I just finished an interview with several members of a software team. I am a new graduate and while I feel the interview went well, there were a few moments when the interviewer said 'that's all the questions I have for you, do you have any for me?'.

Is it appropriate or even possibly beneficial to ask if there are any concerns regarding my application, in essence asking for the opportunity to flesh out thoroughly any uncertainties the interviewer has. In my case, my grades are not top notch however I did not receive any direct questions about them. I had a very mature argument in my hand, and I did not want to leave the room without being able to fully make my case. I did not end up asking, and rather focused my questions on the culture and expectations of the position.

Whether it regards work experience or grades or lack of formal training in a skill, would it ever be beneficial or appropriate to ask an interviewer or hiring manager "are there any concerns regarding my candidacy that I could have the opportunity to speak about?"?

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    In general, it's safe to assume that your employer doesn't give a rats ass about your grades in software development. A single hobby project on github is worth more than all of your As. – Davor Oct 19 '15 at 12:14
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    @Davor As someone who interviews college grads regularly, I don't agree with that at all. I've found poor grades to be an unexpectedly good indicator of a poor candidate. I say "unexpectedly" because I, too, thought grades were unimportant... until I started interviewing people. Good grades on their own don't make a good candidate, but bad grades do find out the poor ones. Grades don't necessarily correlate with intelligence, but they do correlate with work ethic, which is equally important. – John Kugelman Oct 19 '15 at 18:39
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    John Kugelman, when you say poor what type of poor are you referring to, mediocre or very poor, if you could elaborate – shane Oct 19 '15 at 18:53
  • @JohnKugelman - well, I've been on both sides of this situation, and no one has ever even asked me about grades. Not even once. And I don't include them on my CV. And when I was hiring, it was pretty much the absolutely least important indicator. If you can't program, I don't care about your grades. And if you can program, I care about your grades even less. Seriously, the more I think about this, the less important they seem. – Davor Oct 22 '15 at 9:19

It's not inappropriate and it could possibly be beneficial. But I generally wouldn't ask that sort of question. When you're applying for a software developer job, there are many more ways that it can hurt you than help you.

If a decent interviewer knows he or she has concerns about some aspect of your profile, they're going to ask multiple questions about that in the interview. If they're not asking about your grades, for example, they're probably not overly concerned about them. If you happen to get an interviewer that isn't going to follow up on areas of concern, it's very likely that they wouldn't immediately be able to articulate the nature of their concern if you asked.

If the interviewer has a concern that they can articulate but that they haven't asked about, it's unlikely that your explanation is going to sway them. If you happen to get someone that believes, for example, that grades are very important because they signal your innate intelligence or your willingness to do the occasionally arbitrary and boring things that classes require or some other attribute, it is very unlikely that you'll convince them that your grades aren't important. You may have a wonderful argument and that argument might be very persuasive to someone that doesn't think grades are terribly important to begin with. But to the person that thinks grades are important, your argument is almost certain to sound like you're making excuses or that you're trying to argue against their basic premise. That very rarely works out. And that's for arguments that you've rehearsed. If the interviewer's concern is something that you haven't considered, your off-the-cuff argument is even less likely to persuade.

By asking the question, you're putting the interviewer on the spot and encouraging them to think about negatives related to you. Most of the time, multiple people are going to interview you and they're going to compare notes. Even if there is just one interviewer, it's likely that person would want to take some time to reflect before making a judgement. If you ask someone to articulate a concern, there is a good chance that they're going to give that concern a lot more weight when they reflect than they would if it wasn't something that was ever discussed.

In order to truthfully answer this sort of question, an interviewer would often have to disclose information that they shouldn't. In reality, the concerns that I have about one candidate are often influenced by other candidates. But just like I'm not going to discuss your performance with them, I don't want to discuss their performance with you. So I can't say "We just had another applicant that really nailed the discussion on X while your answer was mediocre".

When there are multiple openings, it's also common that you hire complementary skill-sets rather than having a simple objective measure of "best". If I have a few openings in a team that needs skills X, Y, and Z, and if one candidate is really strong in X & Y, I might interview someone that was strong in Z but known to be lacking in X & Y. My biggest concern might well be the lack of X & Y that I knew about before the interview started. And how big a deal that is might depend on whether the candidate with strong X & Y accepts the offer. But if I tell you that your lack of X is a concern when it was obvious from your resume that you didn't have X, you're going to have a rather poor impression of me and the company. And I can't tell you that your weaknesses depends on someone else deciding whether to accept an offer. So I'll likely provide some very generic feedback.

  • The second paragraph is crucial. When I was in school, many great (productive!) programmers were not getting the best grades, while some that were getting the grades were needing to put in far more effort than they should have had to in order to get them. Now, often times those productive developers were merely productive at things they enjoyed, which is a trait that can spell trouble for the working world, as can the folks who needed far more effort than they should have. But simply put, the grades were a poor indicator of workplace developer productivity. – corsiKa Oct 19 '15 at 17:43
  • You say the good devs with lower grades spelled trouble for being only good at what they enjoyed, but also that the grades were poor indicators of ability – shane Oct 19 '15 at 19:26

You can ask it simply as:

Yes. Can you please tell me what do you think about my profile?

I used to ask this question after my interviews. You either get a sweet, neutral response; or a nice, helpful response about where you need to put your efforts in and what needs improvement.

In fact, the question also put forward the quality of self-improvement. It implies that you are asking that question to further improve yourself, depending on the interviewer's review.

So, go ahead and ask it.


Whether it regards work experience or grades or lack of formal training in a skill, would it ever be beneficial or appropriate to ask an interviewer or hiring manager "are there any concerns regarding my candidacy that I could have the opportunity to speak about?"?

While it's not inappropriate to ask such a question, in my experience it more likely sets a negative tone. I'd prefer you go in with a positive mindset like "Why should there be "concerns" - I am a terrific candidate!"

Additionally, most interviewers aren't going to reply with a snap judgement about you anyway. Most likely you will get a very generalized answer, and your "very mature argument" will be wasted - you cannot argue interviewers into selecting you.

If you know there will be concerns, then address them as a normal part of the interview - always pointing out the positive aspects, never dwelling on the negative.

And your final question could be more along the lines of "I'm really excited about what I've heard today - what is the next step!" (This sets the assumption that there will be a next step.)

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    +1 for you cannot argue interviewers into selecting you. By the time, have you had many candidates trying to argue you into selecting them? – Pavel Oct 19 '15 at 14:21
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    The smart candidates spend the whole of the interview trying to persuade (but not "argue") you into selecting them. But they do it by the way they respond to the questions you ask, not by making pre-prepared speeches about how good they are. I think the best use of the interviewer's final question is to get more information about the job that is being offered. The interviewer has already had plenty of opportunity to find out everything he/she wants to know about the interviewee. – alephzero Oct 19 '15 at 19:22

It's important to know what they're looking for, so ask questions to get them to expand beyond the skill list. Companies that really want to sell you their job, usually do a good job of this without you having to ask.

If you feel like there is something they want but you may be lacking, you have to find ways to address your situation and show how you can make up for it in other ways or how you'll be able to improve in this area in a short amount of time.

Avoid asking questions that may put them on the spot about hiring you. I wouldn't just come out and ask, "Am I good enough?" or "Are there any concerns you have about me?"

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