Job interviews: 10 direct questions to make a good impression
For Developers

February 15, 2024

Job interviews: 10 direct questions to make a good impression

The interview procedure is like a game of chess.

You need to do the right things at the right time. If you screw up one move you can heavily damage your chances to win the game in the end.

At the end of the interview, the interviewer will ask you: “Do you have any questions?”

Here is a list of 10 good straight-to-the-point questions to ask during interviews:

1. How long on average do people stay working for you?

Before we jump to the point, one anecdote.

People here in the Balkan region are very nosy.

I remember one time, I run into my older neighbor in the hallway. She heard about my last job change and asked me about it.

I told her, yes, I changed my job.

Then she said: “Don’t worry, my dear, keep changing them until you find something that you like”.

She looked at me with a look that was screaming “something is wrong with you”.

In her mind, I am probably a problematic dysfunctional person who is bad at his job, but the reality is that she still lives in the good old times when you would find a job and work there until you retire.

So to not be like my neighbor, you need to know that people in the IT domain of work change their jobs often.

I read somewhere that software developers change their jobs every 2 years or less.

So when you ask an interviewer how long people stay at their company, you can learn how much time the company needs to “devour” a fresh and motivated employee, how interesting their work is, their happiness at the workplace, and how much they care about their people.

2. How many juniors did you manage to “upgrade” to seniors?

No matter the experience, but especially if you are a junior software developer, this is a must-ask type of question when you are in the interview.

The answer should tell you 3 things:

  • How good is the company’s educational system
  • How easy/hard it is to progress in the company
  • How good are their mentors/senior developers are

If they try to bail out of the question and tell you a bunch of philosophical mambo-jumbo, keep asking sub-questions until you get clear answers.

You want to be in a place where you can shape up your skills and make progress.

3. Can you describe a typical workday?

With this question, you are looking to get an answer to the following:

  • How they organize their work
  • If the person who is answering is familiar with the work and its processes
  • How often do they have a meetings
  • Do they micromanage people

When this question is answered, you should compare things said in the answer with the job description for potential discrepancies.

If you don’t get a clear answer, this is a bad sign as it means that the person who interviewed you is not familiar with the work processes.

In case you start working there, you should not expect help from people who don’t understand your job and what you are doing.

4. Can you show me examples of projects I’d be working on?

This one is a lifesaver if you are a software developer.

I have heard numerous horror stories where people were promised to work on a project with cutting-edge technologies and they end up on projects with heavy legacy code and outdated technologies.

Some companies require you to sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) before they show you the projects, so be prepared for that.

With this, you can directly see the architecture of the project, the technologies they use, code quality, and if they apply good code practices.

You don’t want to end up working on a legacy Cobol project with a custom in-house framework.

5. Which competitor do you value the most and why?

Depending on the type of company, knowing your competitors is very important, especially if you are a startup or an agency.

Each company should know the products or services they provide and how they market them to customers, the prices they charge, how they distribute and deliver, how they support and enhance customer loyalty, its staff numbers, its media activities, and much more.

You wanna hear answers with a lot of details for specific competitors which implies that the company is well aware of the competition and the market situation.

This question can be your “ace in the sleeve” if you do your research as you can also do an interview on the other side and mention their competitor’s name which will significantly increase your chances of landing the job (if you are good).

Good companies are similar to football clubs, they like to buy players whose media leaks linked to their rivals.

First, they get to damage their rival, and second, they get good players on the account of the rivals’ scouting team.

The situation is similar here, good companies strive to take exceptional talent from competitors.

6. What is the individual education budget for my position?

If the company doesn’t offer any kind of paid education service, that’s usually a big red flag.

Some companies offer company accounts on Udemy, Coursera, LinkedIn Learning, Edx, and others (good for people who like to learn at their own pace).

There are also other types of education, IT conferences where you can go. Good companies usually fund you with tickets, travel expenses, and accommodation.

Some companies also like to invest in their staff communication skills, taking courses in specific language which is used in day-to-day work (mostly English or German).

Some companies just give you the money directly to spend on whatever education you want.

In the end, the goal of this question is to hear how much they invest in education for their people and if they invest at all.

7. How often do you conduct salary audits?

I will be short on this one. Inflation is real, numbers speak for themselves.

If you get 5% raise while inflation is soaring to 12%, you took a pay cut.

That’s why it is important to market and position yourself with a good salary from the start of your job or if you must, then ask for raise.

It’s much harder to climb that ladder if the company conducts salary audits at random intervals (or never at all).

8. At which conferences in our country and abroad have you had lecturers?

Not every company can send their people to speak or take workshops at conferences.

The company must have a high profile, be well-known and influential in the area, and also have experienced and knowledgeable talent in its ranks.

By asking this question, you can directly get information about which people are role models and the most experienced and knowledgeable.

If the interviewer tells you that they don’t have conference speakers in their company, that doesn’t mean that they are a bad company.

There are for sure people in their ranks who run the company and good employees.

But if a company has such people and they are speakers at conferences, that’s a big plus!

9. For what (non)occasions do you approve of days off?

Sometimes you will need a special day or two for some occasions. I am very proud to say that here at Agilathon, the company gives you a free day if you are moving out, or for your kid’s first day at school, and on a couple of other occasions.

This is just a sign of goodwill from the company.

Not every company has these perks and if you see that a company offers these, that is a good sign that they take care of their people’s personal needs.

10. Who mentored my potential mentor?

This is a good question in terms of determining the policy for the transfer of knowledge and mentorship in the company.

Usually, companies have “buddies” or “mentors”.

For example, if you are a mid-developer and you want to upgrade to the next role, you might want to spend time working alongside a senior developer, to absorb everything and learn from them.

If they answer with great detail and describe the process your mentor and mentor’s mentor went through, this is a good sign as then they have organized processes for their people to carve their path through the company ranks.

Conclusion

Make sure you ask at least 2 questions.

If you don’t ask questions, it will be interpreted as a lack of interest in the company and you want to avoid that.

Also, make sure these questions are hella good. You want to make your interviewer say “that’s a good question”.

If they don’t have an answer right away and you see that they are trying to form an answer, that’s a good sign you asked direct, straight-to-the-point questions.

Good luck with your interviews!

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