For job seekers - How to interview a prospective employer?

Interviewers often ask us what we would like to ask them. There are plenty of generic questions we can ask. But, as a tester, which questions can we ask to see if the company or the team might actually be the right fit for us ?

A few years back, I printed out the list provided here:

Not all are appropriate to interviewing, but some are. I take a print-out of this list to interviews for reminders in addition to my context based questions.

Some of the questions which have given me great feedback, regardless of the context:

  • May I talk to the team?
  • When, in the design process, does testing start? (If the answer is not “At the same time as specification,” then I know they aren’t the team for me.)
  • Why is this role open? (Funny story, I once interviewed at a company where I knew the person who left, and asked that person the same role. I got two VERY different answers)
  • How do you feel about {insert a process or framework you wish to explore more}?

@brian_seg - thanks for the list. I would like to add some more questions with reasons for asking those questions.

1 - Is the application in maintenance mode, or many new and significant features are planned ?
Why - If the app is in maintenance mode, then you might not get to learn much about testing or even automation. You’ll probably do busy work or boring stuff. Sadly, there are jobs like this.

2 - What is the developer to QA ratio at your company and team ?
Why - Too many QA’s per Dev suggest that there is too much manual testing and company processes might be broken. This is especially bad if the company has been in business for several years. Probably not a problem if its a startup or such. OTOH, too few QA’s might mean that you’ll be overloaded with work and there might be hardly any other people to review your testing ideas.

3 - Is this a new role or am I replacing someone ? (you mentioned this too.)
Why - If you are a replacement, then you might be getting a bad role or a project which is in maintenance mode (see 1). Dig further.

4 - In the next one year, are going to replace or scrap the system which I have to test ? Alternately, what is the plan for this system in next 2 years ?
Why - You might have to do busy work or boring work if the system is going to be scrapped. If it is going to be replaced, then check if you’ll have a role in the replacement.

The goal of my questions is to understand the team, work and company better, and also avoid jobs that might be a dead end for my career.

“May I talk to the team” - This is good. I know of cases where a team had no visibility into who was being hired into their team, let alone having a say in that matter.

PS - Like job seekers, companies or recruiters can embellish the image of the role or company when they are desperate to fill a position. Sometimes, I wonder how job seekers can politely make it clear that they’ll quit immediately if significant lies were told about the role, team & company. That is, don’t be desperate to hire us just because you think we might stay.

1 Like

Hey Brian,

Never thought about asking why would the role be open, I found that interesting and it makes sense. Asking why is the role open can give an insight to what is expected when hired into the position.

1 Like

I would inquire into the culture of the organisation using the Westrum typology:
when a passionate person comes to you with (bad) news, what do you and your organisation do? Do you reflect, ignore or hide the request? Do you say that it’s not a good idea to bridge the organisation? Do you raise an Non-conformity and set in motion events to bring “justice”? Do you experiment to implement the novel ideas and actively seek information?

they might paint the organisation in a preferable light of employee engagement, so who knows - but it could be a place to start.

I have my set of questions which I feel are important for me.

  1. (If company has its core principles) Which core principle does your team utilize the most and why ?
  2. What do you expect me to bring on board which your think is lacking in your QA team ?
  3. (If they say you are 1st QA) How were you testing your application ?
  4. Do you have In-Sprint Automation ? How do you go about it ?
  5. What will be my responsibilities and how customer centric/obsessed is your team ?
1 Like

I’m on a mobile so answers will be a bit shorter than usual.

  1. Ask if testers have QA responsibilities as well and which ones.
    This question is wasted on HR people but if you get the hiring manager the answer will give you a good understanding about your future bosses knowledge and how they approach testing and QA in the company.
  2. Ask them to name 3 reasons why you should work for them.
    They can give their sales talk but also establishes that you know your worth and are confident, comes in handy for the salary discussion and puts them in the comfort zone for the next question.
  3. Ask them to name 3 reasons why you shouldn’t work for them.
    At that point most interviewers need to swallow. Roles have just been reversed. Some don’t want to answer the question which puts me on guard, they’re not that open in that company. Some waffle. Some tell you that you caught them on their back foot and think it through while they answer. You are most likely to want to work for these people. The good bosses I worked for liked that question.
  4. Ask that if you make daily mistakes if that’s a problem and how they deal with this. You learn quickly if they have a blame or learn from your mistakes culture.
    Happy to discuss more if you like.

The core principles and customer obsession sounds a lot like Amazon lingo.

I have been fortunate / unfortunate depending on your position to have gone through a number of interviews last month so I’m happy to share a few things I asked in my interviews.

How are you finding working from home?
I asked this to gain an insight on how the companies were coping with working remotely. Having only worked occasional days from home previously I’d no experience but have heard some stories of employers ‘checking up’ often. Worrying about productivity, essentially not trusting their employees, often with ‘trust’ a key principle. This helped me in a few ways to understand a bit more about the places I might work.

What does a typical day look like?
I asked this to understand how focused, directed or flexible the companies were. The key things I was hoping not to hear were along the lines of, ‘we always have to…’ or lots of time on reports unnecessarily amongst others.

To testers, ‘how do you get along with the developers?’
Unfortunately there are environments and situations where tensions are between testers and developers. This is usually a culture / process / management generated problem and not the fault of those individuals. I asked this for clues towards these things.

The interview can go really well or not so. I’ve had both from a personal perspective of I’ve heard enough to be sold to, I don’t need to hear anymore, its not for me. So in practical terms I’ve only asked this a few times as sort of a, ‘tip the scales’ question;
What happens when things go wrong or you get something wrong?
This question has confirmed to me I don’t want to be somewhere on a couple of occasions. Evading the question tells as much as an honest answer in my opinion.

There are some great questions in this thread and I know we can’t ask them all but having a list to choose from is important so you are both prepared for the interview and get answers that are important to you.