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As I gain more professional experience, I've become a bit more skeptical about a lot of the politics of the interview process. In particular, I'm curious to know if y'all think it's ok to ask the interviewer the same questions you're asked. For instance, in an interview a few years back, I was asked:

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I gave a decent answer, and then asked the interviewer:

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

He actually gave a fairly thoughtful answer. What about questions like:

  • Why do you like working here?
  • Tell me about a time you had a conflict with a coworker and how you resolved it.
  • Answer this question.

EDIT: I meant:

  • Answer this [insert technical gotcha question here] question.
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No...I don't think this is acceptable at least during the interview itself. If the interviewer gives you the chance to ask questions, and your able to find a polite way of asking these questions, then it might be acceptable. This doesn't seem to be connected to a computer science field at all, this would fit for any interview in any profession. –  Ramhound Dec 13 '11 at 16:18
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This question belongs on 'Professional Matters', which is now in the commitment phase. –  Jim G. Dec 13 '11 at 16:21
    
This could be on-topic if it is rephrased a bit for a technical interview that is relevant to programmers. –  rob Dec 13 '11 at 16:25
    
@JimG. Thanks for the info about professional matters. I hadn't realized that forum existed... –  Stephen Gross Dec 13 '11 at 16:27
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You need to careful not to insulting. I once answered an interviewers question about a contingency plan to me getting hit by a truck. With "What happens if YOU get hit by a truck?" .. It didn't go over very well. –  Morons Dec 13 '11 at 16:28
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closed as off topic by Jim G., rob, DKnight, David Thornley, Tom Squires Dec 13 '11 at 17:14

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5 Answers

up vote 13 down vote accepted

If you are asking it you should be able to answer it. You are not the only one doing an interview. The candidate (if he is doing it right) will also be interviewing you and your company. You are a future coworker (possibly manager). If I was interviewed and the interviewer couldn't answer "why do you like working here" or something like "You have worked here X years, what about this company keeps you here" I would hold reservations about my future boss. Some of those questions are almost exactly what I asked in my last interviews.

I made the mistake of not interviewing my employer with my first job out of college. I will never, ever, make that mistake again.

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Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I don't believe there are good answers to this question. I think it's a waste of time. Waste your interviewer's time at your own risk.

Why do you like working here?

Definitely! If the interviewer can't give an honest answer without even thinking about it, you don't want to work there!

Tell me about a time you had a conflict with a coworker and how you resolved it.

This is a behavior-description type question, everyone with a little working experience should have some answer to this. And if you're asking behavior-description questions, you should think about what kind of behavior would be welcome/appropriate/expected from candidates before interviewing them, so an interviewer should have a good answer to that.

Answer this question.

Was this some kind of dadaist interview?

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Sorry for the "answer this question". I must have embedded a tag incorrectly. I'll fix that... –  Stephen Gross Dec 13 '11 at 16:36
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Not exactly any question he might ask, because he shouldn't ask women something like "Are you planning to have kids in the near future". But if just applying the Golden Rule here and he doesn't want to answer something like "Tell me everything you know about our company" if he's totally not an expert on a company he hasn't worked at, he probably wouldn't ask such questions either.

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Most questions your interviewers will ask you are tailored to get to know you. In general you should ask questions that maximizes your knowledge about the company/team and not the individual that is interviewing you.

In case your interviewer is going to be your superior or only team member, it might make sense to figure out whether you can work with them. Just like they are trying to figure out whether you are a good fit for them, you should try to figure out whether you think you would be a good fit as well.

To sum up, there might be some overlapping in their and your questions, however in general the set of questions will be very different from each other.

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That's a very helpful distinction. Of course, the interviewee still needs to assess interpersonal dynamics, which may necessitate personal questions. But I agree that getting to know the company is the main focus. –  Stephen Gross Dec 13 '11 at 16:35
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+1 exactly. No point of mindlessly repeating his/her questions back. –  Péter Török Dec 13 '11 at 16:36
    
I agree that the team is more important than the single interviewer, but if the interviewer is the head developer of your team, you might as well focus on him because your life will be miserable if he and you just don't get along very well. –  Raku Dec 13 '11 at 16:57
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Speaking from a technical standpoint, in general, yes if the interviewer asks you a technical question such as the difference between an abstract class and and interface, they should be prepared to answer the question themselves. If they can't answer the question themselves it would generally reflect poorly upon the interviewer and the company as it means that the person doing the interview is not qualified to be conducting it.

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