Michael Lopp's favourite part of the phone screen is taking questions. The interviewee gets to show off their research skills and ask probing, insightful questions, and Michael gets to answer them.

I'm not a fan of lazy questions. I can think of no better way to move yourself down the list of qualified applicants if your questions are the kind that can be answered by spending a few moments on LinkedIn, Crunchbase, or a personal bio. I might actually prefer no questions over lazy questions!

The types of questions I prefer are those that demonstrate follow up on a previously published blog post or comment. Questions about the inner workings of the organization, upcoming products, technical challenges, interpersonal or organizational challenges, or the future of the company.

Here's a list of generic questions I might ask in a screener interview. These questions are likely best-suited for engineering and engineering manager roles.

  • What is the structure of the organization?
  • How many engineers does the organization have? How many engineering managers?
  • What is the reporting structure?
  • What's the average team size, and how often do the teams change?
  • Are teams cross-functional? Are they organized by product, or by project?
  • How is engineering excellence spread throughout organization?
  • What role does the chief architect or CTO have at the product level?
  • How many products are there? How many projects?
  • What does the hiring process look like? Who will I be reporting to?
  • What does Agile look like at your organization?
  • Is there a research or innovation department? How are these teams integrated with the rest of the organization?

Tweet me if I missed any good ones! @codydjango