I participate in many interviews, and I know that there is a multitude of mistakes you can make. Some of them are based on bad luck, lack of preparation, lack of fit, etc. But one mistake is a big surprise to me, as it is easy to avoid it.
Imagine you are on a job interview. It is a bit stressful but it follows a pretty well-known pattern: chit chat, some whiteboard exercises, maybe pair programming, various questions. After a few hours, you feel confident. It went pretty well. You nailed it. The interviewer asks you a question: “do you have any question to us?” You answer, "well no, not really,” and boom. You just dropped an atomic bomb that might ruin everything.
Always ask questions at the end! By not asking questions, you are sending the message to your potential employer that you don’t care. That might not be really the case, but that is how it is going to be perceived.
An interview is not simply a reactive process where you wait and answer. You need to maintain communication and be proactive. You are being evaluated on how you work and communicate. Communication is critical in our jobs. This is a two-sided activity where both parties collaborate and try to find out if they both fit. This is the test when you find out if you want to work in this place. You have to evaluate the employer, too!
Messages You Send by Not Asking Questions
I Don’t Care
Employers want to see that you are passionate about working at the company. No one forced you to come over. Without questions, one might assume that you are here because of boredom or that you are simply evaluating the market—which fine! It is great to establish a connection with future candidates. But in order to do that, you need to find out more about the company, so ask questions.
I'm Not Professional Enough
If you are a professional developer that cares about your future career, you should be looking for a position that will be in line with your goals and ambitions. This is what I call consistent job hunting. You don’t want to land a job that feels boring. You don’t want to send a message that you are here because you are desperate to find a job. Please don’t make the employer's work harder and hide this fact. Assumption or information like that will influence my decision. I don’t want it! I want to evaluate you based on your skills, communication, and personality—not your current life situation.
I'm Not Experienced Enough
This is fine when you truly are not experienced and you apply for some junior position. It would probably be okay. I am empathetic enough to recognize this and approach the interview process a bit differently. Some companies might not get it and might perceive you as not experienced enough. I assume that mid-senior employees do care about their careers and do look for a proper company or organization to work with.
I Didn’t Like Your Company or This Process
That is fine. Please tell the employer about it. Explain why you feel that way and where the company failed to sell its proposition to you. This is important and will improve your image as a truly professional individual.
Prepare Questions Before the Interview
This is critical because it is important to ask important questions. It is not about quantity, but quality. You can ask some sh*t questions too. In my opinion, the tasks below should always be done if you want to prepare properly before the interview.
Research the Job Offer
I am assuming here that it wasn’t a generic offer full of buzzwords and meaningless sentences, but one with job specifics, information about the company, and maybe a work culture description. Read this carefully and try to find out what might connect you with the organization.
Research the Company
From Wikipedia pages to financial statements. Of course, the first place to look is the homepage. Read the about page and read the biography of the company founder. Try to find out if there is any media information about the organization—what kind of products they have, what kind of technology they use, etc.
Things to look for:
- How old is the company?
- Any scandals, awards, and praises
- Information about the products and services
- Glassdoor opinions
Go to LinkedIn. Check profiles of some of the employees. Look carefully for some tips and try to find out what kind of personalities they have. Check their blog pages, GitHubs, etc. The more information, the better. It's really great to have a question like, “I noticed you did some stuff with Erlang on GitHub; are you doing something with it in the company?”
Things to look for:
- Are they active on GitHub, social networks, or blogs?
- Stack overflow profiles
- Information that will help you understand some of the employees
- Some technologies they are passionate about
Research the Domain and Market
Find out what is the market the company is on. Analyze the product and potential customers. Is it B2B or B2C? Who is the main competitor? Is the market hot?
Analyze the Interview Process and Adapt Your Questions
This is an important tip. You can generate questions on the fly and also adjust the ones you wanted to ask in the first place based on the conversation you had. This will show the recruiter that you have actually listened carefully. Try to look for something the recruiter is passionate about; you can let him expand it with your question.
Examples of Questions to Ask
How do you feel about working here? What are the biggest pros and cons about this company? Do you see yourself working for this company in next year?
Try to find out about the company and its turnover rates. Asking those questions will show that you are seriously thinking about finding an interesting company and that you are not looking for something random.
How long have you been working here?
If the number is low, that might mean that there is high turnover in the company. Quite a big red flag for me. Ideally, someone with small tenure should be accompanied by a more senior person.
What could I learn today to be better prepared on my first day ?
This gives a signal that you seriously want to work for them. Plus, it is great to know where you could potentially start.
Is there any learning or craft budget? Do you organize any hackathons? Do you organize any workshops or meetups?
These are good to know. Plus, asking these questions is a nice indication that you want to grow and learn.
Ask technology-specific questions.
I would ask what the recruiter thinks about the current state of C++. What does her or she think about C++11, or 14? Or what about new features in C++1z? Those questions are a nice way to find out if the recruiter is really interested and passionate about C++.
What is your software dev process? Are you doing code reviews, TDD, or pair programming? Which methodology do you use?
Those should be already in the job spec, but it is good to ask about this in order to be sure that this company will be a good fit for you. Plus, again, this sends a signal that you are looking for a nice place for yourself.
What are the current challenges you are facing? Tell me about the most interesting thing you have done here in the last year.
This is a nice way to judge the company and if engineers are doing interesting things.
In conclusion, you should always prepare a list of questions before the interview by analyzing the company, website, people, and technology. Don’t forget to ask questions at the end.