Ask questions during interviews


I’ve been conducting interviews at the Canadian Digital Service for software and site reliability engineers these last few months. My most important advice to candidates would be to ask questions during interviews when offered the opportunity to do so. Not just 2 random things popping up on your mind when you’re given the opportunity. I believe that asking questions will help you a long way towards being hired.

Asking questions will help you in the following ways:

  • stand out as a candidate: if you’ve got more questions and if those are well thought, you will stand up compared to others
  • confirm if you want to work here: if you ask questions, answers will comfort you (or not) when you’ll need to decide if you want to work here or not. I’m sure you heard that interviews should be “two-way” and questions play an important part in that.
  • get a better position/offer/benefits: if you show interest in the mission, communication skills, transparency, management or leadership on top of your core skills, you’ll likely get better grades which may help you land a better position, a better offer or more benefits. Salary negotiation is not the last step in the journey, it starts at the beginning.

Preparing questions

You should prepare a list of questions before your interview. Start a new document (or pick a piece of paper if that’s your style), read everything you can find online about where you applied (website, social media, Wikipedia, newspapers) and Google around. Tailored questions will grant you bonus points. You’ve done the research, time to show it.

Examples of questions

Here are some examples of questions I asked or I wrote down before interviews in the past. Feel free to reuse those!

  • What are your current challenges?
  • What’s your latest success?
  • What do you want to do better?
  • I’ve noticed you often emphasize on accessibility/diversity/inclusion. Can you share examples of this?
  • Do you inspire others? How so? Who inspires you?
  • Do you speak at/host technical events (meetups, conferences etc.)?
  • Can you explain what this team is doing? What’s the difference with <other team>?
  • I notice you don’t have a lot of people working on <this team>. Can you explain why?
  • How am I graded during interviews? How are you evaluated as an employee?
  • How do you know that your product meets user needs?
  • Can you share some data about a recent employee survey you conducted?
  • What are your company values? Do you think those are met?
  • What was your latest production incident?
  • What are some of your recurring meetings?

You will find an endless list of questions online. You can look at those to get some inspirations but a few tailored questions will go a long way. If you feel like you didn’t get enough time to ask questions, follow up by email afterwards or ask to schedule another chat to go through those.

Good luck!

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