Software

10 questions developers should ask employers during a job interview

Good developer interview preparation includes coming up with thoughtful questions for the hiring manager. Here are some ideas to get started.

Landed an interview for a developer job? While it's important to prepare for the questions you might be asked by the employer, it's also key to know what questions you will ask them.

"Forgoing the opportunity to ask questions means missing out on the opportunity to learn about the nature of the work the role entails, the culture of the organization and much more," said Joanna Tropp-Bluestone, a career strategist who runs the firm Negotiation Geek. "In addition, asking thoughtful questions is another way to showcase your communication skills, demonstrate your interest in the role and make a great impression on your interviewer."

Great questions are those that require more than just a "yes" or "no" answer, and that give you more insight into the organization, team, or position, Tropp-Bluestone said. "High quality questions provide insight into organizations' software development tools and practices, the sophistication of their technology, organizational decision-making processes and expectations around career growth and development," she added.

Before deciding what questions to ask, you should consider your interviewers' backgrounds (for example, if they are on the HR side or the tech side) and tailor questions accordingly, Tropp-Bluestone said.

SEE: Hiring kit: Python developer (Tech Pro Research)

"There's no one-size-fits-all question that developers should ask potential employers," said Cody Swann, CEO of Gunner Technology. "Candidates really need to feel out the employer and respond accordingly. But it is extremely important that the candidate asks some questions. As a hiring manager, I would be extremely leery if the candidate had no questions for me."

Here are 10 questions that developers should consider asking on a future job interview.

1. Can you tell me about the members of the team that I would be joining?

This can be followed up with questions such as: What type of experience do they have? How seasoned are they? What types of code have they been exposed to? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the team?

"This is a great question for the hiring manager since he or she likely has the most insight into the team dynamics and the talent and accomplishments of the team members," Tropp-Bluestone said. "In addition, hearing how the hiring manager talks about his direct reports can provide great information about his/her management style, the relationships he/she has with the people who report to him/her and the importance the manager places on these things."

Another more specific way to phrase this question might be, "How many years on average do your developers stay? I want to be sure I fit in, in terms of my job tenures I've had in the past." This can help determine if you fit in from a culture perspective, said Alan Guinn, managing director of the Guinn Consultancy Group.

2. How will my performance be measured?

Another version of this question might be, "How do you measure success for employees in this role?"

Asking about measures of success shows your interviewer that you're already thinking in terms of high performance, Tropp-Bluestone said. The hiring manager's answer can also provide more insight into their expectations, the company culture around performance assessment, and any additional skills they may be looking for, she added.

"In addition, this is a great opportunity for you to reiterate that you'd be a great fit for their organization based on everything they just shared with you," Tropp-Bluestone said.

3. Why do you enjoy working here?

This question allows you to get a better sense of the organizational culture and the personality of your potential manager, Tropp-Bluestone said. If the hiring manager is excited about something that you aren't interested in, that might be a clue that the position isn't right for you.

SEE: Job description: Java developer (Tech Pro Research)

4. What are the biggest challenges facing the team right now?

Asking about challenges and competitors demonstrates that an applicant cares about the trajectory of the company, said Gremlin CEO Kolton Andrus. It also demonstrates confidence, and that they aren't afraid to get into the weeds and push for answers, he added.

"Asking about challenges and opportunities shows that you are motivated to make a positive contribution to the organization from the outset," Tropp-Bluestone said. "It also helps you find out what's likely to be your main focus for the first few months at the company."

5. What technology is the company currently using?

"I'm most impressed by applicants that show a keen interest in technologies," said S. Bridge, technical lead at Blinds Direct. "It's wise to ask a company what technology is available and if you'll get the opportunity to try new things—a great developer should always want to learn."

Asking about the tech stack the company is using is also important for clarifying what the potential employee would be working on, and how their skills align, said Sofus Macskássy, vice president of data science at HackerRank.

6. How do your customers benefit from using your product or service?

Though developers are not customer-facing, many companies want all employees to keep in mind the goal of helping customers, said Ilia Sotnikov, vice president of product management at Netwrix. "A person who asks this question shows that he or she understands the purpose of their work and is willing to bring value to customers and our company," Sotnikov said. "Instead of trying to prove himself/herself as an ingenious coder, he or she will do their best to help customers get maximum benefits from our products and services."

7. Is there room for growth?

"Asking about growth shows an employer that you are motivated and want to move up the ladder or develop new skills," said Ian McClarty, president of PhoenixNAP Global IT Services. "The last thing I want to do is hire someone, train them, and they are gone in a year. By asking this questions, it shows you have intent to grow with the company long term."

8. Do you have any feedback for me?

Asking for feedback and what you can do to improve for the next interview round is a signal that you care about your performance and are a team player, said Todd Schiller, a software engineering hiring manager at MOKA Analytics. "If you incorporate the feedback, you'll do better in the subsequent rounds and demonstrates you are coachable," Schiller said. Asking this also requires the interviewer to synthesize their thoughts about you before leaving the interview, which they may not otherwise do until much later, he added.

9. What development process does your company work with?

"While developers get very passionate about waterfall vs. agile, in reality most companies work with a hybrid," said Steve Van Lare, vice president of engineering at Gigster. "This is because the business needs waterfall (when are you delivering what and for how much) yet software is strongly aligned to the iterative nature of agile. This question opens up a dialog about what is always a hot topic."

10. Something specific to the company.

Wrapping up your interview with one or two company-related questions is a great way to demonstrate your interest in the organization, Tropp-Bluestone said. It also demonstrates that you did your homework in preparation for the interview. "It works like a charm because people love talking about themselves, feeling like experts, and it will end the interview on a positive note," she added.

For example, you might ask about their newest products or an emerging market you know they're exploring.

"I'm always impressed by engineering candidates that have done their homework on our company and have taken the time to think about the technical challenges of building such a product," said Sean Borman of Obsidian Security. "These folks will ask good questions related to architecture, technology choices, scaling, machine learning, and so on. It's as much an opportunity for the candidate to shine as it is a way for the candidate to assess whether or not the company really knows what they're doing."

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About Alison DeNisco Rayome

Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.

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