Normally at the end of each interview, you’ll get the chance to ask questions to the interviewer. Many people don’t pay much attention to this part because they believe it won’t make any difference to the interviewer’s decision and feedback and they also have no idea about what kind of questions to ask at the end of an interview. However, it’s not always true. What I really want to suggest here is to take every opportunity you have to boost your chance.
Remember that you only have 45min in an interview and there’s no point to waste a single minute, let alone you’ll have 5min for questions normally. Some people may argue that it won’t change the result a lot whatever you ask, but let me ask you: if something you only need to spend 10min to prepare in advance and it can boost your chance of getting hired by 5%, will you do it? What if you are exactly on the borderline?
Here are several things you’d better keep in mind. Remember there’s no clear cut between good and bad questions, it’s always case by case. This post is sharing some general ideas and you should always adjust them to work for yourself.
1. Bi-directional decision
I don’t want to give you the impression that I’m trying to convince you to flatter the interviewer. You should always keep in mind that the company hiring process is a bi-directional decision. You are evaluated by the interviewer in the interview and at the same time you are also evaluating the company.
At the last 5min, you get the chance to ask whatever you want to know about the company and it’s better to treat this as a chance to evaluate whether it’s the right company you’d like to work for. With that in mind, it’ll be easier for you to come up with questions that don’t look dumb. Not only will you get more info about the company to make a decision from your side, but may also impress the interviewer. Shift your mindset and put yourself on equal footing with the interviewer first.
2. Do your homework
You won’t be able to come up with good questions without preparation. Spend some time to think about this as part of your preparation and you may also need to do some research about your target company.
Normally you should have different questions for different company and most of the time it doesn’t really matter what the question is about, it could be company culture, specific product details etc., but questions about fact that can be easily found online is more of a waste of time. So if you are really curious about # of employees, valuation, business model etc., try to get answers from Google.
3. Don’t expect much from asking feedback
It’s fine if you ask feedbacks from the interviewer, but don’t expect too much from this. In most of the cases, the interviewer won’t tell you anything except those official replies. So I’m almost for sure you’re gonna get something like “you did a good job” even if you screwed up everything.
“Is my answer correct?” is equally bad. Not only you can hardly get the real answer, but sometimes you may make the interviewer embarrassed when your answer is wrong. If you really want to know it, go back and Google it.
I’m not saying you should never ask this kind of questions, but they are no other than questions like “How are you”, and you won’t get much from it.
4. Don’t ask too many questions for HR
There are quite a few questions that should be asked to HR instead of technical interviewers, but somehow they got asked quite often in interviews. If you are an experienced interviewer, I’m pretty sure you’ve heard so many times of the following questions:
- When do I expect to know the result?
- Will you tell me if I get rejected?
- Salary related questions
Most of the time the answer is please ask HR people. Sometimes it’s okay to ask one or two this kind of questions if you really care, especially for startups since probably the interviewer has the answer for you. But for large companies like Google, Facebook, etc., they have a very standard process and it’s a waste of time to ask these.
5. Company culture
Apparently it’s very important to understand the company’s culture before you make the decision to join (of course you should also get the offer from the company as well). So asking about company culture is a common good practice.
I still remember that one of my Google friend told me that he was quite impressed when the candidate asked him what is one thing that made you feel someone is “Googley”. It’s a very interesting question, first the candidate did some investigation apparently as he knew the word “Googley”. Second he showed great interests to the company’s culture instead of asking those boring questions. Lastly the interviewer had never heard of this question before and he had great interests to think and answer it.
You may not be able to ask this question as I believe it’ll be asked for a lot of times after this post. But once you are evaluating whether it’s a great culture fit for you to join this company, there will always be interesting questions to ask for.
It’ll be very impressive if the candidate showed great interests and insight in the product of a company. Imagine that you were the interviewer and you had been working on a product feature for a long while. During the last 5min of the interview, the candidate asked you few questions about that feature and had a short discussion with you. He may criticized at few point or came up with some new ideas. I’m pretty sure you would never forget this candidate for a long time.
Not every engineer has great product sense, which is especially true when he doesn’t have much experience with that product feature. If it’s your first time to hear that feature, I’d rather suggest you not comment it at all unless you are quite sure about it. Instead, do some investigation about the product. Things will be much easier if you are their core users. If you are using their product everyday, you should come up with some ideas for sure.
7. Technical questions
As an engineer, probably technical stuffs are what you care most. However, before asking your questions, do make sure the answer is not the top result in Google. With that in mind, it’s funny to ask what languages are used most in Facebook interview, but it’ll be much better to ask questions like I heard of Facebook IOS has around 18k header files, what is it like to be an IOS engineer and any plan to use Swift.
I’d like to emphasize one more time that don’t try to flatter your interviewer, instead treat this as a chance to evaluate whether the company is a great fit for you.
Also spend some time to do investigations about the company and things you really care, just like the company spends effort and time to evaluate you as a candidate. So it’s your chance and take advantage of the last 5min.