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I am a SDE 2 on a team with one other SDE 2, one SDE, and my manager. My manager mentioned that we'll be going to lunch with a Senior SDE candidate. We are in the later stages of the interview process with him, and this team lunch is mostly to get a feel for the culture fit.

How can I make the most of this lunch, both for me and the team? Is there a list of questions or guidelines that I can follow? It's going to be informal, but I want to make the most of our time together.

My goal is to determine whether he is a good fit for the team, and see how well he'll be able to advise my colleagues and me. My longer-term goal is to grow into a Senior SDE myself, so I also want to see if he is someone who can help me with that growth.

Any suggestions or advice?

I know if I were in his shoes, I'd probably lean on the reverse interview questions here. Maybe there is a similar resource of "lunch interview questions"?

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    If you were the senior engineer, what would you want to find out? – Solar Mike Feb 20 at 5:40
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    @SolarMike Ah, interesting take. Maybe I should come prepared with more answers than questions? If I were him, I'd want answers to many of the reverse interview questions linked in the document above. So maybe I'll prepare some thoughtful answers to those questions... – niceEarthling Feb 20 at 5:47
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    Just remember this is about informal lunch focusing on cultural fit and not a technical interview where you grill them for answers. – Shadowzee Feb 20 at 5:50
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    @Shadowzee Absolutely! I'll plan to calibrate myself with my teammates, and let my manager take the lead. And I suppose I'm over-preparing a bit, but I just want to make sure I am ready to make the most of this meeting. – niceEarthling Feb 20 at 5:58
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    It's going to be informal, but I want to make the most of our time together - Let it be what it's intended to be, an informal lunch to gauge cultural fit. Don't make it more than what it's intended to be and don't make it an inquisition. Keep it light, casual, and relaxed and see where the conversation naturally takes things. – joeqwerty Feb 20 at 6:07
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The best thing to do -imho-: don‘t make it a job interview. If your manager just has a slight idea what you are looking for, then he already asked a lot of question and thinks him to be a good fit from a technical point of view. Take the lunch exactly as the manager told you: find out if the new colleague is a good fit social wise.

Talk with him about hobbies, talk with him about general things he likes or dislikes.
Yes, of course in such a small talk situation you will come across work related themes: don‘t avoid them, but weave them into your conversation. You had a tricky problem recently with your development? Tell him about it and ask how he would have approached that situation. Don‘t make him feel like in a multi- person interrogation or even an inquisition.

Tell him a lot about your daily business (without exposing company secrets of course) and watch his reaction: do his eyes go blank or does he nod or even tell stories about himself when he came across a similar situation and his approach.

Check if he talks about himself or him and his team when talking about solving problems to find out if he is a team player.

Make him feel comfortable. And when you and your colleagues are comfortable to, then he most probably is a good fit. Trust your gut feelings: a good developer can often assess another developer quite well.

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    You're trying to decide whether this is someone you want to sit next to all day for the next few years. Do you like them, or do they irritate you? – Robin Bennett Feb 20 at 10:22
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    This is an awesome answer and this is how I personally handle it. But I'd like to call out that in many smaller or newer companies, this would now be considered biased. You may end up making a decision based on shared interests, cultural references, etc... A good middle ground is to take time to assess 'is my informal team lunch biased around gender/religion/age/etc...'. even if it is not, be diligent to verify, by giving it a good hard look. – Jeffrey Feb 20 at 13:22
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    @JeffreysupportsMonica: You are right, that today this might be considered bias. But besides all that "don't discriminate..."- discussions: You have to spend most of your time of the day with your colleagues. And having similar interests / hobbies / social backgrounds simply make life a LOT easier, especially in a development team. Just make sure, that you don't discriminate a person who otherwise fits well because of the "wrong" hobby / religion / policital opinion, then finding out about them in an informal lunch cannot backfire. – Torsten Link Feb 20 at 13:55
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Enjoy lunch, it's not you who's hiring them.

At the end of the day, it will still be your manager making the final call on who gets hired. Don't treat this as "your stage" of an interview process, or any kind of test that you need to apply to them.

Your role here, is simply to go for a friendly lunch and get to know the person you may be working with. Asking genuine questions about their interests, what they've worked on etc. is polite, and you would do the same at a lunch with any other professional.

Your manager will be watching out for how well the team fits together. You can relax, and enjoy the meeting.

Of course, if you have any strong feedback - perhaps they are racist, misogynistic, or even just downright annoying to be around; do tell your manager afterwards. But the likelihood is they will already have picked up on any red-flags, well ahead of you.

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