Questions Why ask this question? What you should look for Follow-up Questions Notes?
Universal follow-up questions: What would you do differently now? What would you do if the other team’s priorities changed? If your team’s situation changed—maybe someone leaves the team, some critical work comes up, or major org changes—how would you respond? What do you prioritize in this situation?
What made you smile today? They will remember that you asked this question, and it may give you insight into the person and the culture. Don't look for anything in particular! This question is an opportunity to connect with your interviewer. If you learn something about them, great!
What's your cat's/dog's name? If there's a visible cat or dog in an interview, they are ethically required to show and tell A cat or dog, of course. Other pets are also welcome!
To whom would I report? Your manager is your most important work relationship. Can you work with this person? Will they trumpet your success, support you through struggles, and help you do your best work? The best managers ensure that their reports are supported even after they leave—e.g., by setting up strong relationships with their skip manager, empathetic manager handoffs, and by setting priorities for how managers are interviewed. The best managers also set their reports up for success in the long-term, beyond their relationship—e.g., by being candid about career opportunities even (and especially) if those may take their report elsewhere.
How does your team/department/company communicate with each other? Do they focus on the tools (e.g., Slack, email), on content (e.g., "we discuss design decisions"), or on intent (e.g., empathy, transparency, clarity)? Does their communication style appeal to you?
Can you give me an example of how this team collaborates? A good team writes documentation for each other, distributes workload, can work on project tasks in parallel, and learn from each other. The team should feel comfortable working on projects with other teams—it's often a struggle and negotiation to communicate and balance priorities. Team members (and teams) shouldn't be working independently. Every person has broad knowledge and deep expertise in some topics—the team should be collaborating to learn from each other and leverage expertise. The team should collaborate with other teams to align with their work and build relationships.
Where do you see this department in two years? Is it growing? How and why? What projects do they work on, how does their role in the company develop? Ideas, positive attitude about where the org will be. They don't necessarily have to grow in size: look for how the department is looking to change its culture, priorities, structure, investments, etc.
How do you receive support in your job when you are not feeling successful? Do they give constructive feedback? Is there emotional support? People who care about more than what you deliver or don't.
What does your manager or team do that makes you feel valued? Because you might like feeling valued A variety of answers here can be good. They should struggle to choose WHICH thing—not being able to think of anything easily is a red flag that team members do not give each other good feedback, do not get along well, or that the manager doesn't have the skills or recognize a need to send positive feedback signals. The best managers know how to connect their feedback to expectations, levels, and your personal context for your skill development. A good manager will show you how your work delivers an impact to your team, other colleagues, or to the business. A poor manager shares blanket, sporadic, or irrelevant praise.
Are you familiar with the concept of a "blameless post mortem"? Does your company or team use this style of post mortem? What happens when someone makes a mistake? A blameless post-mortem is an investigation of actions, not of people. The goal of a blameless post-mortem is to prevent future incidents, and to share learning experiences. https://www.pagerduty.com/blog/blameless-post-mortems-strategies-for-success/ https://codeascraft.com/2012/05/22/blameless-postmortems/ Look for confident discussion on how mistakes lead to growth and learning.
Can you tell me about a recent project failure? Is the focus on accountability/blame or on prevention/growth? Blameless postmortem. If they don't address blame vs growth, consider asking directly: "What happens if someone makes a mistake?"
Can you tell me about current weaknesses of your team? Unless they're new, they know. They may not share a frank perspective, but when they do, that's usually a very positive signal Flaws that are not superficial. Genuine weaknesses that they acknowledge and have a strategy to address. E.g., they are hiring you because your statistics background is necessary for their logistical regression project. Unless it's your role, they should NOT be looking for you to write all of their documentation, to teach them collaboration, or to bring empathy to the team. "We need an experienced person to mentor our junior team member" is very different from "No one on our team communicates project status and we need you to teach our team how to collaborate."
If I talked to one person other than the manager of this team, whom would you recommend, and why? Find other people who may be key to success in your role or determining if this position is right for you. Look for hints about someone who might be a strong leader, an important relationship to build, or have information that could be critical to whether this position is a good mutual fit. The reason can be more important than the person! They might overflow with examples of colleagues they admire, or share a story that shows the company's culture. Or they might reveal a giant trash fire you should run away from.
Questions on Role/Team/Department/Culture may also be relevant to discuss with your potential manager.
Can you tell me about a situation involving reports experiencing bias or performance issues? The approach to these and similar questions shows how they support the people reporting to them. While these may sound unrelated, fundamentally you should look for the same qualities: approach with questions and compassion, build trust. With performance issues, look for phrases like "no one should be unaware of where they stand" or "a performance review should not be a surprise". Also: timely feedback, meaningful opportunity to change, and setting clear expectations.
How do you build trust in your team?
How do you define quality work? People seeking to do their best within their means.
What do you do to ensure quality? (e.g., code reviews, testing)
What do you do when an employee isn't working up to your standards? How do you provide feedback? Do they investigate why? Are they supportive or critical? Do they provide clear examples to their report and set clear expectations? Do they check on core needs to identify interfering factors they could change? What have they learned from their experiences in this? See also: feeling valued
What are your biggest challenges as a manager/leader these days? What are you currently doing to overcome them? Understand how they approach problems, and this could bring up an issue you could help to solve, or identify and issue you want to avoid. Can they demonstrate vulnerability?
Tell me about the last 2 women who were promoted Have women been promoted? What skills or achievements contributed to their promotion? Are they promoted fairly compared to other people who were promoted to the same level or who demonstrated the same skills?
Have you ever seen a female coworker's idea taken credit for by another team member and if so, what did you do about it? At minimum: familiarity with this common problem and caring about preventing or addressing this. An ideal answer would start with compassion and clearly enumerate a response plan to intervene. Intervening in the moment is the best case. Any solution should address each party separately: rebuild trust with one, and ensure understanding with the other to prevent recurrence.
How do you build diversity in your team? You want to work for someone who has basic cultural competence around diversity and inclusion. Inclusion is a prerequisite for building diverse teams. Do they network with people of color? Can they navigate accomodations? Do they support wellbeing beyond sick days? Are they familiar with the needs and challenges experienced by parents or caretakers? Do they understand trauma and healing? How do they address inevitable microaggressions on their team? How do they invest in their own inclusion journey?
What is one thing that you find rewarding about your job? Do they LIKE their job? Their team? The company? Why?
Are there any specific performance reviews or targeted goals for this position? How do you evaluate success? You need to know what you're doing well and how you can improve. Candid feedback is critical for your growth and to developing both trust and psychological safety with the people around you.
Who do you think would be the ideal candidate for this position, and how do I compare? Is this genuinely a good fit for you, and if so—how can you convince them that you're the right person for this position?
What is the career path for this position--is there a next step in growth? What would that look like? Will you have opportunities to develop your career? See also: Promotion process
Can you tell me about the challenges of this position? Is this appealing to you? Do they get excited about the challenges, or do they mention challenges that are tiring for them?
What does a typical day in this role look like? Get a picture of how your time will be divided amongst var