also cover how they deal with the other end of the spectrum.

Giles Gregg
Wednesday, June 30, 2004

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