3 Questions Every Engineer Should Ask Before Taking a New Job

Before you take a new engineering gig, you need to make sure the role will allow you to grow in your career. Asking these questions will help you to figure that out.

Written by Mark Kinsella
Published on Jun. 09, 2022
3 Questions Every Engineer Should Ask Before Taking a New Job
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It’s no secret that companies in the tech industry are in a battle for top technical talent. Those looking for a new job have the upper hand in negotiations. Since we’re in a candidate's market, companies are on a mission to recruit the best of the best. Now, prospective employees have the ability to ask for what they want in a job and explore options as they see fit. 

As an engineer, the opportunities may seem endless. Some candidates I’ve spoken with recently have had more than five offers at once. The demand is exciting, but narrowing down your choices in such a market can also be overwhelming. You can have multiple great offers on the table but still struggle in determining where to go next.

With that in mind, here are three essential questions every engineer should ask both themselves and a prospective employer before accepting an offer. 

3 Questions Every Engineer Should Ask Before Taking a New Job

  1. What do I want next?
  2. What do I want to learn next? Who do I want to learn from?
  3. What’s the state of the company and its technology?

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What Do I Want Next?

This can often be the hardest question to answer. Why exactly are you looking for a new job? Do you want to begin working with a new type of technology? Or maybe you’d prefer working at a larger organization.

In my experience, people who have a clear understanding of what they want from their next step are often the best candidates. If you’re passionate about a company and feel excited about your team, you’re going to put your best foot forward. 

Take the time to think about what you want your career to look like in one year, five years, even 10 years. What are your goals? What will keep you fulfilled? Once you cover those bases, you can start thinking about what exactly you want to learn and who you want to learn it from. 


What Do I Want to Learn Next? Who Do I Want to Learn From?

Once you’ve settled on the criteria you want from your new job, consider the skills you want to learn and what specific areas you want to improve in. 

Engineers must consistently evaluate how to grow our skills. In times of failure, we should focus on lessons learned. In successful times, we still have room for growth and can always figure out things to do better next time. 

At Opendoor, we challenge ourselves to be 1 percent better each day. To ensure you keep growing day by day, you’ll want to ask what opportunities and resources will be available to you in a new role. Does the company give days off for professional development? Is there a budget to attend an industry workshop or a conference? You can tailor these types of questions based on your role and your values. Don’t be afraid to ask for room to learn. 

Another key piece of this question is asking who exactly you want to learn from. One of the biggest mistakes I see engineers make is failing to speak to their potential managers before joining a company. You need to talk to whomever you’ll report because, ultimately, they’ll be the person you learn from most. 

You also want to meet with potential teammates and get a feel for their work dynamic and team culture. Joining a team and realizing you don’t gel is a bad feeling. Before joining my current team, I spoke with a variety of team members from senior executives to people who would be my direct reports to cross-functional partners. Meeting people across the company helped me gain a better sense of the broader culture. And my interviewers were able to get a better feel for what I’d add to it as well. 

Having a solid mentor is critical. In a previous role of mine, I had a mentor to whom I attest so much of my growth. He was a pro in understanding scalable solutions, an area I hadn’t yet worked in much. His willingness to help me learn guided my growth both in that company and throughout the rest of my career. I had an advantage when moving onto new companies because of everything he taught me. So, when looking at a prospective offer, think about who those potential mentors may be. They could have the power to help shape the rest of your career. 

Being able to answer such questions about what you want to learn and who you want to learn from will set you up for success when combing through your offers. 


What’s the State of the Company and Its Technology?

Finally, you’ll want to understand the dynamic of the business, including the state of the company’s technology and its technical vision. If it’s an early stage organization, you might make a more immediate impact on the future of its tech. Or, if a company is experiencing a big transition, getting your footing might be a challenge, but that challenge could also be quite rewarding to be part of. You might also just want a mature, stable company where you can work on multiple projects and have a defined role. The choice is yours, but take the time to weigh the pros and cons of each. 

Depending on the company size, asking about the product side of things is also helpful. What’s the product market fit, and will you be involved in that realm? Are they selling products or still in the beginning stages? Are they iterating and improving? Again, tailor these questions to fit your wants and needs. 

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Choose Wisely

With these questions in mind, sit down and begin vetting your offers. Be thorough and take your time. Remember your advantage: companies need talent and they want you, so don’t hesitate to ask for what you need in order to make the right decision. 

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