Top 4 Questions to Ask to Land Your First Engineering Gig

A discussion about the four questions engineering candidates should ask during an interview (but typically don’t), and why they matter when trying to land your first post-college engineering gig.

The job market for new college graduates has improved drastically in recent years. According to a recent survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, employers plan to hire 9.6 percent more new graduates this year than they did in 2014. New graduates with degrees in engineering, computer science and business are the most sought after.

While job prospects for software engineers might be bright, opportunities at top companies still remain highly competitive. To land your first post-college engineering gig, you need to understand the interview process and be prepared to hold up your end of the bargain. Tests are common for software development jobs, but the interview does not end there, or even after you’ve been asked about your experience or why you think you’re great for the position. Asking questions is a substantial component of the hiring process—interviews are, after all, a conversation—but this is where many candidates fall short.

Here are 4 questions engineering candidates should ask during an interview (but typically don’t), and why they matter:

  1. What kind of ownership will I have over the things I’m developing?

This question shows that you want to make an impact. You don’t see yourself as just an increase in headcount—you want to be involved in projects that matter and influence the outcome of your work. This is attractive to most hiring managers because it shows that you care about, and want to be held accountable for, the work you do.  

  1. How is the engineering team structured? What kind of mentorship will be offered within the team?

Unless you’re interviewing for a contract position, engineering roles are rarely short-term hires. Team members who are in it for the long haul are the most sought-after. This question shows interest in a career path and a desire to learn from others. This is telling of your own growth goals, ambition and drive, which are key attributes I look for in prospective employees.  

  1. What team or project/s will I be working on?

Most companies will have multiple lines of business or projects. For example, at Storm8, while we are in the business of making games, there are many other projects beyond game development. There are opportunities within the core tech team and projects that support our infrastructure, which span our network and genres, among many others. Asking this question shows that you have studied the company and are interested in learning what role you will play; it shows that you’re proactive and would like to understand what you will be working on.

  1. What technologies would someone in this role use or have to learn?

At Storm8, I enjoy coming to work and interacting with colleagues because I learn something new everyday. Learning is a huge part of your career, and we always look for team members who enjoy discovering new skills, and learning from and teaching others. Asking this question implies openness to learning new technologies, which is crucial to becoming a successful engineer. It also shows that you are gauging fit—with your own skill set and what you need to learn in the future.

At Storm8, engineering candidates are not tested on things that can be memorized. We won’t ask you what the difference is between an ArrayList and a Vector, or if you can override a private or static method in Java. These can be easily searched online. What we’re interested in is the way you approach issues. We’re interested in your drive to solve problems, to learn, to be challenged.

Most engineering hiring managers look for: 1) problem solvers, 2) a clear understanding of the code you’re writing, and 3) genuine interest in the company. By combining these traits with asking the right set of questions, you’re halfway to landing that dream first job out of school. 

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