What to Ask Employers at the Interview

At every interview, there comes a time when the employer asks you “Do you have any questions?” Most times the interviewee just says “No, you’ve covered everything! I’m SO content! Please hire me!” Is this you? Is that the right move? Are you SURE you don’t want to know any of the following things?

ABOUT THE POSITION:

  • Why is this position open? (did they fire someone? are they growing?)
  • What will be my duties and responsibilities?
  • Can you describe a typical day in this role?
  • In your estimation, what is the most difficult aspect of this position?
  • What is the salary? Is there a bonus provision? What are the details of your benefits package?
  • What is the growth-potential for someone in this position? (salary / job title)
  • What are the terms of employment? (i.e. Is it a one, two, three year contract?)
  • How much paid vacation is given? Do you give everyone the days between Christmas & New Year’s off, or do they have to use vacation days?
  • Are there restrictive covenants in the employment agreement and if so, what are they? Can I have my contract modified to specifically except my freelance work from these covenants?
  • Tell me about termination of employment. Can I be dismissed and under what circumstances? If I wish to resign what are the requirements for that?
  • What are your major IT initiatives for the year? (This response should give you an idea of the overall IT strategy. If the initiatives are reactive to problems rather than proactive, beware!)

ABOUT THE TECHNOLOGY:

  • Of the web technologies listed as required on your job ad, which are you currently using?
  • When were the first lines of your current codebase written?
  • When was the last major revision released? How often do you release?
  • Is your code object-oriented or procedural?
  • Do you have a dedicated QA person?
  • Do you have a dedicated interface designer?
  • Do you attempt to be standards compliant? (html? xhtml transitional? strict?)
  • Are your designers also coders? Do they write code by hand or use a WYSIWYG?
  • Do you use a specific methodology? (scrum, xp, waterfall, something?)
  • Do you use version control? (CVS, SVN, GIT?)
  • Does your code separate business logic from display logic? (templating, tiers, etc)
  • Do your site(s) require scalability? How many servers does it run on?
  • How is your site organized? What’s the architecture behind it?
  • What are the main technologies you implement? (A huge variety of technologies can be a warning of poor IT strategy and implementation.)

ABOUT THE CULTURE:

  • Is there a formal employee rewards and/or recognition program?
  • In an average week, how many hours do you spend in meetings?
  • What does your company do for fun?
  • What is the company’s policy regarding training?
  • Is there time allowed for continuing educational activities? How much?
  • Is there financial support for certifications, professional membership dues and fees, publications purchase or subscriptions for professional journals? If so, how much?
  • How would you describe the work culture (do people work overtime, etc.)?
  • What do you find most frustrating about working here / your position?

ABOUT THE COMPANY:

  • How would you describe the growth and financial stability of the company, as well as it’s future growth possibilities?
  • How many IT employees do you have? (just a few IT employees means that you might have to cover multiple technologies and tasks.)
  • How many people does the IT staff support? (A very small proportion of IT staff to staff supported can mean long hours and high pressure.)
  • Please give me your assessment of your major competition
  • What is your growth rate? Is it enough to support a new employee? Can you tell me some of the specifics?
  • What is your overhead percentage? Can I see your financial statements and operations reports such as procedure frequency reports, expense reports, balance sheets, cash flow analyses, practice income tax returns?
  • Tell me about your staff. How many and what types do you employ? How long have these people been with you? What is your staff turnover? Will I have my own dedicated staff?
  • What kind of marketing do you currently do? Do you have a practice brochure and if so, can I see one? What kinds of marketing/practice building activities do you plan for a new associate?
  • Where do you get most of your leads? (phone, ad-words, word-of-mouth?)
  • Do you have a practice brochure and if so, can I see one?

TOP 5 QUESTIONS: (if you’re strapped for time)

  • How would you describe the work culture (do people work overtime, etc.)?
  • What does your competition offer that you don‚Äôt? What do you offer that they don‚Äôt? (i.e. What is your key differentiator / competitive advantage?)
  • What are your major IT initiatives for the year?
  • How often do you release, and when was the last major revision released?
  • What is the best thing about the internet? (do they “get it”?)

REMEMBER:

  • It’s always good to read the company’s website before an interview.
  • Search for “@companyname.com” in GoogleGroups/Usenet to find messages/postings by employees. This is where you can find the real dirt.
  • If the employer doesn’t want to answer any of these questions in the interview, ask yourself why. Is a company that gives you the run-around on day one the kind of place you want to work?

What questions do you ask at the interview?
Post’em in the comments :)

About Derek

Born & raised in Petrolia, Ontario. Birthplace of global oil industry. Educated at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario. Webified at Humber College in Etobicoke, Ontario. Inspired at TakingITGlobal.org, and in Zagreb, Croatia. Recognized by www.ILoveRewards.com. Former lead developer of www.wikiDOMO.com. Currently a Senior Developer at rTraction.
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4 Responses to What to Ask Employers at the Interview

  1. Awesome list….. I always ask: “What would I do in the first 90 days to get up to speed?”

  2. Zakir Hemraj says:

    Great list. Putting the pressure back on the interviewer is so much fun!

    You already have it, but I’ve always like the “why is this position available” question as well as anything related to personal growth/training.

  3. Tammy says:

    Wow this list is awesome. I was assuming that the paid vacation during christmas question seems kind of forwards for a interview question, but maybe I am thinking too politically correct.

  4. Pingback: Stefan Kolesnikowicz » Blog Archive » Preparing for the Interview

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