IT Employment

Here are your questions for the interviewer

Interviewers want to to ask questions and they want to see what kinds of questions you ask. Here are the kinds of questions you shouldn't ask and the kinds that you should.

The first few times I interviewed for a job, I found myself mute when the tables were turned and the interviewer asked me if I had any questions.

My silence was partly due to the fact that the question was unexpected. But sometimes I didn't have any questions because I clarified points during the interview and had all my questions answered already. And, I admit, sometimes I just wanted the interview to be over so I could go to my car and breathe again.

But the truth is, interviewers want you to ask questions and they want to see what kinds of questions you ask. Here are the kinds of questions you shouldn't ask and the kinds that you should:

Don't ask about salary, vacation time, employee benefits, time allowed for lunch, etc., in the first interview. Even though these areas are totally relevant to the job, you don't want to come across as being concerned first and foremost with them.

Don't ask how soon you can ditch the job at hand and move into a position with clout. You might be thinking that but there's a better way to ask. Ask how success will be measured. Ask the interviewer what he sees you doing in six months or a year if you join the company. Ask about training opportunities or professional development.

Be careful that your nerves don't make you ask a question whose answer has already been provided earlier in the interview. There's nothing worse than explaining the history of a company and then having a job candidate ask exactly what the company does. Listen to the interviewer and form questions around what he or she is saying.

Here are some more suggested questions:

Can you describe the company culture? These is a good way to learn about the company and its employees on an informal basis. What employees and departments will I be working with most frequently? Interviewers appreciate the broader view than just "what will I be doing?" What are the company's strengths and weaknesses? Besides feeling vindicated by throwing this dreaded question back at an interviewer, you might also glean some interesting information. If the interviewer says he personally doesn't care for the mandatory participation in the company bowling league, well, you have that. What attracted you to this organization? This shows your interest in the interviewer as a person and also implies that you respect that person enough to want his or her personal opinion. The tacit meaning is "If someone as cool as you was attracted to this company, I'd be interested in knowing what." Describe what a typical day would be like for me. Interviewers will often highlight the duties of a job. You can get a little more insight if he or she has to describe an average day.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

24 comments
uttam_giet
uttam_giet

There are many wrong answers to this question such as: - I hate my job, my company and my boss. - I???m sick of working there. - I need more money. - My co-workers never supported me and were jealous for my work. - I was working with a small company and now looking forward to work with a bigger one. - My company makes me work for more additional hours and was paying on a low scale. At the end of the day, it???s highly recommended to give a good answer that leaves a positive impression while displaying good traits. Some good answers are as follows: 1) I was looking for a position like this which is an excellent match for my skills and experience and I am not able to fully utilize them in my present job as there is very limited scope of growth. I am interested in a new challenge and an opportunity to use my technical skills and experience in a different capacity than I have in the past. 2) The company where I was working is a very large company and hence it???s difficult to do and learn different tasks. We had routine work that never changed. So I am looking for a work in an environment where I can utilize more of my skills. For more details, visit http://uttambpt.blogspot.com

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

Just the way I do it, interview the company and see if they deserve your talents! Way to go! Sure they are offering me employment, but I don't see interviews as a one way street. Even when people ask questions, they are often just to look better in an interview. My goal is always to qualify a potential employer and your questions do just that, right on! Nothing better than leading an interview, in many cases it gets you in the door real fast, in other cases it at least leaves the hiring manager wondering what the hell just happened in THEIR interview. :D (did we get the employee?)

jck
jck

I think the next to last one is the only one you'd typically get a genuine answer on. Most companies are going to show you the great people you'll get to work with, make it sound good, show you the shiny version of work you'll like. I don't depend too much on them for info. I just ask the manager/supervisor-to-be questions that look good or show interest. When I go in for an interview and want info, I like to ask regular workers (people who will be my peers) questions like: How long have you been here? Have a lot of people left since you got here? Does the boss do things that tick you off a lot, or is he/she pretty cool? Are they picky about a lot of stuff? Do they make you and the others feel at-home or like part of the team? I like to tend to ask the "layperson" who'll be my peer for the real dirt on what the work environment is like. An interviewer/manager level person will generally give you the "company line". After all, its their responsibility to recruit people to staff positions. I interviewed with Wal-Mart HQ once, and one of the programmers I got to interface with was very forward and direct in answering my questions. And, it was refreshing to actually get the honest answers. I also interviewed with one of their VPs, and I was actually impressed with him being technically knowledgable and honest about the work environment and not trying to make it sound like Utopia. I only try to make a good impression with a interviewing manager though. Spit out a few things I read about the company, compliment them on their organization, show my knowledge, etc. I have quit depending on them for an honest view of what it will be like to work there. After my current job, I'll never trust another supervisor/manager/executive to be honest and keep their word.

Chaz Chance#
Chaz Chance#

Down sizing means that I am going back to that side of the desk. I am really confident at interviews, right up until that one dreaded question. Now, finally, I am prepared. Thank you, and all those who have added other constructive suggestions in their comments.

JonGauntt
JonGauntt

In my typical asking questions back, I asked about the backup solution at one job. Most of the intervieweres were not technical, but the lead tech from their internal tech shop just started laughing. It wasn't the most brilliant answer, but it was probably the best answer I have gotten at an interview.

TBone2k
TBone2k

My question as of late has been what is the biggest challenge that faces the department. Sometimes you get a canned answer, but sometimes they are forthright about it. Then it gives me another chance to point out to them how I can help them.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

about their own firm. But I ask a lot of questions in an interview if I'm engaged by it. Life cycles, release schedules, standards, qa process, testing, immediate and long term goals and strategies to achieve them. Give them a right good grilling. If they answer them incorrectly then I don't bother wasting any more of my time with them. Good questions demonstrate as much knowledge as good answers, which is why strengths and weaknesses is a crap one. There are much less offensive ways gauging the IQ of a candidate or an employer, and you are more likely to get a natural response, than one straight out of a book. Ask me that question and it's an immediate negative, to me it indicates a total lack of effort has been put into the hiring process and or they leave such a critical role to incompetents.

v r
v r

Excellent questions, Toni. Thank you. I have not been the interviewee in approximately 29 years because I have known the companies to which I moved and they have known me by reputation and by internal referral. Now that I am on that side again (due to ruthless downsizing by a non-U.S. owned company), it's good to be reminded of the value of these questions. Keep up the good work.

yattwood
yattwood

1. What is the Total Elapsed Time before you will be outsourcing your data center to India? 2. How many releases behind current are your databases? operating systems? applications? 3. How many forests have to be sacrificed in your Change Managment process just to move something into production? Should I have access to a firstborn child or two for the required sacrifice to get something into production? Oh...these are questions that should NOT be asked (but which are very pertinent.......)

vic.valdon
vic.valdon

Some say that it is better to position you interview beforehand so you can position yourself during the interview. But, some say you should reserve questions on the later part of you interview because that is the part where interviewer observes what type of questions you asks. Any comments or feedback are welcome.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

I was sent an offer and replied stating that I wanted to meet with employees, 30 mins each, a few from different departments. They ended up arranging a boardroom meeting where I could interview employees, without management there, one on one. I ended up turning down the position, mainly for money, but it was a gas and threw teh HR for a loop. They initially said no way, but when I talked to the owner he said 'why not?' and had HR arrange it all. LOL, Ahh it's fun playing THEIR game once in a while.

rob_l
rob_l

Now you've got me laughing...

JamesRL
JamesRL

Thats a very good one. I have asked it, but only when I'm confident that I've done well and have a good shot at the job. I've been asked it a few times too. I think it shows charecter. I just noticed your hometown, did you grow up there? I'm from there originally, haven't lived there since I left for university.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

On of my final questions Have you any concerns about my suitability to fulfill the role. One was concerned about the commute. Hadn't noticed my previous job was in another country.....

Toadcheese
Toadcheese

I agree with the person who said to give them a healthy grilling; ask about the specifics of the D2D - because that crap is the 80% if you do get hired. Here are a few I have asked - with varied success - specific wording of the question left up to you: 1) Why didn't you hire this role internally? No qualified candidates/promotable? 2) What are the 2 (or 3 etc) professional traits that make a person successful in this company, and why? 3) Give me an example of how a large (department, organization, etc) decision was made. What was the process / operating rhythm to make that decision (sometimes you can actually "pick a decision" that had been previously discussed within the interview).

JonGauntt
JonGauntt

Generally you want to ask questions at the end, since it gives you an opportunity to see how things are going during the interview. Also, you will be nervous and it can be difficult to get your point across if they just open it up right at the beginning, so don't push for it. I also recommend having your questions typed up going into the interview. It gives you something to look at and recall your thoughts and you make sure you get all of them in when you are asking them. It can also be slightly empowering because you then have the opportunity to sit there and write down their answers instead of vice versa.

Sunny Puddle
Sunny Puddle

This addresses something that is needed for the applicant to make an intelligent decision. If I am anticipating leaving a position how do I know that the company and position I am considering is better than the one I am at now? I need information and outside of hanging out at the company for a few days, the only way to get that "inside" information is to ask current/former workers and the person conducting the interview. I think a set of follow-up questions is necessary depending on the answers to the questions posed in your article. Thank you for this under-appreciated topic!

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

That stuff always bugged me, 'I've got your back', 'I'm right behind you', 'I've got your six', 'behind every man is a great woman' ! Well man up and stand in front of me instead of hiding behind me then! I'll drag arse behind you and have a smoke. If something is coming, I'll trade places with you and continue to stand behind you. :D

Doug_Dame
Doug_Dame

If you didn't do well in the interview ... which is to say, you don't THINK you did well ... then there is no downsides to asking this question. You may learn something that you can pre-emptively address with your next interviewer. Regardless of how well you did, this question shows (1) you seek performance feedback, even when it might be uncomfortable, which implies (2) you're mature enough to deal with whatever you hear and (3) you're presumably going to do something about any opportunities for improvement. Whatever your standing was as a candidate 15 seconds earlier, you just made yourself a whole lot more attractive as someone self-motivated to learn and improve on the job. GREAT question.

stevieg
stevieg

My absolute least favorite question of all time is "Describe yourself in one word." I got that once during an interview I was not particularly excited about. I replied "Unable to follow instructions", and walked out. Here is another real one. I am not making this up, you know. Question: Which would you rather be, a chief or a brave? My response: A scout. Dazed looks between interviewers. What the hell is he talking about???? Result: An offer that I accepted. bye, s

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