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What Questions Would You Ask?

42 replies on 3 pages. Most recent reply: Nov 3, 2006 7:33 AM by Tapan kumar Rath

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Bruce Eckel

Posts: 868
Nickname: beckel
Registered: Jun, 2003

What Questions Would You Ask? (View in Weblogs)
Posted: Sep 26, 2006 2:54 PM
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Summary
The questions you forget to ask when you are interviewing for a job, but wish you'd asked after taking the job.
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  1. If I want to buy something like a book or a tool, how does the process work (how hard is it?). What's the cost limit before the approval must go up the management chain?
  2. What's the noise level like during the day?
  3. How many meetings am I expected to attend, and how long do they usually last?
  4. Is there a dress code?
  5. Can I work from home sometimes?
  6. Does it matter when I work, as long as I come to meetings?
  7. How many projects have succeeded/failed in the last five years? To what do you attribute the failures?

What questions do you wish you had asked?


Todd Blanchard

Posts: 316
Nickname: tblanchard
Registered: May, 2003

Re: What Questions Would You Ask? Posted: Sep 26, 2006 4:22 PM
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What is the complete job hierarchy, how many people are at each level, and exactly which level is my position?

I've been screwed a couple times by taking a position that turned out to be lower ranked than I thought just because they had invented a bunch of weird higher level job descriptions.

IOW, 'senior' was really 'more than 2 years and middling skilled' and I should have held out for 'principal' or something like that.

Chris Morris

Posts: 8
Nickname: chrismo
Registered: Jan, 2004

Re: What Questions Would You Ask? Posted: Sep 26, 2006 4:26 PM
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Does management adequately communicate the business side of things to the geeks?

Does management shut down push back from the geeks, or do they listen? (and vice-versa).

How does management deal with deadlines? Missed deadlines?

How many different release cycle cultures do you have? (e.g. "We're pretty relaxed in the fall and winter, then code like hell in the spring, and zone out in shock during the summer")

How open is management to the geeks working on research projects, tinkering, etc?

Do you have any Apollo 13 managers?

Dustin Sallings

Posts: 2
Nickname: dlsspy
Registered: Sep, 2006

How does the group communicate? Posted: Sep 26, 2006 6:19 PM
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Lacking tools like a wiki, a decent bug tracking system, and a reasonable revision control system makes it difficult to tell where an organization is, where it's going, and what you (as a new member of the group) can do to help get it there. These are things that bring us together.

Convincing people that a wiki is not only a communication tool, but an essential tool in the process of transforming thoughts into products in a collaborative environment is a long process. Obviously, collaboration can exist without it, but the time I spend digging through standalone design documents and having people explain the same thing to me they've explained to countless other people is just not very efficient for anyone.

A bug tracking system that involves training and bribery to get anything out of it is just likely to not get used well.

Most places I've been to in the last few years at least understand the importance of a good revision control system. That's 1:3 for this place. I can at least see changes, but I really don't have any idea what anyone's working on and as I stumble around in the dark, I can occasionally feel toes under my own.


Probably a more important question than that, though, is whether things are changeable. That's the difference between a bad state of things being an excuse for itself and an opportunity for growth.

Chad Krueger

Posts: 1
Nickname: crk
Registered: Sep, 2006

Re: How does the group communicate? Posted: Sep 26, 2006 7:59 PM
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1-How serious is the company about knowledge sharing and prevention of one person from owning critical information (also known as the guy who can never take his holidays).

2-How well documented internally are the software infrastructures/interfaces that require code compliance?

3-If developers Bob and Shirley are undertaking similar efforts on the same software, what safeguards are in place to ensure that they a) do things the same way, and b) that way conforms with the rest of the system?

4-If an old customer returns and requires software updates or fixes, what is in place to ensure that newer code can be integrated while minimizing impact on his existing sytem?

Dave Quick

Posts: 22
Nickname: davequick
Registered: Sep, 2006

Re: What Questions Would You Ask? Posted: Sep 26, 2006 9:50 PM
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* How do you determine who gets to work on which projects and how they are rewarded for their work?
* Would you rather hire someone from outside the company for a new position or promote someone who already works for you?
* How do you help people keep their skills up to date and develop new ones?
* How does an employee who has an idea for a new product or project present it to someone with the authority to move it forward?
* If it's a good idea, what sort of reward or recognition us typical?

I would suggest asking these questions of as many people as I could find who have worked at the company for at least a couple of years to see how their answers match up with what you get in the interview.

robert young

Posts: 361
Nickname: funbunny
Registered: Sep, 2003

Re: What Questions Would You Ask? Posted: Sep 26, 2006 10:19 PM
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How many, and what's the percentage, of management came from tech? How long ago were they doing tech?

Ed Gibbs

Posts: 2
Nickname: edgibbs
Registered: Sep, 2005

Re: What Questions Would You Ask? Posted: Sep 26, 2006 11:56 PM
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My additions would be:

- How are you required to report weekly status?

- Can I pick out my own machine/OS? (Mac, Windows, Linux)

Ted M. Young

Posts: 3
Nickname: tedyoung
Registered: Aug, 2003

Re: What Questions Would You Ask? Posted: Sep 27, 2006 2:30 AM
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How long does it take to run the unit test suite?

How long does it take to do a complete build, ready to run in debug mode on a developer's machine?

How long does it take to deploy the application? Including build time?

How do you ensure that the code being checked-in by developers is of sufficient quality?

How often are peer code reviews held? Post-Mortems?

How does QA test the application? Is there a full automated regression suite? How long does that take to run?

Oh how I wished I'd asked these questions a year ago.

- Ted Young

Markus Gaisbauer

Posts: 3
Nickname: intel4004
Registered: Apr, 2006

Re: What Questions Would You Ask? Posted: Sep 27, 2006 7:18 AM
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Related article by Joel Spolsky:
http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/fog0000000043.html

Frank Wilhoit

Posts: 21
Nickname: wilhoit
Registered: Oct, 2003

Re: What Questions Would You Ask? Posted: Sep 27, 2006 10:02 AM
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Funny, I lost an interview once for asking just such questions as these. They seemed to think that such concerns were infantile, as if I had asked how soft was the toilet paper. Their faces just instantly froze in disdain. Probably just as well.

Gregor Zeitlinger

Posts: 108
Nickname: gregor
Registered: Aug, 2005

Re: What Questions Would You Ask? Posted: Sep 27, 2006 1:13 PM
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> Funny, I lost an interview once for asking just such
> questions as these.
I have the same feeling, too.
I doubt you would get an honest answer anyways.
But that's not really the point of this post, I think.

nes

Posts: 137
Nickname: nn
Registered: Jul, 2004

Re: What Questions Would You Ask? Posted: Sep 27, 2006 3:22 PM
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I would change the title to: 100 questions you had during interviews but were afraid to ask. Frankly in many companies even bringing questions like that up makes the interviewers feel uncomfortable.

Also I would make a distinction between technical question and organizational ones. Bruce’s questions seem to be more about the general culture of the organization but some people are posting very specific technical questions. Personally I care more about the general culture than technical details.

How are you required to report weekly status?
Better: how many times do you have to report about your time? Like in three different systems: once for upper management, once for HR and once for the team lead, plus a team meeting just to repeat verbally what has been written.

If I want to buy something like a book or a tool, how does the process work (how hard is it?).

Buying tools? How difficult is it to hack into the locked down machines so I can install some open source tools to get some minimum of productivity?
…and, how difficult is it to get around the corporate proxy filtering so that beside CNN and Bloomberg I can actually access the online documentation for the libraries I am using.

Somebody has to help me formulate this in a very polite and non-threatening way for an interview question.

Leo Lipelis

Posts: 111
Nickname: aeoo
Registered: Apr, 2006

Re: What Questions Would You Ask? Posted: Sep 27, 2006 4:16 PM
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Bruce,

The questions that pops into my mind right now is:

1. Please describe in great detail your level of bureaucracy. What bureaucratic systems are in place? How heavy is reliance on rote procedures vs. active understanding?

2. Are mistakes encouraged or punished?

3. Is responsibility commensurate with power given, or do employees have no power and all the responsibility?

4. How often is upper management criticized from below? How often have the changed the way they conduct business in response? Does upper management actively and vigorously solicit such criticism?

5. Why are you in business? Fundamentally why? To make money? To perfect the state of the art? To improve human condition? To be the top dog? The answer to this will dictate the atmosphere in the company and the level of bullshit day to day.

6. Are people here considered allies or resources?

7. Is anything being done to improve the flexibility of job schedule? For example, if someone wants to work 3 days a week for some part of the year, is that negotiable? Is the mind open or shut to such possibilities?

8. What is done to protect the health and sanity of employees?

9. If the company is private, are there any designs to go public and "cash out"? Is there intention to sell the company?

10. Show me your books.

11. Are you a transparent organization? Show me. (this is similar to above, but wider in scope)

12. How important is consensus? Prove it.

That's good enough for now. I might think of more later. :)

Leo Lipelis

Posts: 111
Nickname: aeoo
Registered: Apr, 2006

Re: What Questions Would You Ask? Posted: Sep 27, 2006 4:24 PM
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> Funny, I lost an interview once for asking just such
> questions as these. They seemed to think that such
> concerns were infantile, as if I had asked how soft was
> the toilet paper. Their faces just instantly froze in
> disdain. Probably just as well.

Ha. You lost nothing.

Questions like these weed out trash. Do you really want to work with people who cannot tolerate such questions? Think about it.

It's kind like this. You go out on a date and try to put out a fake persona for the girl to consume. Why? Because deep down you believe the real you is not worth the bother. Getting together under false pretenses leads to suffering for both parties. So, in a way you "win" this girl with your fakery, but what do you really win? You win a role. You can never be yourself. You must constantly upkeep that fake image, so you can never relax and you must always be on guard. It's like winning a place on death row. It's like winning a disease (lack of ease). Is that really winning?

When the entire society is based on this type of behavior, we have a society of fakes and bullshit jobs that we don't wake to wake up for in the morning.

It doesn't have to be like that.

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