Questions to Ask During an Interview

YouTube video of this blog post

When interviewing, you want to make sure that you are asking the right questions to the right people. These questions can be used for many different parts of the interviewing process such as asking these questions to HR or hiring managers or even team members you talk to.

It’s important that when you ask these questions, you also follow up with how you agree or disagree and an example of you having the skill or have done the job they have talked about. In other words, engage in further conversation after the interviewer has answered the question. Also make sure to jot down the answers to these questions to refer to later.

You don’t have to ask all these questions but it is good to ask a variety to get a feel for the company, team and the position.

I’ve grouped these questions based on what group you could ask these questions to: HR/Recruiters, Hiring Managers, Team Members and a bonus question you can ask all groups.

What is the hiring process?

Recruiters/HR

  • How did this job become available?
    • Ask this question to get a find out what kind of need they need to fill and if you could be that person that fills it.
  • What is the hiring process?
    • This is important so that you know how long this process will take. This becomes important when you are interviewing with multiple companies. You can also keep track of this. Also, after each step of the interview process, ask how long it will be until you hear back if they don’t mention it. It will help you time when you follow up with them.
  • Timeline for hiring?
    • This is like the hiring process above. You’ll want to know how quickly they plan to hire. If they are in a rush, ask them why they are. The answer here could vary (maybe they are planning for a new product to drop soon and need extra hands on deck). Pay attention to things that could be red flags (if they don’t answer this question directly, probe them to gain more insight and if after that you get nothing, you may need to walk).
What kind of workflow does the team use?

Hiring Manager/Engineering Manager

  • How many engineers are on the team?
    • This is important just so you know how large or small the engineering team is. This may not matter to you but for me, I don’t want to be the first or second engineer on the team at this point in my career. I value teamwork and learning from others. However, if being the first or second engineer appeals you then that could be good for you to know early on.
  • Whats something the company/team could improve on or is improving on?
    • This one is important. If they don’t have any thing they can improve on, that’s red flag. No one is perfect. Also pay attention to the amount of explanation they are going into here. If they can clearly explain what the issue is and how they can make it better and what they are currently doing to resolve things it usually means that they’ve had conversations about this with others at the company or on their team and really want to make things better.
  • What are the challenges for someone going into this position?
    • You’ll want to know what you are getting yourself into before you walk on the team.
  • What productivity tools do you all use?
    • You can ask this to the recruiter of the company to get a basic insight into the tools the company uses such as Slack for daily communication or Zoom for meetings.
    • The hiring manager would probably be best to answer this especially if the engineering team is using something in addition to what the company uses. You could also gain a bit of insight into what tools they are using for deployment and version control. If they didn’t mention it, then it may be good idea to ask just in case you do get the job, you can look into the tools ahead of time before your first day.
  • Is the team agile? How long is the Sprint cycle?
    • Some recruiters of direct company’s know how the engineering team works. If not, ask the hiring manager – they should be able to provide you with a lot of insight into this if not, run away 😂
  • Is there a product team or does engineering talk directly to business?
    • Ask this to get a better idea of how the team is structured. To learn about who the key players you will be speaking with if you join the team. Also, ask where the person who gets this job would land in this equation – i.e. who do you need to be comfortable talking to. You can also use this as an advantage during your interview if you have past experience that correlates to how their work environment is set up.

Team Members

  • Whats something you wish you would have known before you started?
    • The answer to this question could give you a leg up if you end up working at the company.
  • What is something you’ve learned while working at the company?
    • This is big! What they learned is key to what you can learn if you work here. If they didn’t learn anything that’s a red flag that nothing is new and they aren’t being challenged. Which for me is a non negotiable.
What is one thing you enjoy about working here?

Bonus Question – Ask to Recruiter, Hiring Manager and Team Member

  • Whats your favorite thing you enjoy about working at the company?
    • This tells me a lot about what keeps them at the company. If I hear things that have to do with perks only, it gives me a weird vibe but if they mix in perks along with things they do that help the people using the product or service the company provides then I’m interested in hearing more.

Organize your job search + Free download

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Job hunting is a daunting process, you apply for several jobs, you have to talk to many recruiters and if you’re tech you even have to go through coding interviews. It’s all a lot to keep track of. Fortunately, we can make this process a bit easier if we organize job leads.

During my job search, I’ve been keeping up with my job search leads via a spreadsheet. With this spreadsheet, not only can you keep track of your leads but you can also track the statuses of those job leads and it’s completely customizable to fit your needs. This spreadsheet is meant to be a template and should be tweaked to fit your own job search, I just wanted to make it easier for you to start.

Go to this link to sign up for your free copy of the spreadsheet. After you’ve received the email with your download, come back here and I’ll show you how to use it. 

Job status spreadsheet columns: 

Job name – the name of the job

Company name/size – it’s helpful to know how big the company is, you can usually find this by quickly looking on LinkedIn.

Company location – this a good place to add the location of the job and if they intend for you to locate or if it’s a remote position

Link to job – I keep track of my job descriptions in a google doc, however it’s also useful to have a link to the actual job on the company website so you can quickly have a link to refer to during the interview process.

Main languages – this is specially if you’re adding tech job leads. The language refers to the coding languages the company uses based on the job description

Date applied – once you apply, add the date here so you can see how long your response time is.

Where did you hear about the job? – This is a very important one. Hiring managers and recruiters will ask you where you heard about the job from and if a friend sent you the job, let them know. For example, I put that I heard from the job on twitter from John Smith and also keep track of that person’s twitter username so that if I need to I can quickly go back and see what that person said or if I sent them a message I can quickly refer back to it. Use this same process whether the lead came from any social media like linkedin or if you spoke to this person at an online event etc.

Initially qualified? – I added this because I want to know if the positions I’m interviewing for are seemingly within my reach just at a glance. For me, the main thing since I’m looking at tech jobs is that I have some of the coding languages and most of the amount of experience they are looking for. Spoiler alert, I’m not always initially qualified and that’s okay, I still apply if the position looks interesting and I feel that I could learn the skills they ask for. This column can be answered with yes you are or no you are not

Cover letter – Some jobs ask you to, some jobs you have to apply via email with a message stating your interest and qualifications (this is considered a cover letter) and others don’t require it. Either way, this column can be a simple yes you did add a cover letter or no you didn’t. If I want to provide further information, sometimes I’ll add that the cover letter is saved in my google doc.

Heard back after applying? – Did you get an email after submitting your application whether it was a rejection or an invitation to interview. This is a yes or no column and is used in conjunction with the initial contact column. 

Initial contact For this, I add the first and last name of the person I talked to first from the company in terms of a recruiter or hiring manager. I don’t put down phone numbers usually because we’re talking over zoom. It could be a good idea to add their email here in case you need to quickly refer to it. Also in case you need to write a follow up email, you now have it in this sheet as a quick reference

Initial interview – Here, I write down whom I had the initial interview with and what date and time. If there are important details we talked about or things that may be helpful later down the line, I jot them down here. This may be good time to write down the rest of the interview process to expect for this position. Also jot down how you feel the interview went.

Second interview & Third Interview – Same here, jot down whom the interview with was and the date and time of that interview. As well as any additional notes that may be important throughout the interview process.

Side note, you’ll notice there are no additional columns for any subsequent interviews, feel free to add additional columns as you need them. This is meant to be a template that you can tweak as you see fit

Additional notes – In this column, you can add any information about coding interviews here or you can use it to keep track of important details about the job that you may need later on in the process. You can also use this column to write down how you feel about the job – maybe it’s a good fit but you didn’t like the conversations you had with the people on the team during your interview process. Use this field to write out any helpful details you will need or that may be helpful for the future.

Offer amount – This is the fun part of the spreadsheet! You did the hard work of interviewing and then you get an offer, keep track of your offer amounts for positions. Even if you only have one offer, take note of it here. Write down what all comes with that offer as well including bonuses, equity, vacation days etc. This is important for future reference. Chances are you aren’t staying the same job forever so it’s great to have this to refer back to as where you started at and what you want for future opportunities.

I do hope this was helpful for you. If you have any questions or comments you can find me here.

Don’t Settle for just ANY Job

Rather Watch? Check out my video on this topic

I feel as people, especially black people or people of color minorities, are taught to accept the first thing that is given to us. This is more so when it comes to job opportunities.

But I see more and more that it’s important for us as minorities to really think about what we want, write down what we need and what we won’t bargain with. We should not back down just because it’s the first opportunity that we see. There’s probably more opportunities out there for you to have but you just accepted what was put in front of you. For me, my parents have that mentality – that someone gave them a job and they have to make sure to keep that job and so on and so forth. In my opinion, people might give you a door but it’s your job to do the work and make that door open. 

I remember when I was job hunting and I felt like the first person that said yes that I should accept. I feel like we think that way because we can’t see anything else. Please make sure you do your due diligence and look and apply for opportunities that fit what you’re looking for. 

Don’t settle for the first thing because they offer – I understand that sometimes we do settle for one reason or another so if you do that, then be ready to accept everything that comes with it. Put your best forward forward and learn what you need until you truly find what you’re looking for. 

In conclusion, go for what you want, stop saying you can’t have it because it’s not your time yet or you don’t deserve it. Wait for the bigger blessing for your future, really lean into what matters and which place will better serve those values and that fit within your lifestyle. Like I said, it’s best to know what you want so that you can only go for what you want.

Your Job the First Couple Weeks at a New Job

What are going to be doing the first couple weeks at a new job?

I can’t answer that for you because I have no idea – But I can tell you what you should be doing the first few weeks at a new job.

  1. Asking Questions
    • Everyone always says ask questions but what questions should you be asking when you don’t know much about what’s already going on?
      • Ask about the workflow – How do they get and complete tasks
      • What applications are they using for daily productivity? And if you don’t know them then familiarize yourself with them.
      • Ask what is expected of you during your first 2-3 months so you can better contribute and so you know your goals and what you need to accomplish.
      • Get your first task and start asking about the codebase
  2. Learning about the company and the product
    • The product and/or company are probably a big portion as to why decided to take a job to begin with – Start getting to know them better by reading up on any literature the company has to offer or finding out the right people to talk to about the product
  3. Getting to know your co workers
    • This one really intimidates me but you have to talk to the people you’ll be working with so you can build a work relationship with them
      • Start joining in on office banter, going to team lunches and happy hours
        • It’s not a enough to go but you should also join in the conversations while you’re there – This one is always super difficult for me but it can be done. So don’t feel like this is an easy task for everyone

I hope this was helpful! Best of luck in your new role! What do you do to get acclimated into a new company/position? I’d love to hear your comments below.

Coding is easy, everyone’s doing it | Why do you want to learn to code?

 

Learn to code

With a saturated market for new coders via coding bootcamps, self taught devs and university grads its easy to lose site of why you started to be interested in learning to code to begin with.

Evaluate your motivation to make sure you’re coding for all the right reasons. Don’t learn to code because you see quotes of possible salaries on Glassdoor or some blog post. Don’t learn to code because everyone else is doing it. Find the reason behind your passion so when things get tough – and they will get tough – you can remember your motivation behind it.

Some give up coding so easily because they haven’t properly explained their why. My why is because I love to create things, I love solving problems and there’s great satisfaction when I get to see a website or application I built on the web – Makes me eager to start the next one. I encourage you to think about your why and write it down – Commit it to memory so that when your up until 2 in the morning trying to solve a problem, you’re able to realize the bigger reason you are up to begin with.

Watch the YouTube Video Here:

TDD with RSpec

The end of last week was spent doing Test Driven Development with RSpec. The idea of test driven development is to test each feature in a project, fail that test, write code that makes that test pass, repeat. Each method, each feature should be tested to ensure it works correctly.

RSpec is one of the most popular testing frameworks in rails. It can create instances of your controllers, models and views and test them, it tests whether the routes are set up properly, it tests that the request and response is received from the server and tests regular Ruby classes…It’s pretty powerful tool to have.

We used expectations in the Coding Dojo console. Mainly, expect and to…meaning expect(page).to have_text(“The Dog”) which translates to expect the page to have the text “The Dog” on it, of course this after an action has been made. It’s pretty cool that it translate to plain English.

Then there’s the describe method which is used to list what the controllers and methods are supposed to do, for instance you can ‘describe’ a CodingController by saying that ‘it’ should show all coders. When describing Controller classes and methods, you should always put in require ‘rails_helper’ so it can find the controller or method you wish to describe. We also testing the models to make sure the validations and relationships were working properly.

We were introduced to Capybara which tests the actual user expectation when visiting a page for example you can declare statements like these ‘visit “/coding/new”, fill_in ‘New’, :with => “Tiffany”

And finally we testing for features of the page for example it “prompts the user fields”

After a few assignments, I cruised to the next section.

Rejection from a Job

Rejection: Everyone’s been through it and no one likes it. Rejection can have the potential to set you back but don’t let it. There’s nothing worse then applying for a position at a company that you really want to work for, going through the interview process only to find out that they’ve given the job to someone else. Of course, you thought you were the best candidate for the job but remember not every opportunity you apply for is a culture fit. So, here are my 3 ways to deal with rejection:

1. Learn from your mistakes: This is a big one. Remember your answers from your interview and take notes right after the interview, being sure to note any mistakes you think you may have made including not answering a question correctly to not smiling and being friendly to the interviewer…It all counts. Use these notes to help you in your next interview.

2. Get back out there: Today’s job market is competitive but there many opportunities out there, you just have to seek them out. If you’re anything like me, you’ve had your eye on other opportunities while you were interviewing. I do that because you never know if you’ll be a good fit for the team or company; I think of it as not putting all your eggs into one basket: Have options. Always look on job boards and communicate to people that you are interviewing and looking for roles and your new job may be around the corner. Keep applying to qualified positions and have all your experiences and resume up to date.

3. Don’t give up: You may think that it’s fate you didn’t get this gig and to just stay in the job you have (if you currently have a job) or that you should scale back to lower qualifications if you don’t have a job. Don’t ever take less than your potential. Of course, if you really need the role, you have to do what you need to do but generally speaking, settling for less is never the way to go. You may think that you should just apply for entry level roles when you have the skills to apply for senior level roles but that is not a good idea because you will not be happy with your end decision later on in life. Be hopeful and confident when you apply for positions. Know your true potential and what you deserve and strive for it but never settle for less than greatness.