February 23, 2020
As a candidate before any interview call, whether an introductory call or a technical screen, I always prepare with a listen of questions I should ask. Most times I am allowed to ask the other person some questions and I never want to be empty-handed.
The types of questions I ask generally fall into two buckets:
For the first bucket, specific questions with distinct answers are good to ask to get introductory ideas of how the company and team operates. The questions I usually ask here are: what is your tech-stack, how large is the team, what your cash flow numbers look like, etc. I ask these purely to gauge the health, growth trajectory, and/or start conversations that may lead to more interesting topics or problems.
My favorite types of questions to ask fall into the second bucket. These usually catch people off-guard because they require a bit more thought. Are you ready for them?
Some teams are built to be completely autonomous and shut off from others. Some teams are extremely open. Some are so small that everyone works with everyone, and some are so large that they see new faces every day. All teams work differently, so this question helps me determine what type of people thrive with the culture at the company.
Besides money to pay the bills, it’s interesting to learn why people choose to work for an employer. They don’t need to have moving stories, but hopefully, they can mention something more substantial than a paycheck. This can help guide your next questions and gauge enthusiasm from candidates.
For me, happy and thoughtful employees are better than resentful, passive employees that only to come in for a 9-5pm routine. I don’t think there’s an exact science behind it, but I think if people care about their job, they work harder and smarter to meet the team’s needs and strive to build a great team and product. This is my experience.
Example answers I received:
It’s a great sign if someone can list multiple pros. This question usually provides insight into the company culture.
My purpose with this question is to see if the person cares enough about the team and company to see outside their day to day tasks. I think it’s important to work with people who not only care about themselves but the health of their team. If they see weak spots, they should point it out and if at all possible, work to improve it.
Example answers I received:
This question sprouted off the previous “challenge” question during an actual in-person interview I had earlier this month. The person answering it altered my question a bit and I thought it was beautiful.
He said the there are many challenges the team is facing, but he was also looking even further into the future of the platform and said what he wanted. He’s aware of the road blocks but wanted to tell me about his end goal.
I think this is a great question because it means the employee has aspirations for the company and dreams of improving something, whether it be a product, service, process, or something else.
These questions can be asked to anyone to talk to, technical or non-technical. These aren’t trick questions but do require the interviewer to do some introspection or provide thought. If they fail to do that or cannot come up with some answers, take that as an opportunity to raise red flags.