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Interview Tip #2 -- Interview the Interviewer

A two-part series on strategies for answering questions during a job interview.

Interview Tip #2 - Interview the Interviewer

In my last article about interview questions and answers, I talked about the importance of asking a question (or several questions) during a job interview. This lets the interviewer know that you are capable of more than just answering questions and that you have a genuine interest in the company.

Don't allow the job interview to become a one-way conversation. Sure, you want the interviewer to learn whether you're the person for the job or not, but you also need to learn more about the company yourself, in order to come to the same decision. Too many job candidates find themselves interviewing for a programming position, receiving an offer and then finding themselves in a position they don't like.

How can you avoid this?

Be prepared to get the answers that will shape your future work life at this company. Don't wait until your first day or first week on your new job--find out during the interview.

I'm not talking about fundamental questions such as salary, work hours, vacation time and other benefits -- these are likely to be part of a standard package provided to you prior to the interview.

I'm talking about questions such as:

-What type of work will I be doing?
-Will I be programming?
-If so, will it be new development, or maintenance of existing code?
-If code maintenance, is the original author still with the company?
-What language or languages will I be writing?
-Will I be working as part of a team?
-If so, what are the skill levels of my team members?
-How many years with the company do my team members have?
-Who will be my supervisor?
-How many years with the company does he or she have?

While these are questions to which you can easily obtain answers on your first day on the job, by then it may be too late. Particularly if you've left a previous position to obtain that long awaited developer's job, only to find out you'll be manning a Help Desk for the next 6 months, until the company signs a big contract.

Of course, you may not be in a position to be picky - if you are a candidate just trying to get your foot in the door, any job offer may be a good one.

Please see Interview Tip #1 of this series posted on
Written by John Smiley, MCP, MCSD and MCT, author, and adjunct professor of Computer Science at Penn State University in Abington, Philadelphia University, and Holy Family College. John has been teaching computer programming for nearly 20 years.

John Smiley is president of Smiley and Associates, a computer consulting firm located in New Jersey.

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