Flip the script: questions to ask during a software engineering interview 🙋

February 12, 2022

As university graduation quickly approaches (t-minus five months!), I find myself preparing interviews for grad-level software engineering positions.

At the end of the interview, there is usually some time reserved for questions you might have about the role or the company. I have always been quite flustered by this question, as I just spent 30-60 minutes in answering mode and am suddenly asked to reverse roles. It usually ends with me saying “not really!” and the interview ending at that.

To learn more about the company culture and see if I can fit in the work environment, I created this list of questions to prepare for future interviews. Some questions are my own, but many are sourced from Hacker News, GitHub, or other blog posts. You can find the sources at the end of the post.

The main goal of these questions is to avoid nasty surprises about the job after I start my employment. This list is quite extensive, so you can pick and choose the questions that seem most important to you or that segue the best during the conversation with the interviewer.


Get these answers first

  1. How big is the company? The team you’re hiring for?
  2. What responsibilities are you recruiting for?
  3. What are the day-to-day tasks in this role?
  4. Is this a newly created position or am I filling in for someone who left?
  5. How many rounds of interviews will there be?
  6. How many other candidates are there for this role?
  7. (For startups and small companies) Who are your main competitors? What is your unique selling point?

Team and planning

  1. Tell me the general planning pipeline from long-term strategy to issues being assigned to me. At which steps is the team involved in the planning process?
  2. What is your typical release schedule?
  3. How do you handle software maintenance and tech debt?
  4. If you could improve one major thing about the system architecture, what would it be? Are there any plans in the works to fix that?
  5. How do you deal with crunch time during development?
  6. What is the root cause of crunch time and how often does this occur a year?
  7. Are there any on-call responsibilities for this role?


  1. Tell me about a time things didn’t go as planned. How was the situation resolved? What measures were put in place to prevent this situation from occurring again?
  2. Is there flexibility to work on different projects from time to time?
  3. Is there room for promotion in this role?
  4. How many meetings are there in this role for an average month?
  5. (For mid-size to large companies) What is the turnover rate like? How many engineers were hired and how many left in the past year?
  6. Tell me about diversity at your company. If there is a lack of diversity, if so do you have a strategy for change?

Developer experience

  1. What VCS is used?
  2. Bug/issue tracking system?
  3. Use my own machine or locked-down company laptop?
  4. Am I free to use my preferred development environments (e.g. operating system, IDE, …) or are there team-mandated setups?
  5. How does an issue go from pull request to production? What checks are in place to catch bugs and security holes?
  6. What is your testing strategy?
  7. Is there a code review process in place?
  8. Do I need to track my time?
  9. What communication tools do you use?

Open source and personal projects

  1. Have you released any in-house code as an open source project?
  2. Am I encouraged to contribute to open source at work? E.g. bugfixes for libraries we use.
  3. What are the company’s non-compete rules? If I wanted to make and sell an app in my spare time, is that allowed? What isn’t allowed?
  4. Are there specific contractual clauses about intellectual property of code I write outside office hours?

Company culture

  1. Do you operate on-site, fully remote, or hybrid? What is your work-from-home policy?
  2. If hybrid, is there a quota of on-site days or is it as-fit?
  3. Do people hang out after work? How close are the teams?
  4. Does the company sponsor employee training/certification, or conference attendance?
  5. Do you do internal lunch talks, brown bag sessions or show and tells? What topics are covered at these sessions (i.e. only work-related, or also personal passions)?
  6. Is there a dress code?

Also, if you are particularly interested in diversity and equity at a company, I highly recommend you read this post by Charity with specific questions to ask about this topic.

Questions for team members

Talking to a potential future colleague is the best opportunity to get an honest view of the company. They are more likely to give you an honest take compared to an interviewer whose main objective is to recruit you.

Before you sign a contract, it is a great idea to ask if you can talk to one of your future team members, or check your network for contacts who work or have worked for the firm.

  1. Why did you choose to work here? How long have you worked here? Why have you stayed?
  2. Describe a typical day of work for you. How varied are your responsibilities?
  3. What do you like the most about working at [COMPANY]?
  4. What annoys you the most about working at [COMPANY]?
  5. Do you enjoy the project you’re currently assigned on?
  6. Is there flexibility to work on different projects from time to time?
  7. How is the relationship with your team lead? Do you feel involved in the success of your team?
  8. Tell me about a time things didn’t go as planned. How was the situation resolved? What measures were put in place to prevent this situation from occurring again?
  9. Is there a bonus structure?
  10. Does the company seem stable? Growth trajectory, on a road to acquisition, …
  11. How does management evaluate your performance?
  12. How much do you feel like you have learned from this work experience vs. how much have you contributed to the knowledge of the team/company.
  13. Does the team plan or exercise for disaster recovery?
  14. How much focus does your team have on security?
  15. Every company gets criticized. What’s a piece of criticism your company has received that you felt wasn’t really accurate? What is some criticism that you agree with?

If you have any interesting questions you like to ask at an interview, feel free to leave a comment below, or hit me up on Discord at Maximio#6460.


About me

I’m a computer science engineer with interest in a wide range of topics, including productivity, PKM, artificial intelligence, product development and game design.

On my blog, you will find posts about personal projects, workflow and productivity, and reviews. Find out more about me here.