Towards the end of most interviews, the candidate has the chance to ask questions about the company and the role. The go-to strategy is to focus more on asking questions that make them look intelligent, thoughtful and put-together. It gets more difficult for software engineers, especially when they need to think of smart questions to ask the CTO, who’s interviewing them.
Most interviewers are able to gauge their genuine interest or the lack of it. Especially, when they have little regard for the actual answers. This brings us to the obvious question. Why not make the most of this part of the interview? How can you do it? By posing questions that not only create a lasting impression but also give the interviewer something to think about.
Here are a few examples of questions to ask the CTO at the end of an interview:
What do you think would be a realistic goal for me to achieve in the first 60 to 90 days?
Candidates who tend to stand out from the crowd usually hit the ground running from day one. They don’t spend weeks or months “understanding the entire scope of their responsibilities”. Nor do they spend time “getting to know the company”. They are positively driven to make a difference. And, that’s the kind of people most employers are after and look forward to on-boarding.
By asking this question, you’re making it clear that you’re ready to tackle challenges and get involved with the day-to-day grind from the get-go. Your candour and eagerness to contribute will be appreciated. Especially in, fast-paced companies that are looking to scale, or have cross-country expansion on the cards.
What are the most common characteristics (work or otherwise) of your top performers?
Employers prefer investing in candidates who’d make for a great long-term asset to the company. Since every company operates differently, it’s not a surprise that their top performers will have a diverse spectrum of qualities that can massively help your learning curve.
Maybe their top performers work longer hours or prioritize creativity over methodology. Or, they may focus more on consistently getting new features out rather than tweaking the already existing ones. Maybe they dedicate the same amount of time and intensity on simple coding tasks, like building a landing page, and sprint-intensive programming, like developing a cross-functionality operating system.
By inquiring about the habits of top employees, you imply that you want to be one after joining as well. And who can say no to a candidate willing to put in what it takes to rise to the top? Not to mention, the answer will also give you an idea about the thought process of the top performers. You will know what you can expect when you come on board. And it gives you an idea of how suitable a cultural fit you are for the company.
In the recent past, what has been the technical decision that went wrong in the company? How did you ensure that it didn’t happen again?
It’s exciting to talk about upcoming projects, expansion plans and other successful initiatives of the company. However, it’s important to remember that the invention of the light bulb was preceded by 1,000 failed attempts (by Thomas Edison).
To err is human. But what’s more important is picking up the pieces and learning from your mistakes. And then, implementing changes to avoid any future mishaps.
By asking this question, you’re making a simple point—you’re ready to be part of both the company’s successes and failures. In fact, you want to know more about their recent failures. So, you can do your part in rectifying them and possibly create processes to prevent them from occurring altogether.
What’s your long-term product roadmap? In what capacity can I contribute to the same?
In the wise words of John F. Kennedy, “Ask not what the country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country”. It’s natural to be curious about how the company can help you further your professional career. However, you might want to hold your horses for this section of the interview. Instead, let them know what you can do for them and how you can put your skills to good use for the company’s growth.
With this question, you’d learn more about the work that’s going to be on your plate after joining. It will also indicate your eagerness and availability to be included in upcoming projects.
What are your biggest priorities right now? For example, new features, solidifying existing code, reducing operations overhead, new products?
Given that the company is choosing to add fresh talent to their team, they definitely have certain objectives in mind that a candidate must work towards fulfilling. For some, it’s to enable the distribution of workload, while for others it’s something more technical, like, product pivot.
By learning more about your prospective team’s focus, you’d gain more insight. You get to know the specific skills, capabilities, and strengths needed from your end. Using this, you can address topics that haven’t been covered already. At the same time, you’re displaying your interest in being “part of the solution” to the problems or challenges that the company is facing.
Also wondering how to add that little extra in your interview skills, here are some tricks that can help you impress interviewers.