When you get to the end of an on-site interview with a team and they ask you:
“Do you have any questions for us?”
The worst thing you could do is say “no”.
If that’s the case, then what DO you ask?
Remember that, if interviews are functioning correctly, you’re also assessing the company and team as much as they’re assessing you. You should ask questions that demonstrate that you’re carefully considering whether or not your career goals align with this team’s goals and the position’s responsibilities. This demonstrates that you’re somebody who takes their career seriously and can bring that focus to the team.
Having said that, I also know that sometimes you’re in a position where you’re almost certainly going to take the job if you get an offer regardless of what their answers to these questions are. Sometimes you’re new to the industry and you don’t know what your goals are yet. Or maybe it’s just because the job market and interview process just isn’t actually balanced or fair in many (..most?) situations. I’ve been in that position before. I still think you should ask these questions, even if you have to feign some confidence about your ability to be picky.
Both a disclaimer and a possible boon- I’m writing this from the perspective of somebody who is an individual contributor, not a hiring manager. Although I’ve never made a final call on hiring somebody before, I do participate in the interview process and have interviewed for jobs many times myself. I encourage you to think critically about what advice here applies to you, and don’t believe everything you read on the internet. 🙂
With all that in mind, here’s a list of questions that I think are good conversation starters, helpful insights into company culture, and will help you figure out if this company and role are actually a good fit for you. You don’t need to ask all of them; pick a few that you think will help you make the best decision in your job hunt and make the most sense for your role and experience level.
Job role questions
These should give you insight into what your day-to-day work will look like, which can help you decide if you want to do that job. Make sure you’re not asking anything that’s already clearly stated in the job description- start from the information there and customize your questions to dig deeper.
- What would my day-to-day job look like?
- What role would I have on the team?
- What expectations does this role have?
- What are the deliverables for this role? What does the expected pace of delivering these look like?
- What tool set would I be using? Why did the team select this tool set for this project?
- What do you imagine this role growing into? What do the long-term opportunities look like?
- What kind of learning opportunities will I have?
- Who will I be directly working with the most?/ Specifically, what role (artists, designers, engineers) would I be working with?
- What roles will I be directly supporting/ what roles will be supporting me? IE- who will be asking me for help, and who do I ask for help?
- What team size will my role be supporting?
- Get specific with whatever work your discipline does and come up with your own questions that will illuminate more details of what the job duties look like.
- Ask questions that will tell you whether or not you’re going to get to work on the stuff that you want to work on and use the skills you want to use. Be wary of wishy-washy answers and “maybe”s to these questions- that probably means “no”.
Team culture questions
Everybody will tell you they have a “great team culture”. Ask more specific questions than “what is the team culture” to get less generic replies.
- How long has this game been in production? When are you targeting release?
- How is work allocated and assigned/ do you have producers/ how do the producer-developer relationships work?
- How does getting feedback on this team work? EG- engineers might ask about the code review process; artists might ask what kinds of meetings or other critique structures are in place.
- How does the company decide what games get made?
- What are this team’s philosophies regarding individual growth?
- What are this team’s philosophies regarding [diversity/ collaboration/ mentorship/ inclusivity/ something else important to you]?
- What kind of growth & training resources does this company provide?
- What kinds of team leadership positions does this company have and how do they work? (Eg, is “lead” a title with a pay upgrade or not? Why or why not?)
- How does the hierarchy work on this team in particular? Who’s the director for my department and how do they operate their team?
- What is this team’s philosophy for inter-disciplinary communication? Who facilitates it (producers, etc)?
- What kind of team-building events does this team do? Who organizes them? Do you do interdisciplinary events?
- Does this team have any naturally arising hangouts? EG- tabletop Fridays that the employees organized, not something the leadership suggested.
- Are there any common hobbies on the team? EG are half the team members coincidentally into Kpop? Who’s their BTS bias and why?
- How often does this team crunch? What are your philosophies around crunch?
- Does this company have employee resource groups for different diverse identities? For example- a Women’s ERG; an LGBTQ Leadership Group. Can I get in touch with somebody who runs this group?
- When I interviewed with Blizzard, they moved around my interview schedule to make room for a meeting with somebody who was on the LGBTQ Council at the time. Talking to her was good insight into how they treated trans people. If Blizz did it, other companies can too.
- How does this company handle pronoun visibility? Are they on nameplates? In the company directory?
- Can I find out more specific information about medications and procedures your healthcare covers? Can you show me the list the insurance company provides about this plan before I sign up for it? (Assuming you have medical needs that you need health insurance to cover, it’s ABSOLUTELY appropriate to ask for this!)
- Does your team do hackathons or have some other structure to allow people to do experimental work?
- What’s the company policy on side projects? How do they get approved? Am I allowed to participate in game jams outside of the company?
These aren’t direct questions about the role or team culture, but they might start interesting discussions and give you more insight into how the team members feel about the company. Use some of these with discretion, and usually towards the end of your list of questions.
- What’s your favorite thing that you’ve worked on for this team?
- I got asked this question in a previous interview and I LOVED it.
- Who will I be reporting to, and what’s your experience with them?
- Ask this only if you’re in an interview with non-managers. Make sure you ask this with a polite and positive tone. Take their responses seriously if the interviewers respond negatively!
- What should I be asking that I haven’t already?
- I love this one. I’ve always gotten a positive response from it during actual interviews, but I’ve gotten mixed reviews from other devs about whether or not it’s a good question to ask. Use your best judgement!
Questions About Public Controversies
Our industry is complicated, often controversial, and sometimes downright toxic. It’s important to figure out if a studio you’re applying for is one whose leadership/ C-level decisions will make your life and career suck or not.
The best way to figure out if a company culture sucks or not is to know somebody who works there, but we don’t always have that luck or privilege. I hope that the questions I listed about team culture will give you insight into a team’s quality of management, but the company might have recently been involved in some other public controversy those questions don’t address. In that situation, you might want to ask the people interviewing you about these topics.
That being said, it can be risky to ask questions about controversies a company has been involved in. Here’s a few things I would consider before asking these questions:
- Do you have something specific to ask? For example, instead of just asking “what’s going on with X controversy”, could you ask a question that gives you more insight into how the team is handling it? Asking something that shows that you’re considering how this topic affects your day-to-day or career there is more likely to get you relevant answers, and less likely to make your interviewers uncomfortable. For example:
- “What actions is leadership taking to address X? How are they collecting and addressing feedback?”
- “Have any of their actions changed your day-to-day? Do you feel like they were effective?”
- “Do you feel like X controversy is a pattern of behavior for this company?”
- “Do you feel like leadership at this company is willing to admit when they make mistakes? What do they do to address mistakes?”
- “Do you feel like this team is generally a welcoming place to work as a minority?”
- Do you just want the word on the latest drama, or does this topic affect you? What you don’t want to do is make the interviewers feel like 1) you’re trying to gossip or 2) make them feel personally responsible for some BS an executive did. Asking specific questions that would affect your career and how you’re treated there or be relevant to your personal values are more likely to be well-received.
- Are you in a position to be OK if asking this question affects the team’s likelihood to hire you? This is a really complicated question to answer. Personally, I wouldn’t work on a team that penalized interviewees for asking tough questions, and I’m sick of working for companies that are constantly embroiled in controversy. At the same time, I’m not going to tell any particular person reading this doc that they’re personally responsible for holding these companies accountable by not working for them. I can’t tell you what to do with your career or what kind of position you’re in money-wise. These questions might reveal important red flags about a company, but only you can make the decision when weighing that with what controversies will actually affect you personally and what you can personally tolerate with a job.
- Don’t press it if your interviewers aren’t able to speak on the topic. Some of them might not feel safe enough to speak openly. Don’t hold it against them personally if they don’t.
- Make sure to thank your interviewers for their candor if they were willing to discuss these topics with you. It can be uncomfortable, and a simple thank-you can bring the tone back to a positive place and let your interviewers know you appreciate their honesty.
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