The 5 Best Questions Tech Candidates Should Always Ask a Hiring Manager in an Interview

by Pranav Ramesh
September 24, 2019

A lot of people assume a job interview is one-sided – that they’re there to impress the hiring manager and sell themselves as the perfect candidate. But a job interview is much more than that. It’s also a chance for you to make sure the company, hiring manager, team, and role are the right fit for you.

It’s a two-way street, and any interviewer should be trying to sell you the job as much as you’re selling yourself as an applicant.

This is especially true with such a strong demand for skilled tech specialists.

The skills shortage in the IT space is critical, and it means companies need to step up their game and have a strong brand to pitch prospective employees. Unfortunately, some hiring managers are stuck in the past and haven’t yet caught on to this trend. So what can you, as an applicant, do to ensure you get the full scoop and make an informed decision if you receive an offer?

The answer is simple: Ask questions – the right questions.

Most candidates already know they should go into an interview with a few questions ready to go. Here are a few critical questions to add to your list to ensure your next tech job is exactly what you hoped it would be.

What are the expectations for the role?

It’s great to get clarity on this point. A job description can be too vague to be helpful, so clearly asking the question can give you a perspective you may have been missing. A Gallup study indicates only about 50 percent of employees know what’s expected of them at work. That leaves a whole lot of people who aren’t quite clear on what their manager or team requires of them.

No one should feel blindsided after a few weeks in a new role. Ask every single stakeholder you interview with about expectations so you can make sure everyone’s aligned and you are crystal clear on what the job will look like.

What are the success metrics is the manager is measuring?

People have different visions of success. That’s why it’s key to ensure you and the hiring manager are on the same page when it comes to what will be considered a win in this position. Maybe your vision of success in a senior Java developer role is a smooth, bug-free rollout of new software but your manager is more concerned about a fast release of an MVP.

Perhaps based on the job description, you expect a successful software migration to be what you’re held to, but the team is really anticipating you’ll drive significant cost savings and be a budget wizard, in addition to an IT expert.

Getting a sense of what’s important to the manager before accepting the job allows you to make sure you’re capable of meeting their definition of success. It’ll also help you plan your goals appropriately, should you decide to take the job.

What does the interviewer enjoy about working there?

Work isn’t about fun and games, but there should be parts of your job that you enjoy. If someone you’re interviewing with can’t think of a single thing they like about their position or the company, this should be a red flag.

Whether it’s the opportunity to grow and learn, the great team atmosphere, or the ability to work from home, your interviewers should have something that comes to mind for this question. This tells you about specific perks but also gives great insight to employee’s feel about the company.

How is the team currently set up and how would this open role operate within that structure?

You don’t want to take a job not realizing the “hiring manager” isn’t actually your supervisor or that you’re unofficially leading a team of five people when you assumed you’d be an individual contributor.

Ask about the organizational structure and how your team works.

Is the hiring manager actually responsible for day-to-day supervision?

Or is there a team lead who takes on those responsibilities while management steps in for bigger projects and problems?

You can expand this question to address other teams as well, especially if you’re in a role that touches multiple departments. For example, if you’re an email developer, you may be working quite a bit with a marketing team. How do those cross-departmental relationships tend to work now, and how does the interviewer picture them working in the future?

What characteristics does the ideal candidate possess?

The answers to this question can tell you a lot about expectations and the organization’s culture.

You’ll, of course, hear the interviewer mention technical skills if it’s a highly technical role – knowing React, Python, or Java is probably a given if you’re applying for a developer position.

However, it’s those other skills mentioned that will signal whether or not the job is the best fit for you. If you hear someone mention “financial acumen,” for example, and you have no interest in improving your skills here, this may be an opportunity to ask for clarification and get some additional information.

Don’t let your next interview be a one-way street. With some carefully planned questions, you can make smarter choices and ensure you don’t end up in a role that doesn’t best fit you or your skills. In toda