Derik Whittaker

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Questions every Candidate should ask a potential new employer

Over the years I have conducted my fair share of interviews with potential new employees for the different companies I have worked for.  In fact my company is currently looking for a few good developers now.  What has always confused me is the lack of questions asked by the potential candidate.  Sure they ask the standard stuff like vacation, benefits (pay, 401k, insurance), work/life balance, company history.  However, most fail to even mention anything about the team, the environment or the companies philosophy towards software development.  If you ask me, knowing how the team is structured/ran is more important in some respects then ‘standard questions’.

 

I put together a quick list of questions I would expect a top flight developer to ask, please feel free to add your own.  NOTE: These are not in any particular order

 

  1. Explain the company’s development process at a high level.
  2. How are releases scheduled/planned, do you utilize iterations
  3. Do you have dedicated environments (development, qa, stage, production)
  4. Do you follow any formal methodology (agile (what flavor), waterfall, etc)
  5. What is the company’s philosophy on team member involvement in the SDLC process
  6. Do you have a continuous build environment setup
  7. Do you follow some form of TDD
  8. How do you track/follow bugs/issues
  9. Do you perform code reviews
  10. What type of development tools do you have
  11. What type of hardware for the developers to you have
  12. Is QA involved from the onset of development
  13. Do you have a knowledge center for the team such as a team portal, wiki, etc
  14. Do you have up to date specs on the application
  15. What form of stake holder involvement is there in the development cycle
  16. Do you have documented coding standards, are they followed

 

What did I miss?

 


Posted 05-09-2007 6:59 AM by Derik Whittaker
Filed under:

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Comments

joeydotnet wrote re: Questions every Candidate should ask a potential new employer
on 05-09-2007 9:34 AM

Good stuff, and coincidentally good timing for me!  Thanks!

dwvisser wrote re: Questions every Candidate should ask a potential new employer
on 05-12-2007 1:05 PM

I definitely need to bookmark this list for the next time I interview!

frogsbrain wrote re: Questions every Candidate should ask a potential new employer
on 05-16-2007 12:37 AM

I interview tomorrow and I am printing this list out so I don't forget. :-)

ryan.doherty wrote re: Questions every Candidate should ask a potential new employer
on 06-07-2007 11:22 PM

I think Joel Spolsky's list is pretty good:

(some overlap)

  1. Do you use source control?

  2. Can you make a build in one step?

  3. Do you make daily builds?

  4. Do you have a bug database?

  5. Do you fix bugs before writing new code?

  6. Do you have an up-to-date schedule?

  7. Do you have a spec?

  8. Do programmers have quiet working conditions?

  9. Do you use the best tools money can buy?

 10. Do you have testers?

 11. Do new candidates write code during their interview?

 12. Do you do hallway usability testing?

garyjefferson wrote re: Questions every Candidate should ask a potential new employer
on 06-08-2007 1:56 PM

Dude, that sounds like a checklist for "I Only Want to Work for Big MegaCorp X."  Seriously.

I'm not arguing against any of those things listed -- they are *all* excellent, *all* things that any big megacorp should have in place 10 years ago.

I'm just worried that you are going to exclude a lot of exciting startup opportunities with this line of questions.  Early-stage startups have very small teams and bring up infrastructure as required.  Certainly, all of the things in your list should be aimed for.  Just don't expect them when you join if you want to be employee #15 at the next Google.

joebensimo wrote re: Questions every Candidate should ask a potential new employer
on 06-11-2007 12:24 PM

@Gary

I see a list of questions, not a list of expected answers.  These questions are useful in determining a potential employer's philosophy towards software development.  It is better to know more about the practices of a company before accepting a job than to find out later that you have major philosophical differences.

Ben Simo

http://QualityFrog.com

Derik Whittaker wrote re: Questions every Candidate should ask a potential new employer
on 06-11-2007 3:53 PM

Joe,

I could not agree more.  One of the reasons I am leaving my current   company is because i thought we were both on the same page in this regards, but turns out we are not.  

If during the interview they told me they did not believe in source control, or doing builds, or even having specs I may turn and run.  However, if they told me they did not have testers, or have an ‘official’ bug database, instead they use an excel document that may not be so bad.

zozturk wrote re: Questions every Candidate should ask a potential new employer
on 06-19-2007 5:07 AM

Good point however you should also define the job experience of the potential employee in your sector. For a Junior, new graduated employee; these are over qualified questions and I think it is not fair or for a foreign employee.

daveygf wrote re: Questions every Candidate should ask a potential new employer
on 07-17-2007 10:47 PM

Would one of you be willing to share good answers to these questions? I would like to know what a best practices development shop should use and responds with to these questions.

Fechy wrote re: Questions every Candidate should ask a potential new employer
on 08-28-2007 4:43 PM

Well its alrite

The Bolla Blog wrote Finding A New Job, Week 2 - Preparing for the Interview... What to ask employers
on 09-10-2007 9:37 PM

I've begun compiling a list of questions and discussion points for potential employers. Many of these

The Bolla Blog wrote Finding A New Job, Week 2 - Preparing for the Interview... What to ask employers
on 09-10-2007 10:18 PM

I've begun compiling a list of questions and discussion points for potential employers. Many of these

Tims Blog » Blog Archive » What about the links wrote Tims Blog » Blog Archive » What about the links
on 03-30-2008 10:31 AM

Pingback from  Tims Blog  » Blog Archive   » What about the links

“Questions every Candidate should ask a potential new employer” « Agile Software Company From Scratch wrote “Questions every Candidate should ask a potential new employer” « Agile Software Company From Scratch
on 06-29-2008 1:46 PM

Pingback from  “Questions every Candidate should ask a potential new employer” « Agile Software Company From Scratch

what questions should i ask a potential employer in an interview wrote what questions should i ask a potential employer in an interview
on 08-02-2008 2:22 PM

Pingback from  what questions should i ask a potential employer in an interview

DotNetKicks.com wrote Questions every Candidate should ask a potential new employer
on 11-15-2008 10:07 PM

You've been kicked (a good thing) - Trackback from DotNetKicks.com

Jason L. Froebe: Ramblings of a Geek » Blog Archive » Questions to ask when you interview for a new job wrote Jason L. Froebe: Ramblings of a Geek » Blog Archive » Questions to ask when you interview for a new job
on 01-10-2009 6:45 PM

Pingback from  Jason L. Froebe: Ramblings of a Geek  » Blog Archive   » Questions to ask when you interview for a new job

Tom wrote re: Questions every Candidate should ask a potential new employer
on 01-16-2009 6:13 AM

One problem with asking these question is that you will unlikely get very honest answers, for example if you ask as in the last question above "Do you have documented coding standards, are they followed ?".

Then I do not believe that many potential employers would give you an honest reply such that "yes we have coding standards but virtually nobody cares about them".

A more likely answer would be a vague (and more or less dishonest) answer such as "yes we have coding standards, and we have some work to do before we can claim that everybody is following them completely".  

IMHO, a likely interpretation of such an answer is that virtually nobody is following the coding standards.

Derik Whittaker wrote re: Questions every Candidate should ask a potential new employer
on 01-16-2009 6:18 AM

@Tom,

You may be 100% correct, but asking these questions is better than nothing.  Also, many times you can tell if someone is telling you the entire story by watching their face while giving you their response.

Also, you may get luck and find the honest company.... who knows.

ellie wrote re: Questions every Candidate should ask a potential new employer
on 04-08-2009 6:57 AM

I would like to add a couple here.

Do you have a working area dedicated to programmers and not stuck in the middle of the accounting department?

Do your senior programmers have qualifications or are they self taught?

PEbpJrGRXVb wrote re: Questions every Candidate should ask a potential new employer
on 04-13-2009 6:24 PM

DT8YAt

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