5 questions software engineers should ask in an interview

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While interviewers ask the majority of the questions in an interview, candidates are usually given the opportunity to make inquiries as well. Here’s what you should ask.

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In-person interviews can be an intimidating experience, but are necessary for the hiring process. One of the biggest mistakes a candidate can make is coming into an interview unprepared. Candidates should do their research on the organization and put themselves in the best position to land the job. 

SEE: Tips for building a successful career as a software engineer (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

However, this task is often easier said than done, especially for roles that are more technically-based like software engineers. These professionals may find they are able to show off their technical skills, but not necessarily their soft skills during the interview process. 

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Soft skills are becoming more important to hiring managers and staff at tech companies, according to a recent Udemy report. Not only should candidates assess their own soft skills, but they should also consider the personality and culture of the company they are interviewing with, said Rishom Blumberg, founder of 10x Ascend. 

Keeping the focus on software engineers, “[they] should take stock of what are the most important elements for them in a new job,” said Blumberg. “When you have a clear understanding of what you value most (culture, mission, work flexibility, compensation, equity, etc) a natural roadmap will start to unfold as you meet with different companies.”

Preparing for the interview questions can be difficult, but candidates often stand out—or redeem themselves—based on the questions they ask. The awkward “do you have any questions for us?” at the end of the interview is a great opportunity for candidates to rise to the top. 

“Coming in with prepared questions will lessen your stress when you get to the end of the interview and ensure that you leave the interviewer with a positive impression of your interest in the company and role,” wrote Brian Wong, Pathrise software engineering advisor, in his post on Pathrise Resources. “Questions that show your willingness to learn, drive to work hard, and excitement about the company and mission are all really helpful for the interviewers to gauge your fit as part of the culture.”

Here are some of the best questions software engineers can ask during an interview: 

1. How would you describe your organization’s company culture?

“You’ll spend approximately 40% of your life at work, so working in an environment with a culture that matches your own beliefs and desired lifestyle goals is vitally important,” said Blumberg. Candidates need to make sure they’ll enjoy working with the people they are around. 

2. What is your onboarding process like for developers, and how quickly will I be contributing to the code base? 

Software engineers should inquire about the onboarding process and the time it would take to really start the job, said Paul Wallenberg, senior unit manager of technology services at LaSalle Network. This question shows purpose and drive in the candidate. 

3. What are your current challenges on the team? 

Candidates should ask about the challenges current team members face, said Wong. Through this question, the candidate can learn how the organization handles hardships and conflict. 

4. What kind of projects will I be given?

“Many job seekers in the tech sector are mission driven and looking to work on challenging projects,” said Blumberg. “They want to solve unique problems and create products that will help humanity in some way. If this is important to you, ask about what types of things you’ll be building and working on. Will these projects be challenging enough to hold your interest for the duration of your tenure with the company?”

5. What type of ongoing educational opportunities does your organization support?

Software engineer candidates should ask the hiring manager if the company offers education courses, or support for education courses, noted Blumberg. This shows the candidate’s willingness to learn, and is also valuable for candidates who are interested in continuing school. 

For more, check out the How to become a software engineer cheat sheet, on TechRepublic.

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Image: iStockphoto/ljeab

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