6 mins

Interviews are a golden opportunity for software developers to get to know their potential employer, and asking good questions is another way to stand out from the crowd.

Job interviews are a two-way street. Not only are they an opportunity for the hiring company to figure out if you’re a fit for the role, team, and company, they’re also a chance for you to check if all of those things are the right fit for you. 

While you should use the whole interview experience to assess your potential employer, one of the most important things you can do is take a few minutes at the end of the interview to ask questions about the role, company (NewCo for the sake of this article), working situation, and anything else you care about.

Below are 31 smart questions that can help you get a better understanding of your potential employer and the role. While you won't be able to ask all of them, take the time to hand pick a few and note them down ahead of the interview.

Questions about the role

While the job description and hiring process should give you a good overview of the role and what’s expected, the interview is also the time to ask any questions you still have. 

Sometimes important details get glossed over or accidentally left out of the written job spec, so you might need to ask things like:

  • What duties does this role have?
  • Who will I report directly to?
  • How big is the team?
  • Where will I work?
  • What equipment will I be provided with?
  • How soon will I be expected to start?

It’s important to ask these questions as if you specifically are going to get the role, to help the interviewers immediately see you in the role.

Also, if you are considering moving for a position, you may want to ask:

  • What is the housing situation like near NewCo’s headquarters?
  • Is there anyone at NewCo who can advise me on relocating?
  • Is there a relocation bonus or any other kind of assistance available?

Questions that demonstrate your skills

“I think a lot of candidates perform pretty well through the beginning and middle stages of the interview and then they take for granted that final stage,” Dave Walters, CTO at the tech hiring platform Hired said.

As Walters sees it, you can use the question time at the end of an engineering interview to highlight any skills that you haven’t yet had an opportunity to demonstrate. In particular, if you ask questions about what key talents the team you are applying for is currently missing, you can then talk about how your background, education, or previous employment means you can plug those gaps.

While the exact questions will depend on the company and the role you are going for, some of the kinds of things you can ask are:

  • What is the biggest skills gap in the team that you are trying to fill?
  • What would really help your team succeed in the next six months?
  • What areas does NewCo lack experience in?
  • What technologies does NewCo want to use more of but doesn’t have the technical talent to do so?
  • What are the biggest barriers to team communication?

Questions about the company

While finding out more about the individual role is important, it’s also crucial that you know as much as possible about your potential employer. 

Make sure you don’t waste these questions asking about things that can be found using a Google search. Instead, focus on finding out useful, practical information by asking your interviewer about working at the company. This can help reinforce that you are genuinely interested in working for them, and uncover any red flags about the culture.

Some good questions worth considering are:

  • What brought you to NewCo?
  • Why are you working for NewCo?
  • What initially interested you in working for NewCo and why have you stayed there?
  • What’s it like working for NewCo?
  • How does NewCo make decisions?
  • Who makes engineering decisions at NewCo?
  • Who decides what each person or team works on?

Questions about the business

Engineers can often get hung up on the technical side of things during an interview and lose sight of how your potential employer plans to turn a profit. This insight can help you decide whether it’s a good fit or not. 

After all, engineering is about tradeoffs. Unless you are working for a research lab, you are likely to be solving problems within a set of constraints imposed by the overall business. If sales are down, the company might not be able to throw resources at interesting engineering problems. Asking questions about what a company aims to do and where it is struggling can also uncover some potential red flags.

Some of the kinds of things you can ask are:

  • How does NewCo make money?
  • Does NewCo consider the engineering department to be a cost center or a value generator?
  • What is currently blocking NewCo from being the company it aspires to be?
  • What are the biggest challenges NewCo is currently facing?
  • Why is NewCo hiring new people right now?

Questions about your opportunities

It’s important to carefully consider what you want out of any given role ahead of the interview. Are you looking for the highest possible salary? Or do you want more stock options in case the company grows massively? Are you looking to practice a certain set of skills, learn a new technology, or transition into management? How important is flexible or remote working?

While the specific questions you need to ask will depend entirely on what it is that you want from the role, you can start with things like:

  • Are employees encouraged and supported to up-skill?
  • What opportunities are there for employees to move between departments?
  • Do many engineers make the transition to management here?
  • Does NewCo allow employees to work from home?
  • What core hours are employees required to work, and can they start the workday earlier or later?

Ask smart follow up questions

While not focused on any particular topic, Walters thinks follow up questions are one of the most important things you can ask in a job interview. It’s very easy for surface level responses to sound good since everyone should be well-prepared for the interview and are trying to put their best foot forward. 

If you want to find out more information and check that things are as they appear, it’s a good idea to ask a few carefully considered follow up questions. For example, if the hiring manager says that the team uses Agile, ask follow up questions about what particular tools they use, or what parts of Agile they’ve found hardest to implement in the organization, or anything else that comes to mind that can help you dig a little deeper. Similarly, if your interviewer says the company is supportive and flexible and that’s important to you, ask for an example about a time a team member’s needs were accommodated. 

However the interview goes on the day, don’t forget to ask questions. They’re your best opportunity to vet your potential employer and set yourself up for success. Good luck!