Questions TO ask in an interview

  • Seems we always look at questions we have been asked, or will ask if we are interviewing.  But, what questions do you ask from the person giving you the interview?  Anyone?

  • What's your budget for training, books, conferences, etc?

    If they are not on the latest version of your favorite tool (VB6!), what's their plan for moving up to the latest and greatest?

    Do they use a source control tool?  (Sounds obvious, but I've contracted at three big outfits in the last few years that did not.)

    Do they have remote access for handling problems at 3 a.m.?  (Again, I interviewed at a health care company in Bumble Egypt that had a federal contract. They were told by the feds to turn off the remote access to systems after the knucklehead at the VA lost his laptop full of 26 million SSNs.  Simplistic response, no?  So I wrote them off right there.)

    Do they have a standard documentation set for project plans, test plans, requirements docs, etc?

    If it's a DBA gig, will I be supporting developers by writing T-SQL?  If so, how many?

    Where is the nearest Starbucks?

    There is no "i" in team, but idiot has two.
  • Me? I'm quirky. I ask about things that are important to me.

    First, usually on the phone

    - dress code. Important to me. Tie required, we can just stop.

    - salary range - less important, but if it's not near what I need, then it's an issue.

    - Outline of the job and what projects they're planning. Not so important, but something might pique my interest.

    In person. If I get this far, I usually get better answers to these than on the phone.

    - Hours. What do most people work and what should I work

    - Travel - Hate it, so want to know what they expect.

    - On-call. This can be issue if it's too much. Be sure you know what you're getting into. With this goes remote access.

    - Team. I want to meet them. All of them and if it's a smaller company (< 100 people), I want to meet the CEO and CTO if they're not interviewing me. This makes a difference. The people I work with are people I need to get along with. If I don't, I move on. Everything else can be worked on. If it's a small company, I need to be sure I feel comfortable with the people in charge. I've even asked to meet CFOs and COOs before. I'm a senior guy, but it's good to chat with them, ask them what they see for the company, what their plans are, what types of expectations that see for IT. Is it stratgetic or just operational.

    - Benefits - Get details in person and understand if it's important to you. Especially if you have medical/dental needs for your family.

    - Time off/Education/Career growth - For me I like conferences and seminars as a way to learn, but also meet people. So it's good to have someone support your type of career. Might be an MBA for others, classroom, certs, etc.

    The big thing is to ask what you want to know. Don't offend someone or be confrontational, but ask like you would of a professor in college, in search of information.

    And be honest. If something's a problem for you, let them know now.

  • In addition to dress code (fairly important to me, I typically want to wear jeans) I like to ask about the working conditions themselves.  I worked somewhere that we refered to the "office" that 5 of us were crammed into as Dungeon #2, as opposed to the slightly larger Dungeon #1 that some other people were crammed into.  Decent workspace, chair, up to date equipment to help mitigate any of the typical IT injuries we get is important to me after meeting people who have had to get their wrists sliced open to relieve carpal tunnel.  I also enjoy having a window now.

    That and it's good to find out about the role of the position, more specific responsibilities, advancement opportunities, etc.

  • I also try to get a general feel about the company through the eyes of the interviewer.  Questions good for this are:

    1)  How long have you worked here? 

    2) Who has been with the company the longest?  How long has he/she worked here?

    3) What do you enjoy MOST about your job?  the company?

    4) What do you enjoy LEAST about your job?  the company?



    Have a good day,

    Norene Malaney

  • Thanks all. 


    Most of my jobs in 12 years as a DBA has been either trough friends in the industry, so I knew the company, or I knew the company's reputation (I was in Dallas for 12 years).  But after having moved to Iowa (no, not to work for Google..) I find myself not knowing the different companies, which makes it hard when deciding on where to work.

  • One important thing I like to find out is if the people have a sense of humour.  Different things are important to different people but if everyone is agro and grumpy and looking for a blue or just want to play politics all the time then I'm not interested - unless the benefits are REALLY good (like double what I'm worth).  I can tolerate it for a while enough to pad the CV and then head for the door.

    I've not moved a lot though and the company I'm with now are SO much better than being in a government department.  Co-workers have asked me why I came here when I have no chance for career advancement but they didn't realise that the SQL Server installation is in it's infancy and I essentially have a near clean slate to install and tune and get the systems really singing.  Much better than going in somewhere where you're not allowed to do anything.  The only training I get though is what I read but I prefer to be choosy about the courses I do and the conferences I'll be asking to attend.  Management knows that I'm not into wasting company money or time.

    Funny thing is that I got this job because I have a mainframe background.  I'll investigate a problem rather than just go for the reboot button


    A lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.

  • One thing I asked was the turn over rate in the department and the company as a whole for the last five years. If there is a high turn over rate, something is not right.

    Dress code does not matter to me.

    It is hard to get a feel of the team dynamic during interview, especially for my current job, the whole team spreads out from California to NY. I did not meet my boss until the first day of the job. We only had phone interview.

    Benefit definitely is important. The funny thing was when I came to interview for my current job, the HR told me they just got the single coffee machine that made one cup at a time, that you could have latte, tea, regular coffee, coco....The next day the company recruiter called me and told me the HR was crazy, and she said there was a lot more benefits to work for the company than the coffee machine!!!!!

  • Most interviews end with "thanks I look forward to hearing back from you".

    The best closing statement is the following:

    What questions or concerns do you have that make you think I cannot perform well in this position?


    If they so none - if you want the job just ask for it.  If they have any concerns just address the concern and focus on what you do bring to the table instead of what you don't bring.

  • I will ask what challenges they are having, what are their current year plan/projects, 3-year or 5-year plan.  Let's them give out more information.


  • "What questions or concerns do you have that make you think I cannot perform well in this position?"

    I would have to disagree with posing this question to a panel. My thinking is that is displays an element of uncertainty in your and skills that you require some reassurance.

    Maybe if it were reworded to: "Does the panel have any questions or concerns with regards my application?  I think it is better to discuss any possible issues while I am here so that there is reduced chance of uncertainty entering the equation when you come to making your final decision (and offer me the job)."  The last bit is optional

    A lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.

  • I'm not sure you can win with a "what concerns do you have" question. If they haven't brought up concerns with you, then they are either uncomfortable with them or maybe they just don't like you. I'm not sure the interviewer can be honest about this, or at least that most can be honest. I'm also not sure you can get them to believe anything you say about their concerns. After all, you're trying to get a job, so you might say whatever you think they want to hear.

  • I believe there are two types of questions in interviews:

    1) Questions that show the interviewers that they should hire you (what's in it for you).

    2) Questions that help you to know whether to take the job when offered (what's in it for me).

    If I was an interviewer, if all the questions were of the second type, I'm not interested. 

    But who am I to talk, I haven't done an interview for a different company in over 20 years and over 10 years to switch positions with the company (county government). 

    I live in Iowa (Des Moines) so if you've got any local questions I might be able to help.  If it's Principal, they are one of the top employers around.



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