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Firstly, I want to know: how much do interviewers value inquisitiveness in a candidate for a mid-level (technical) position?

Secondly, I was told that the purpose of interview is to determine my fit for the job, and not to "broaden my own knowledge". So how do I ask questions to express my inquisitiveness without appearing ignorant and "trying to broaden my own knowledge"?

Thanks a lot.

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Edit

The main issue I want to avoid is giving interviewer the impression that I'm wasting his time for my own (free) education. He may think that way if I ask a lot of questions (while that may be true to some extent, my primary intent is to express my inquisitiveness).

  • Presumably, the majority of people in a technical trade are inquisitive. Also, by definition, asking questions is being inquisitive. So, ask good ones. – NotMe Apr 6 '15 at 16:22
  • What is wrong with broadening your knowledge? – user8365 Apr 6 '15 at 22:55
  • Not going to add an answer as the front runner covers it well, but I wanted to add that as a software developer supervisor, there are few things to me that are more important than someone being inquisitive. I'm not looking for code monkeys that can blast code out. I need developers that want to learn and understand things. I would have to think this is important to anywhere you would WANT to work. – UnhandledExcepSean Apr 7 '15 at 0:39
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    @JeffO by asking questions that make you look like you're trying to learn from the interviewer, you may appear to be wasting the interviewer's time for your free education. I want to avoid giving that impression. – HuN Apr 7 '15 at 1:41
  • @downvoter: why is this question downvoted? – HuN Apr 9 '15 at 3:04
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how much do interviewers value inquisitiveness in a candidate for a mid-level (technical) position?

It depends on the position, and the culture of the company in question. Personally, I find the drive to learn about things to be a vital component of a successful technical candidate.

But I've also seen places where such a drive is not valued, since it leads to uncomfortable questions about existing incompetency or because it would drive the candidate towards dissatisfaction with a role that needs to shut up, take orders and pump out mindless productivity.

How to express that in an interview? Ask questions. Since the interviewers (if skilled) are looking to find the border of your knowledge/skill, then you should inevitably encounter something that you don't quite know. Asking about it shouldn't cause you trouble at that point since it should be clear to everyone (if skilled) that you're asking about something slightly beyond your capabilities. No shame in that.

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    +1 for asking questions. Interviewers love when you ask questions for clarification. It shows that you are truly trying to gain comprehension about a topic. – Brian Apr 6 '15 at 13:54
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    I'd likely suggest that the questions should show some degree of research and thought being put into them. Rather than asking for technical details about a specific technology, ask questions that can't easily be answered by reading what is on the company website. – JB King Apr 6 '15 at 23:21
  • @JBKing Thank you all for the comments. Do you think that if I ask too many questions, interviewer may think that I'm wasting his time to broaden my own (technical) knowledge? Can I avoid giving that impression by asking mostly non-technical questions? – HuN Apr 7 '15 at 1:51
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    @HuN, you'd be asking too many questions if you go way over time to my mind. For example, asking about how does Visual Studio compile C# code would be purely technical whereas asking the company about how do they determine when to transition from one version of Visual Studio to the next may come across better(assuming they use that tool). Ask questions that focus on the job and having the interviewer imagine you in the job would be my main suggestion. Non-technical questions that can easily be found on the company website would also probably come across poorly. – JB King Apr 7 '15 at 15:56
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I would hope a mid-level developer wants to be an upper-level developer some day. You'll need to keep coding and asking lots of questions. Many of those questions you'll end up answering yourself through trial and error along with research. Nothing wrong with this. It's called learning.

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Ask questions that would be needed for you to a good job and make sure you're the right fit for the job. Ask about the tech stack, about how services interact with each other, about the company culture and who you would be working with. Asking the right questions make you more productive and a good hiring manager sees this.

  • Thank you Joe. When it comes to benefits, I usually advice people to not ask that too early - it gives the impression of someone caring more about money than about solving interesting problems. There will usually be plenty of opportunities to ask that later. However, it's important to not come off as someone that cares more about "what's in it for me" than contributing and making a difference. – Andreas Ahrens Apr 8 '15 at 13:17
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Use examples from your work experience where you have had to investigate a new technology or technique.

E.g. the initial proof of concept was to slow for production so I investigated the possible solutions and taught my self node.js and rebuilt the system using that.

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I think that the best way to demonstrate inquisitiveness is to describe past situations in which you have been inquisitive. In other words, narrate your past work experiences and highlight the things you want to bring to the attention of the interviewer (like inquisitiveness) with concrete examples that have a positive outcome.

Trying to literally demonstrate inquisitiveness by asking wide, open-ended questions in a setting as focused as an interview may give a bad impression. That's why the other answers are warning you about only asking questions which relate to the job/job-interview. The thing is, by definition, "inquisitiveness" requires calling into question everything. There are times and places where that is really valuable, but a strict time-limited job interview is not one of them.

Stick to describing your inquisitive behavior from the past rather than exhibiting it, literally, at the job interview. Your questions should just be authentic, thoughtful questions about the job and the workplace.

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Uh, like all traits, you can just lie about it.

So when they ask you what your strong suits are, you add "intellectual curiosity" to the list. Already you sound smarter!

Now if they ask you one of those "tell me about a time when", you try and mix your inquisitiveness into the mix. Maybe you didn't just help the junior developer learn about xml, but you also looked into the way your project was using xml, looked up a more efficient way to do it, and then worked with the junior to improve output by 12%.

ProTip: always know how you got that figure, even if the figure itself is, well, not fabricated, but possibly an imaginative rendering of reality?

If you want to ask questions (and you should), just ask questions along the business domain of the company. "How does this generate revenue" and "what problems can tech solve to help grow the company" and the like are good hooks. It is easier to meaningfully talk business needs than have someone draw a few circles to represent the company architecture and then work out what to ask from that. That shows you have business concerns, which all IT companies really want from the nerds.

Your first part "how much do interviewers value inquisitiveness" is unanswerable, some will a lot, some won't at all. You have to work that out on your own. Tyoically they like it, and they also like it when candidates show they did work beyond what was asked of them.

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    -1 for suggesting lying in any professional setting. – Brian Apr 6 '15 at 13:53
  • @brian oh! there is this thing called the marketing dept., all they do is create creative representations of the truth all day long – bharal Apr 9 '15 at 11:37

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