Interviews are tough.
When I was first starting out, interviews scared the bejeezus out of me. I remember some awful experiences, showing up at a company’s offices already nervous… sitting at reception, or led in to some empty boardroom.. mentally freaking out. Minutes would tick by and I’d get more and more worked up, sweaty… literally dreading the moment the person (or people.. tag team!), would come in and start grilling me.
These days, interviews aren’t quite the dreadful nerve-wracking experience for me that they once were. Don’t get me wrong, they still make me nervous… and probably always will.. but over the years I’ve learned several tips to make the interview experience much more bearable, almost enjoyable some times. Let me share my favourite trick with you.
Asking questions during an interview can help you:
- Turn the interview from an interrogation, into an informal chat
- Take the pressure off you to do all the talking
- Show you are actually interested in the company and job
- Demonstrate more of your knowledge or skillset
- Learn some facts about the company they don’t necessarily advertise
- Help you stand out from the crowd, and leave a lasting impression.
An interview should not be an interrogation.
Almost without fail during an interview, especially with smaller companies not having a well defined hiring/screening process; you will be asked… “Do you have any questions?”
Never let this opportunity slide!
A few months back, I was helping a young friend of mine prepare for some interviews, and put together a list of questions and topics that might be appropriate to ask about. So I figured I’d share them here.
Ask about the company
- What does the company name mean? Where did it come from?
- What is it like to work at this company?
- Did you guys have a Christmas party? What did you do?
- Who made your website? Is it done in house? I liked X.
- On your website it talks about X, but it wasn’t very clear. Can you tell me more?
- How long have you been in this office space? It’s really nice!
Ask about the team you’ll be joining
- Does the team ever get together outside of work? Like drinks after work on a Friday?
- Do the staff do any sports? Like play together on a soccer team?
- How big is the team?
- What is the development process like? Do you guys use agile? Standups? Sprints? Maybe pair programming?
- Walk me through the process from an idea or feature request… to getting code live.. What’s that look like?
- Whats the tech stack I’ll be working with? Why did you guys choose that?
- Who will be my coworkers?
Ask questions directly to the person interviewing you
- How long have you worked here?
- What was the company like when you started? Has it changed a lot?
- Was the interview process the same when you got hired?
Ask about the role you are applying for
- What would a typical day for me be like here?
- My last company encouraged us to learn, and would pay for training courses or books… is there anything like that here? I would like to get my <cert… like MCSE, Redhat cert, whatever>
- Will I be getting a mac or a PC when I start?
- What can I expect during the on boarding process or training?
- What happened to the last guy in this job? Is he still around? Maybe this is a new position?
- Who would be my boss?
Or maybe even something casual
- Are there any good spots around here for lunch? Do most people go out, or stay in?
- Any gamers in the office? I like to play Counterstrike.
- Anybody at the office play magic cards?
These are just some general suggestions, a starting point. When you feel you can, maybe during a lull during the conversation, try to work a few of these questions in. But do it naturally. Try making the interview more of a conversation with a new friend, than a stuffy, formal, presentation of your skills and experiences.
If you’re having a hard time with interviews like I used to, maybe not getting any calls back… I’m telling you… try this out! And let me know how it goes in the comments!