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Finding A New Job, Week 2 - Preparing for the Interview... What to ask employers

It works on my machine!


    I've begun compiling a list of questions and discussion points for potential employers. Many of these are lifted verbatim from Joel Spolsky, Derik Whittaker, and Eric Wise. *YOINK* If anyone has more, please leave a comment and I will continue the harvest. I will also continue to update this post as I think of more of my own. Onto the list...

  • What does your organization do? How do you utilize IT to accomplish that more effectively?
  • What is your role at the organization?
  • How many full-time employees and contractors do you employ? In IT?
  • What are the company's future plans for utilizing IT?
The Position
  • What are the job duties of the position for which you are considering?
  • Tell me about the average workday of a developer of my level.
  • What is the nature of the project(s)?
  • How often do you extend contracts or offer full-time placement to contractors?
  • How many bosses will the employee have? Direct reports? Teammates?
  • Does this position have the authority to enhance/improve the development process or team behavior?
  • What opportunity for advancement is available at your company?
  • What is the typical process a candidate goes through before he is hired and sitting at his desk working? How long does that usually take?
  • Does your company have policies regarding employee blogging or contributing to open source projects?
  • What is the appropriate dress code?
Project Management
  • Does your development staff follow an agile/iterative methodology? (XP, Scrum)
  • How do you define project requirements?
  • How do you determine whether a project was successful?
  • How do you test your software? (Unit, integration, QA, usability, acceptance)
  • How do you deploy your software?
  • How do you manage bugs and change requests?
  • What form of stake holder involvement is there in the development cycle?
Development Environment
  • What types of tools do you provide your developers? Hardware/software/furniture? Resharper?
  • Do you have a VPN?  What is your work from home policy?
  • Are employees allowed to provide their own hardware/software?
  • To what extent does the development team use version control? Branching?
  • Does the development team utilize an automated/continuous build process?
  • Does your version control repository contain everything needed to build the project? [Added 9/12]
  • Do programmers have quiet working conditions?
  • What proportion of development is done in a team environment? Pair-programming? Code-review?
  • Do you have a knowledge center for the team such as a team portal, wiki, etc?
  • Do you have documented coding standards? Are they followed?
  • Does the development team have established mentoring/training practices?
  • Can I see the (physical) development environment and/or meet some of the team? (Some employers may not allow this, but it's worth a shot. This would go a long way in my book. Their answer might also depend on their opinion of you.)
  • Does you company have a policy on the use of open source tools? [Added 9/11]


  • How many hours per week do your developers realistically work?
  • Do you compensate for overtime?
  • What type of benefits are offered to full-time employees? Do you have any education benefits?
  • Do you have a documented process for rewarding extraordinary work?


  • What's the best thing about working here? The worst?

    Obviously one shouldn't just enumerate the list and recite verbatim, but this is meant as a guide to refer back to at natural conversation endpoints. Some of these may not be relevant to the position for which you are interviewing. Also, many companies will answer some of these questions on their website. Do your homework and look at their website ahead of time. At my current job, I've interviewed many people who didn't even go to our website before the interview. 

Something for the ladies employers: If you answer many of these questions on your website, motivated developers such as myself would be much much much more likely to want to work for you.


Posted 09-10-2007 8:54 PM by Jim Bolla
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