It takes people off-guard and sometimes you get a really authentic look at the problems in the company. I think people are more willing to be frank with the question because it's asking for their insight, even if it comes at the expense of the company's reputation.
When my future manager told me that he wished the company was "less tribal", I should've listened. The politics between teams was insane.
Usually you get good information that you can deduce a lot from. It's simple, it's polite, it's opens a whole conversation about whatever you want to about next, etc.
> This allows your to figure out how up-to-date the firm is with technology. Up-to-date here is entirely your definition :)
What? The question is fine, but not at all for that reason. This question allows you to figure out whether you can provide immediate value, whether it'll present a challenge you wish to embrace, or whether it'll present a challenge you wish not to embrace. It'll also tell you whether you think their stack was chosen based on whether it helps address the problems at hand or based on whether it's the "new hotness" or, as this write-up puts it, "up-to-date"
The obvious corollary would be to ask why that stack was chosen for the products and services the firm offers or for those which you'll be working on.
It could be that final bit was meant literally:
If your definition of "up to date" is "patched to the latest security levels throughout the stack" - then that's what your questions should drive towards.
If you care about experiencing the latest toys, then your questions should get you that information instead.
So if it was intended literally (smiley-face instead of winking one...?) , he has a good point.
I am more impressed when people ask about overall company direction and current challenges. It demonstrates to me that they're interested in the company as a whole, where it is going, and how they see themselves fitting in and contributing.
Optimizing for originality seems the wrong criteria as an interviewee if you are genuinely trying to feel out the company and what working there might be like.
As an interviewer don't you think it's more telling to see how an interviewer responds to the answers you give? I mean, asking a prepared question is kind of low effort regardless, but using a question to initiate discussion, that shows real engagement.
Dunno. Just thinking out loud here.
The second type of question that I mentioned above is more of the type: "What can I bring to this role and how I can I contribute to this company?"
As an interviewer, if I don't get any of the second type of question it makes me question their passion and ownership a bit.
The best way to make do in this case is to ask questions that will help me gauge if I would be happy here even if I'm working on a CRUD app.
It's the people that make it worthwhile after all :)
"Do you conduct regular peer reviews of code and documentation?"
"Do you have a bug tracking system?"
At one time I would argue that this is a fair question to ask. But in 2017? I'm appalled at the experience you must have had to deem this a valid question in an interview today. Today I'd just assume...and according to you, wrongly so.
Dare I even ask about whether they use source control?
1. Had no bug tracking
2. Had no source control (the official code was whatever was on one of the engineer's laptops)
3. Had no dedicated build machines (builds were done on that engineer's laptop)
4. Had no release process (build that went out was--you guessed it--copied from that engineer's laptop to a CD)
5. Had no formal QA
6. Had no documentation (either comments in the code, a spec, or a user manual)
7. Had no project management or roadmap planning (the CEO would just drop in and said we should do XYZ, and then a few weeks later "is it done yet?")
They thought their software problem was just that they didn't have enough smart engineers. Yea. You have to ask about these basic "hygiene" things.
If they were not open to change and improvement then you would be stuck burning CDs as well!
When I'm just working with my favorite designer and my favorite tester, and it's just us three, it's a lot of fun to just pass post-it notes around.
Even if you're on a multi-million / many-year project.
Dante missed several circles....
I hesitate (i.e. take time to consider) for ALL questions I intend to provide an honest, as opposed to obvious answer.
I hesitate for "Do these jeans make my behind look fat" and I hesitate for "Do you like working here" (and myriad other questions in between).
I want to provide a considered, accurate, detailed and granular answer.
If anything, if they answer with immediate and resounding "Yes!!!", I'd think it was a fake, canned answer rather than one they gave genuine thought to...
I like this because "fulfilling" means different things to different people. Some folks would deem the opportunity to work on hard technical challenges as fulfilling, whereas for some it's simply a positive impact on the customer and/or other developers (agnostic of whether the solution was simple or complex.)
This also helps you gauge the quality of problems the team is working on, and how they gauge said problems. With the added dimension of time (i.e. 6-12 months) you get a sense of how recent or old are the projects that they're about to discuss. I wouldn't put much stock in something too recent (ex: something they started 2 weeks ago) but would also be suspicious if they mention projects that are 1yr+ old. More than once in my career have I run into issues when my definition of "fun/fulfilling/cool" was widely different from my boss's. Getting a heads up on this for me is critical when it comes to evaluating which team to join.
It isn't at the end, but a few times I've asked mid-interview for one of the team members to give me feedback as though it were for a peer review.
I've been known to ask what an interviewer's favorite NPR show is. It's great if the interview is at a location I'd have to relocate to and they answer with a show carried locally I've never heard. That's how I learned about "Says You" (which is the correct answer to my question, with points for effort if it's "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me" or "Prairie Home Companion").
As well it should. First, they do they not want to look bad. Second, the person that they gave the negative review to may be in the room with you (if they do group interviews). Third, even without the first two, there may be legal issues with them telling you the truth. (Even if there are no legal issues, it is almost certainly against HR policy, and rightly so.)
I just took an internal course for interviewing potential candidates for our company a few weeks ago. Having been recently exposed to all the ways I can easily accidentally breach the law, I would agree that I would definitely hesitate, and may or may not answer the question.
Sure - in the comfort of my home office reading this thread, I have the luxury of being couch lawyer and arguing whether answering is legal or not, and how much I can divulge.
On the spot? I honestly might not have taken the risk if the question caught me off-guard (as it would've before today). As much as I want my manager to provide feedback often and early and for negative feedback to be constructive; and as much as I would want to exhibit those qualities myself; and as much as I think those things are important and should be discussed... I'd be uncomfortable sharing what is ultimately private information with, at that point, a random stranger.
One doesn't ask "name a person you reviewed negatively," of course. That would be out of bounds.
It is important.
To get a half decent answer on some of these would eat a lot of time. I tend to ask these DURING the interview and like to spend the end of the interview trying to get the know the developer on a personal level to establish how they fit into the culture of the team.
I have usually found it difficult to steer the conversation towards general items when I'm getting whiteboarded :S
If it was the week after Re-invent, we probably talked about AWS. If it was the week after Switch came out, it was probably about Zelda... If it was the week after a major internal announcement, it was probably about that...
The exceptions would be if the company is looking to pivot to an "e" solution, i.e. from Retailer to eTailer...
This will get their personal insight on how they see the company. However, I am not too sure if the answer is always 100% truthful.