Six Questions to Ask at Your First Job Interview

We’ve been going through the process of hiring our next cohort for the Atomic Accelerator. It’s an exciting time! In the Ann Arbor office, I generally pair to conduct the hourlong interviews, and we open up with 5-10 minutes for Accelerator candidates to ask us questions.

This has led me to reflect on some of the questions that a candidate might want to ask a prospective employer when interviewing for a first job, or truthfully any job. I reached out to colleagues, friends, and family to hear what they were glad they had asked or wished they’d asked when interviewing for first jobs.

The questions below are a great way to focus on understanding the company you might work for and making the best possible decision for yourself.

What are your organization’s big strategic plans in the coming years?

A question like this may help you understand how (and if) a company is thinking about its future. Maybe you’re looking to be a part of a fast-and-fun startup that’s trying to make an impact in the market within a year. Or perhaps you’re more drawn to a disciplined (and also fun) company aiming to be the first 100-year old software consultancy (we’re hiring!).

What mentorship opportunities exist? What does professional development look like for the role I’m interested in?

This question is important if you’re looking to build skills and position yourself for long-term success. These are things you can do by actively seeking out mentorship opportunities, which good companies will always provide. You’ll want to hear a thoughtful response from your interviewer about structured ways in which you’ll develop your practice (there’s room to grow in every discipline!) and how you’ll measure this growth–skills gained, compensation, or opportunities for more responsibility.

How does your company engage with its community?

This question may help you understand whether a company is as invested in the long-term future of the community as you are. If you care about your city or town, you want to work for an organization that cares too! The more a company cares about having a good reputation, the higher the likelihood that it will build a strong local talent pipeline.

How long do people tend to stay here?

It’s important to understand the lifecycle of the role you want. Ideally, candidates are looking for a role and a company where they can grow. It is important that their future employer recognizes this and has the same hopes and expectations. If you get a sense that you are only part of a short-term goal for the company, you might not feel committed to the success of their mission, which will eventually harm your growth as a professional.

What types of tools or practices does your company use?

If you’re a person who loves to use the latest and greatest tools, or are applying for a role where a great deal of your job is defined by the platforms or services that are used, this question can help you understand what the day-to-day environment might look like for you. As a Delivery Lead, I was drawn to Atomic’s early adoption of Agile development practices. When I was interviewing for my role, I was excited to find that the skills I would be building were highly relevant in modern technology projects.

How does your company generally make decisions?

A question like this might help you understand a company’s philosophy about communication and management. It also helps you understand who defines the culture of the company. Atomic is a relatively flat organization and is employee-owned, so many of the big and little decisions are made with input from employees. If you want to feel involved in decisions that affect your workplace, you’ll want to work at a company like Atomic.