Reading Gretchen's blog today I saw a post entitled Do you have any questions for me? where she wrote

One of the most mysterious questions of any interview is usually the last one asked … “Do you have any questions for me?”  Wow.  What a loaded question!  What do you say?  Is it a test?  Is it a genuine request for inquiries?  Who knows!

Well, unfortunately, I don’t have a clear-cut answer to this question.  I’ve yet to figure it out myself.  The best advice I can give is that the motive behind the question and the way in which you should respond really varies from interviewer to interviewer and situation to situation.

I've always taken this as an opportunity to figure out if the team I am interviewing with is a good fit for me. Over time, I've come up with a short list of questions which I plan to use if I'm ever interviewing around Microsoft based on my knowledge of how things work here. The 5 topics listed below are the biggest causes of unhappiness and morale issues in teams across Microsoft. Working for teams that don't know their competitors, cut projects due to poor planning, and require people to work insane hours are just a few of the reasons I've seen people become frustrated in positions here.

  1. How do you make decisions such as adding new features, entering a new competitive space or cutting features?

  2. How do you contribute to your product unit's bottomline? If not, are you strategic?

  3. Who are your competitors? Do you have any overlap with other Microsoft products?

  4. Ask about work/life balance. What is the policy on flex time, earliest meeting times, on average what kind of hours people work, etc.

  5. What are my growth prospects on this team?

  6.  What is the worst thing about your job?

Question 6 is a bonus question. The first 5 questions should root out whether the team is an unhealthy work environment or not. The last one is more specific to the individual interviewing you but may give insight into your future manager(s).  Remember to ask everyone who interviews you these questions so you can compare notes.


Friday, September 17, 2004 3:53:34 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I've been on the other side (Gretchen's side) of interviewing for the last 3 years and have enjoyed dealing out evil questions to poor mortals. I must say that I do like to get some activity back for question #6. It tells me that the interviewee has done their research and is particular.
Though I doubt I'll ever be on the flip side of a job interview for the rest of my life -- KOW -- I would put my interviewer on the spot by asking them about their personal experiences in the unknown-to-me work environment...
Sunday, September 19, 2004 8:05:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Wow, I haven't heard from you since our internship at Radiant 5 years ago. Good to see you seem to be doing well. Congrats.
Tuesday, September 21, 2004 12:37:18 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Those are some great ones, Dare. I make it a point to grill my interviewer right back, and I see it as a sign of respect that I'm actually interested in the position.

As a software engineering graduate, I'm also concerned about technical issues, like:

a. what is your build process? how often do you build?
b. how long is an iteration?
c. how often do you release to the customer?
d. what is your development process?
e. how do you test? who does testing?
f. how do you solicit feedback from and communicate with customers/users?
g. how do you triage bugs?
h. who makes the final call on technical project issues and how long does it take?
i. what's your minimum defect find and fix turnaround time?

HR people probably can't answer these questions, but if I'm being interviewed by a manager and he can't give me a straight answer on any of them, I know something's up. Call it an "interviewee's smoke test".

Even informal XP projects have answers to all of these. They should be easy for any project manager to answer.
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