Saturday, March 15

Interviewing the Interviewer

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I get lots of job offers via e-mail, as I'm sure we all do. If your e-mail address appears anywhere near a blog or forum related to programming, you're guaranteed to be on a few dozen spam lists for head hunters. Most of these offers get filed in the bit bucket. However, one landed in my inbox the other day and it had enough of the right words and phrases to pique my interest. It was intriguing enough that I had to stop and ponder how I would follow up on it if I were genuinely interested. I've only applied for a job once in my entire career; every venture since has been through networking. So I started building a list of questions I might ask a prospective employer. I've listed them here for future reference, and so that you might find them helpful or offer up your own...

The Business:

- Give me your elevator pitch.

- What is your product/service?

- Why is it unique or better than the competition?

- Who is your customer?

- What is your revenue model?

- How old is the company? Give me a summarized history.

- How are you currently financed?

The Management:

- How many employees do you currently have?

- How many do you plan to have a year from now?

- How many of those employees are in my department?

- How many of those employees will be reporting to me?

- Who do I report to?

- How many layers are there between me and the CEO?

- What does your org chart look like?

- How much turnover have you seen in the last year?

- What's the overtime situation? Is it a necessary evil you suffer a couple times a year, or is it standard operating procedure?

- Is there a dress code?

The Technology:

- Can you build the system in one click/command?

- Can you deploy the system in one click/command?

- Which source control tool do you use?

- Do you leverage branching with your source control? How?

- Do you use Test Driven Development and Defect Driven Testing?

- Do you have code coverage?

- Do you use continuous integration?

- What tool(s) do you use for project management, bug tracking, documentation?

- Walk me through the process of a new feature from conception to delivery.

- Walk me through the process of a bug fix from discovery to resolution.

- Explain your software architecture.

- Explain your network architecture.

- Which brand of database are you using? Why?

- Where are you hosted? If is fully managed or colocation?

Looking out for Number One:

- Will I have my own office? Will it have a door to close when I need some privacy or peace and quiet? A window for some sunlight? A comfortable chair? A dry-erase board on my wall? Wi-fi, or enough network jacks on the wall that I don't have to have a hub and a rat's nest of wires?

- If telecommuting, what will be our primary means of communication? Skype or cell phone? If I'm using my own account/phone, will I be able to expense our calls?

- Is there travel involved? If so, how often, to which common destinations, and what general duration?

- What's the process of requesting and receiving newly required tools (e.g. replacing a dead hard drive)? Do I buy it myself and submit an expense report, or do I have to file paperwork with somebody and wait for delivery?

- How many vacation/personal days am I afforded? How are they calculated (e.g. set number per year or accrued over time)? Does that number increase with my tenure?

- Assuming this is an on-site job, will I be allowed to telecommute on occasion, at my discretion, when I need to attend to personal matters and schedules that preclude a trip to the office?

- Will I have a budget for books, software, travel, conferences, other educational materials (e.g. Peepcodes)? If yes, what will that budget be?

- Is conference attendance at my discretion (which and how many to attend)? Will the be covered as company expenses?

- When I travel on company business, may I expect my expenses (travel, food, lodging, entertainment) to be reimbursed in full? May I expect to have my own room for overnight stays (no roommates)? May I expect to get "decent" flight schedules (no red-eyes and no there-and-back in a single long day)?

- What will be the schedule for my reviews and raises, based on my date of hire, or first of the year?

- Will I be awarded stock options? Performance bonuses? Quarterly, yearly, or some other schedule?

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