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Asking Great Questions Q&A and Videos

About Asking Great Questions

Few understand that this act is a skill to master in and of itself. When you take the time to ask truly great questions, you get answers faster while making others respect you more.

Questions for Recruiter?

Data Engineer at Financial Company profile pic
Data Engineer at Financial Company

I had a round with a recruiter from a Big Tech company today. She reached out to me on LinkedIn, but it wasn't for a specific role, it was more of a call to determine what team would be best for me.

The call lasted about 25 minutes, where she asked about my background and explained the interview process. Then she asked me if I had any questions.

I felt constrained in asking questions because I felt like the questions I would ask a Hiring manager or member of the team to find out more about the team would not be questions the recruiter could answer. Also, she is recruiting for many teams, so how much can she really know about the team?

Should I have taken the opportunity to ask questions?

My usual go-to questions are:

  • What are the company’s/team’s greatest challenges right now?
  • What can you tell me about the team or group I’d be working with?
  • How has the company changed in the past year?
  • What are your favourite and least favourite things about working here?

The first 2 are team specific and are ones I felt the recruiter might not be able to answer so well. Indeed, when I asked what the company's biggest challenges were, she said that's very broad question, and I don't think she could answer for the team. She already told me basic info about the team, so I couldn't ask my 2nd question.

I could've asked the latter 2, but they feel kinda forced, especially during an intro call.

Should I have asked anything? I'd like to make a good impression on her, but I also don't know how important that is since she's going to take my profile back to the team and they'll determine if they want to proceed with me.

I've heard that a good question could be "How did you find me?" or "What made you interested in me?" since it forces them to come up with strong points about you and thus gives you a more positive image in their mind. Practically though, if I ask "how did you find me?", they might say "simple LinkedIn keyword search" rather than "I love your background using X, Y and Z tech!"


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How to get help in a team where the culture around questions seems a bit off?

Junior Software Developer at Consulting Company profile pic
Junior Software Developer at Consulting Company

I'm a little over two months in at this large (10k+ employees) org, and I work remotely in internal tools to try to automate processes. My immediate development team is fairly small and mostly junior. Most of us onboarded right before the 2023 holidays when things were winding down.

I am trying hard to fit in here and balance, but I am struggling. Our group chats are pretty dead, and it doesn't seem like group-questions are rewarded. We have daily standups, but a lot of work here seems to be conducted "behind-the-scenes" and in 1:1 conversations. I've gotten a bit of a vibe check on this scenario from folks who don't work in tech, and that seems to be normal for those environments. Things feel like they take an age.

For some reference: I get that everyone is different, but also sense a direct correlation between curiosity (to get questions answered and work done) and our team velocity. Maybe it's not something I should be worried about nor even my business, but I still am. I'm still working on disambiguating how performance reviews work, but in the meantime, it seems like we will be judged on velocity metrics, probably sometime in Q3/Q4.

I come from a space where questions were welcomed / encouraged. It doesn't feel that way here, which I feel like I need to adapt to healthily for the near future. A conversation starter model I've found helpful from a managerial relationship is "I've noticed a different communication style here. Is there any way we can discuss?"

Any additional suggestions for coping at this stage would be enormously helpful. I also definitely want to be mindful of being careful what I wish for and the impacts of "going fast" on junior devs, especially because there's a bit of trauma for me there on that side.

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What is the ideal time required to get properly settled in the team and working with autonomy?

Entry-Level Software Engineer [Associate MTS] at Taro Community profile pic
Entry-Level Software Engineer [Associate MTS] at Taro Community

Hey folks have started out on my first full-time job as an Early Career SWE at a Big Tech Company. Wanted to ask what is the ideal line of progress in terms of as months pass by.

For example in 3 months at least I should be capable of doing XYZ things.. in 6 months XYZ things... and within a year's time XYZ things independently.

I ask this question mainly since it's going to be close to 5 months of joining and I do require handholding with other peers on the team my aim is to operate as independently as possible. One of the feedbacks in the first quarterly check-in was to go in full depth for the debugging and independently create test plans for the work assigned before asking questions.

As for the creation of test plans yes since the codebase is too large I do tend to ask other team members if there is an existing functionality that can be leveraged or in case I get stuck as to what to do ahead or when I don't understand something.

The good feedback was the questions I asked were formed and detailed.

From the feedback, I am kind of at a crossroads in understanding whether I should ask questions or not ask questions and also crippled with self-doubt

Another pointer was how to be assertive in the sense I tend to be scared to share my ideology or idea about how we can potentially do something. Communicating with peers also seems intimidating especially Senior or Lead members or Manager too.

Is there a more proper way to communicate/send messages? The primary mode of communication is Slack and at times threads get bulky.

Any tips to understand the feedback properly and improve on the above pointers or in general are highly appreciated. I hope to get better at being a good SWE.

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Is there a way to "grind" system design or soft skills?

Mid-Level Software Engineer at Twitch profile pic
Mid-Level Software Engineer at Twitch

I'm not sure exactly how to phrase this, but to give an analogy, I love card games (ex: Legends of Runeterra, Race for the Galaxy, Hearthstone, etc). There are a fixed set of rules and a fixed set of cards. I can "grind" games and get better by noticing patterns, picking up new strategies or tactics by playing against a diverse set of players. The outcome of an interaction is usually idempotent (i.e. card 1 interaction with card 2).

In real life, things are quite complicated. Asking a certain question in a certain way to person 1 and person 2 may give wildly different responses, and may even depend on your mood, their mood, your tone, time of day, etc. It's super messy and unpredictable.

I also feel a similar way about system design. The nearly infinite possibility of inputs, outputs, TPS, throughput, scenarios make it difficult to reapply the same set of rules to different scenarios. This is just talking about one component, when we bring in N components, the interaction gets very complicated and the "rules" change" case by case. I'm sure it gets better with practice, but I also feel I have a limited opportunity to learn or practice these on the job.

Has anyone found a way to structure these learnings in terms of a repeated "grind", because oftentimes I feel overwhelmed and don't know where to start. This is a complicated question, so answers regarding either a) soft skills or b) system design separately I will treat as valid answers.

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