Why ask this question? What you should look for Follow-up Questions Notes?
Universal follow-up questions: What would you do differently now? What would you do if the other team’s priorities changed? If your team’s situation changed—maybe someone leaves the team, some critical work comes up, or major org changes—how would you respond? What do you prioritize in this situation?
To whom would I report? Your manager is your most important work relationship. Can you work with this person? Will they trumpet your success, support you through struggles, and help you do your best work? The best managers ensure that their reports are supported even after they leave—e.g., by setting up strong relationships with their skip manager, empathetic manager handoffs, and by setting priorities for how managers are interviewed.
How does your team/department/company communicate with each other? Do they focus on the tools (e.g., Slack, email), on content (e.g., "we discuss design decisions"), or on intent (e.g., empathy, transparency, clarity)? Does their communication style appeal to you?
Can you give me an example of how this team collaborates? A good team writes documentation for each other, distributes workload, can work on project tasks in parallel, and learn from each other. The team should feel comfortable working on projects with other teams—it's often a struggle and negotiation to communicate and balance priorities. Team members shouldn't be working independently. Every person has broad knowledge and deep expertise in some topics—team members should be collaborating to learn from each other and leverage expertise.
Where do you see this department in two years? Is it growing? How and why? What projects do they work on, how does their role in the company develop?
How do you receive support in your job when you are not feeling successful? Do they give constructive feedback? Is there emotional support?
What does your manager or team do that makes you feel valued? Because you might like feeling valued A variety of answers here can be good. They should struggle to choose WHICH thing—not being able to think of anything easily is a red flag that team members do not give each other good feedback, do not get along well, or that the manager doesn't have the skills or recognize a need to send positive feedback signals. The best managers know how to connect their feedback to expectations, levels, and your personal context for your skill development. A good manager will show you how your work delivers an impact to your team, other colleagues, or to the business. A poor manager shares blanket, sporadic, or irrelevant praise.
Are you familiar with the concept of a "blameless post mortem"? Does your company or team use this style of post mortem? What happens when someone makes a mistake? A blameless post-mortem is an investigation of actions, not of people. The goal of a blameless post-mortem is to prevent future incidents, and to share learning experiences. https://www.pagerduty.com/blog/blameless-post-mortems-strategies-for-success/ https://codeascraft.com/2012/05/22/blameless-postmortems/ Confidence discussing how mistakes lead to growth and learning.
Can you tell me about a recent project failure? Is the focus on accountability/blame or on prevention/growth? Blameless postmortem. If they don't address blame vs growth, consider asking directly: "What happens if someone makes a mistake?"
Can you tell me about current weaknesses of your team? Unless they're new, they know. They may not share a frank perspective, but when they do, that's usually a very positive signal Flaws that are not superficial. Genuine weaknesses that they acknowledge and have a strategy to address. E.g., they are hiring you because your statistics background is necessary for their logistical regression project. They should NOT be looking for you to write all of their documentation, to teach them collaboration, or to bring empathy to the team. "We need an experienced person to mentor our junior team member" is very different from "No one on our team communicates project status and we need you to teach our team how to collaborate."
Questions on Team/Department/Culture may also be relevant to discuss with your potential manager.
How do you define quality work? People seeking to do their best within their means.
What do you do to ensure quality? (e.g., code reviews, testing)
What do you do when an employee isn't working up to your standards? How do you provide feedback? Do they investigate why? Are they supportive or critical? See also: feeling valued
What are your biggest challenges as a manager these days? What are you currently doing to overcome them? Understand how they approach problems, and this could bring up an issue you could help to solve, or identify and issue you want to avoid. Can they demonstrate vulnerability?
Can you tell me about a situation involving reports experiencing bias or performance issues? The approach to these and similar questions shows how they support the people reporting to them. While these may sound unrelated, fundamentally you should look for the same qualities: approach with questions and compassion, build trust. With performance issues, look for phrases like "no one should be unaware of where they stand" or "a performance review should not be a surprise".
How do you build trust in your team?
Tell me about the last 2 women who were promoted Have women been promoted? What skills or achievements contributed to their promotion? Are they promoted fairly compared to other people who were promoted to the same level or who demonstrated the same skills?
Have you ever seen a female coworker's idea taken credit for by another team member and if so, what did you do about it?
What is one thing that you find rewarding about your job? Do they LIKE their job? Their team? The company? Why?
Are there any specific performance reviews or targeted goals for this position? How do you evaluate success?
Who do you think would be the ideal candidate for this position, and how do I compare? Is this genuinely a good fit for you, and if so—how can you convince them that you're the right person for this position?
What is the career path for this position--is there a next step in growth? What would that look like? Will you have opportunities to develop your career? See also: Promotion process
Can you tell me about the challenges of this position? Is this appealing to you? Do they get excited about the challenges, or do they mention challenges that are tiring for them?
What does a typical day in this role look like? Get a picture of how your time will be divided amongst various responsibiliites. Does this match what you want?
Is there mentorship? If so, how does mentorship work at this company? Companies that don't invest in the growth of ALL of their employees are trash. Not necessarily a formal mentorship, but is this common, is it encouraged, and how will you develop that relationship?
What is your code review process?
Company atmosphere questions
What made you smile today? They will remember that you asked this question, and it gives you insight into the person and the culture.
How do you reduce bias in hiring and promotions? Do they recognize that processes are biased unless they work intentionally and explicitly to counter biases? Do they strive to make processes fair? Do they examine their processes continually for improvement? Do they gather metrics on diversity across stages of hiring and stages of promotion? Would they know if women aren't passing their promo processes, or if non-men are recommended for promo less than men?
How do you handle pay equity, and how do we know we are paid fairly? Everyone deserves fair compensation. Handling pay equity requires intentional and careful evaluation, recognition of and work to remove biases, and conscientious data analysis to detect current and past bias that inevitably finds its way in. Multi-stage processes to comb through compensation decisions, an explicit route to appeal decisions, and a high expertise team that understands bias and holds the power to address appeals.
Do you have a career ladder or architecture? Objective criteria for evaluating performance, leveling, and promotions are critical practices for creating an equitable work environment. What do they prioritize in evaluating performance, levels, and promotions? See also the next question on promotion processes.
Can you tell me about your promotion process? What are the factors in your promotion process? What do you look for when you make promotion decisions? Are promotions based on years of service (seniority), metrics (e.g., tickets completed, product launches), manager whim, peer reviews, progress on annual career development goals, or something else? What behaviors do they incentivize with their promotion process? A good promo process incentivizes collaboration with teammates, and discourages competition with teammates or "gaming" the system (e.g., by completing many small tickets). Cleaning up code, assisting in code reviews, and generally "good teammate" behaviors should be rewarded and encouraged in promo processes. A teammate with a grudge (or, e.g., a racist/sexist teammate) should not be able to sink your promo chances (also should be fired???).
Who is responsible and accountable for ensuring that all employees have the support they need to form career development plans and identify growth opportunities? While not everyone has ambitious career plans, anyone who wants to have opportunities, mentorship, or to develop a career development plan should have the tools and active support they need to pursue that. Each person should own their career development. Managers should be ACCOUNTABLE and RESPONSIBLE for supporting and guiding tha