Anyone who’s ever been in a crappy job knows emerges a little more wary and much better prepared for the next one. As interviewing is a two-way street, it’s always a good idea to ask your potential employer a few basic questions before accepting the gig. After all, you need to make sure that the company is as much a fit for you, as you are for them. You are the best judge of how to get the best productivity from yourself, so you need to know that your new environment will be conducive to that.
Obviously there are some pretty basic questions that you should be asking, like what the role is, what it pays and what the culture is like. But here are a few more questions that you may not have considered.
Here are some good questions to ask a future employer (in no particular order).
1. What are the expected working hours? What are the typical working hours?
The minimum hours in your contract and the expected hours may not be the same. If you’ve got a family to get home to, you don’t want to be the only guy walking out the door at 5pm while your boss glares at you for not working back until 7pm like the rest of the team.
2. Do I get admin access to my own machine?
I once had a job heavily involving software development where I didn’t have administrator access to my own machine. This proved challenging. When I asked my next employer this question, he said “yes, of course” and looked at me like I was mad. A good sign.
3. Are there any downloading, workstation installation and internet browsing restrictions? Is online activity monitored?
Being able to download and install things on my workstation, as a software tester/developer, should be a no brainer. I’m more than happy to respect a company’s security policies, but when they prevent me from doing my job and don’t actually contribute towards company security, then I tend to object. I’m not doing anything naughty online that I’m worried about being monitored, but I’d be interested to know if my future employer deems such monitoring to be necessary.
4. Which source control software do you use?
If the answer is “email”, run.
5. What’s your take on personal devices in the workplace? Supported? Unsupported? Outlawed?
In some places it’s useful to have your laptop or iPad around for things like meetings, presentations and testing if one isn’t provided for you.
6. What kind of workstation will I be using? What is the refresh rate?
Nothing’s more depressing than being handed a dinosaur of a machine and falling asleep while waiting for your applications to load. Sometimes fixed by bringing in personal devices (see above).
7. What software development methodology do you use?
Don’t accept any one-word answers without further explanation.
8. Are employees allowed to listen to music while working?
It’s a personal preference, but in my experience most software engineers like to block out the world with headphones in order to focus, myself included. It’s a great trick.
9. How are performance reviews conducted?
I haven’t been burned by this in the past but it’s sure interesting to know.
10. Does your team use continuous integration?
It’s a good indication of how the team works, and a good lead-in to a discussion about how the team operates on a day to day basis.
11. Do I get a permanent desk?
“Hot-desking” seems to be getting pretty popular these days. It might not be your cup of tea. It’s probably also best to check if you get a desk at all. Who knows, maybe your next employer will have you sitting on the floor due to desk restrictions. Nothing would surprise me.
12. What’s the biggest challenge you have faced while working here?
Might as well interview the interviewer. You might get some interesting answers.
13. What test case management system / bug tracking tool / etc do you use?
If the answer to any of this is “Excel” it’s probably a red flag.
14. How often do you deploy to production?
There’s no right answer here, but you’ll probably get an interesting one.
15. What are you hoping to achieve by hiring me? How do you see the candidate contributing to your team?
An excellent question, courtesy of my friend Adam Yuret.
This might seem like a lot of questions, but if you’re considering taking a full-time job that’s a long-term commitment and it’s worth being sure about it. Asking more questions sparks more discussion and that’s a good thing.