As the title says, should I ask non-technical questions during a technical interview? There are a number of things I want to know about the position and the company (how do you handle overtime? am I free to explore new projects? etc), and I don't want to lose an opportunity to ask about them. However it's been a long time since I've interviewed, and I forget the flow of a technical interview.

I don't want to appear uninterested/not engaged by not asking questions, but I also don't want to appear ignorant about how a technical interview works by asking them. So should I wait for a subsequent, more HR-y interview, or just look for an opportune time during the technical? What are the norms in a technical interview?

I'm in North America and the position is mid- to senior-level data science if that's helpful.

  • 1
    This really is company-dependent. Some companies will want the technical interview to be "pure tech stuff" only, others will let it be more wide-ranging. You just have to judge once you're in the room. Sep 25, 2022 at 21:52
  • Culture can include both general workplace culture and development culture. The latter is inherently technical in nature. Are you asking about the former?
    – Flater
    Sep 29, 2022 at 4:13

6 Answers 6


So should I wait for a subsequent, more HR-y interview, or just look for an opportune time during the technical? What are the norms in a technical interview?

Different companies have different norms. Some technical interviewers are happy to answer culture and work life balance questions, some are not.

Your best approach is to ask the technical interviewer. Something like "I have some questions about company culture and similar issues. Is this a good time to ask?" should work.

I always found that the best insight into company culture came when I talked with future peers. I always asked questions like "What's it like to work here?", "What's it like to work for [manager]?", "What do you like about working here? What do you dislike?". If the technical interviewer would be a peer, try to use that opportunity. If not, ask if at some point you can talk with someone who would be a peer.

  • 1
    +1 for asking questions like "What's it like to work here?". Their body language and answer can tell you a lot.
    – camden_kid
    Sep 29, 2022 at 13:16

It depends on the overall interview schedule.

In my experience, the technical interview is done by people who would be peers or team lead if you were to get the job. If this is the only time you'll be speaking with individual-contributor level people on a similar level as you would be upon joining the company, you can ask questions about overtime and such.

However, I would direct other questions about company policies, working on personal projects, seeing other internal opportunities with other people. Depending on the specific question, the recruiter, HR rep, or hiring manager may be a better person. Consider tailoring your questions for the people you will be talking to throughout the process.

If you've already interviewed with the person who is the best fit or if you want a different person's perspective based on their role, it's fine to ask. When I'm interviewing, I tend to keep about 15 minutes at the end for open questions.


Look at the people who do the interview. Will they be your colleagues? If so, then they should be the ones who know about real culture and work life balance, which might be different from what the company wants. So they are exactly the ones you should ask.


Curiosity is never frowned upon in a job interview.

I myself conduct tech interviews for my company, and we highly appreciate candidates which are interested in knowing more about the company, the day to day routines, and the technology stack.

Be aware that in a technical interview, the people interviewing you can only give you technical related answers, so make sure your questions are on topic. Good questions I've heard and replied from candidates might be:

  • Which technologies would I use in my position?
  • How is the average day of a developer in this company like?
  • How is work organised in the projects?
  • Which type of projects would I work on?

Some times the interviewer will not have an answer for your question, but you won't be penalised for asking a question so long as it's on topic, so you miss nothing in asking.

Questions more related to company conditions (overtime, work-life balance) usually cannot be reliably replied by the team interviewing you, as their conditions might not be identical to the ones that you will handle in your role. Again, it is a valid question to formulate and it will not be a problem asking it. I would only refrain from asking about salary, bonuses, etc., since the technical employees are not in position of talking about money. These definitely go into the HR/recruitment category.


Is a technical interview the place for questions about culture, work life balance, etc?

Yes, absolutely. These are valid questions.

I have seen hiring managers volunteer to advertise the wonderful work-life balance cultures to interviewees who are talented in order to keep them interested in the company.


A tech interview is the perfect place to ask about some parts of company culture.

In any company different people will have different takes on company culture. If you are going to be a tech worker than it is very likely a tech interviewer has a better handle on the real company culture than an HR interviewer. The HR interviewer may know what company culture is supposed to be like but the tech worker will know what it is really like. For example an HR person may say that overtime is non-compulsory, but a tech worker will know how often he is asked to work weekends and what happened to the last person who refused.

In fact the best way to do this is ask culture questions to everyone you encounter - tech worker, HR person, future manager. Comparing the answers will give you lots more insight that just asking one of them.

It is of course possible that one or more of those people may prefer not to answer. In which case accept that.

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