Interviewing Interviewers

A reader asked about interviewing interviewers: “it might be interesting if the person being interviewed were allowed to ask some technical questions of the interviewer.” Yes, you can absolutely ask question of your interviewers. And the best question might not be the stump-the-interviewer questions (in the same way that the stump-the-candidate questions aren’t the best for candidates).

Here’s how I go about thinking about the questions I want to ask my interviewers. Think about your job now. What do you love, what do you want to do differently in another job? Those are both ripe areas for determining the questions. Say you’re working with a group of very sharp people and you want to make sure you continue to do so. You could ask “Are the technical staff smart here?” but that wouldn’t provide a good answer (it’s a closed question). Instead, ask something like, “How do people make technical decisions? How do people review each other’s work? How do people solve technical problems?” All of these are open-ended questions that beg the interviewer to explain with examples (behavior-description questions).

I find that more often I’m looking for cultural fit rather than technical fit, but if technical fit is your concern, think about the last three challenges you encountered in your work. Ask three technical interviewers about their last challenge and how they solved it. “Now that I’ve told you about my challenge, I’m curious about the kinds of things you’ve encountered here. Can you take 5 minutes and tell me about your last challenge and how you solved it?”

I don’t recommend the stump-the-candidate or stump-the-interviewer questions at all. My rule of thumb: If you can look it up in a book, it’s a bad interview question.

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