Ask the right questions

Is That New Job Right For You? Ask the Right Questions

Don't make assumptions before accepting that new job. In this post Jon explains how asking the right questions before accepting a new role can help you to decide if it's the right fit for you.

Two year ago, my partner Jessie and I went to a discount furniture shop in Nottingham, UK seeking a new bed and mattress. We had two primary criteria for our purchase: big and cheap. Big because I’m 6’2″ and end most nights sprawled diagonally across the mattress, and cheap because we’d likely spent most of our money on LEGO and video games earlier in the month. We found a super-king bed for a few hundred pounds that included a nice firm mattress and free delivery. We both left feeling very proud of our purchase.

But pride, as they say, comes before a fall.

In this case the fall came as I attempted to sit on the corner of the bed, but instead tumbled dramatically to the floor as it gave way. Also, the mattress has developed what can only be described as a Jon-shape-cavity on one side of the bed. Not in a “Mmm, it’s like the mattress is cuddling me” way, but in more a “Help! I’m stuck and can’t get out!” kind of way.

Without knowing it at the time, we made the very same mistake many people also make when considering a job offer. We didn’t ask the right questions before making a decision. We made assumptions and literally paid the price for it. We were too busy getting excited about the free delivery when we should have been asking questions about the quality of the materials, or the longevity of the mattress.

During a job interview, it’s all too easy to underestimate the importance of the section where the interviewer asks “Do you have any questions for us?” Potentially, this can be the most important part of the interview as it is your opportunity to fill in the gaps or clarify expectations.

Ask the right questions

What should you ask?

Asking questions is especially important in industries like software testing where roles can vary so wildly. Not just from company to company either, but sometimes even between departments. These differences can vary from skill and competency expectations to the terminology and definitions they use.

Below are a list of questions that I’ve gathered over the years for my own use in these situations. Hopefully, they can also help you to develop a solid understanding of what is expected of you and what the job will entail. The best bet is to pick and choose four or five questions based on your own priorities.

  • What is the project or projects I will be working on?
  • What technology, processes and methodologies are used on the project(s)?
  • On an average day, what tasks will I be expected to complete?
  • What is the tester to developer ratio on the project(s)?
  • What equipment and tools, both hardware and software, will be provided to facilitate the testing?
  • In what format will I be expected to output the results of my testing? E.g. test notes, test cases, test reports.
  • Will there be any training resource available? E.g. An eLearning service like Pluralsight, or a budget for training materials and courses.
  • What challenges am I likely to face in the first three months?
  • How will my performance be measured?
  • When can I expect to hear from you?

The essential question

The only question I will aggressively insist you to ask is this one:

Do you have any doubts about whether I am suited to this position?

This question hits twice as strong because not only are you able to gauge how you’ve done, but you also give yourself an extra opportunity to give further reassurances about areas they deem important. If they do express a few doubts about an area or skill, you can appease those doubts with some examples or maybe elaborate on answers given earlier.

So there we go, you’ve got no excuse now. If you still choose to neglect this important part of the interview process then there is nothing I can do for you, I’m sorry but you’ve made your bed, now lie in it.


Jonathan McGreevy

Jonathan McGreevy

Jon is a regular blog contributor who contracts for SoftwareTester.Careers. He has led the test strategy on projects ranging from small apps to company-defining flagship solutions.

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