Suppose one is looking for a new job, and wants one that will allow some kind of personal and professional growth; one that does a little better than the situation described in WeWillTry
. No employer comes out at the interview and admits that they are chaotic or that they treat their people or customers badly. What questions can one ask or observations can one make to try to find employers that have compatible values?
- Ask around for the reputation of the organization; but this can be pretty unreliable.
- Listen for AlarmBellPhrases when talking to them.
- Find someone who works there and talk to them - it's pretty easy in big organizations.
- Ask "Are you having fun?" during the interview. The facial reaction will tell you even more than the answer.
- Ask them about the development process they use. If they have trouble answering the question, they're probably a CowboyCoding organization.
- Ask them how they estimate schedules and what they do when deadlines are missed.
- Be aware that they tell you how they'd like to be (now or some time in the future), not how they are today. Caught me again... :-(
- Whether or not you are looking for training opportunities, one key is the availability to developers of a full complement of them.
- Does the company move developers laterally from project to project, or is it once-a-developer-on-Product-X, always one.
- Is there more documentation than development?
- Is there a SilverBullet in use?
- Anyone, ever, telecommute?
- Do employees do the work, or do consultants do all the 'good parts'?
- Ask to speak to an ex-employee who voluntarily left the company. Preferably someone that was close to the position you were seeking.
- Go out to lunch with your prospective boss. Let them drive. Are they impatient and aggressive in traffic? That's a hint. Seconded. As I found out after the fact, my 2 worst bosses are damn near suicidal when driving. -- SteveFreeman
I had a terrible boss who drove like a nut - weaving in and out, always far over the speed limit, overtaking dangerously...he also was a stress-enhancer who constantly underestimated time requirements and then required death marches to (unsuccessfully) achieve goals. In the end, the project was terminated, together with him and (unfortunately) 2 out of the 3 developers. So I think there really is something to this. -- Dan
- Do they value you if JustaProgrammer is all you want to be? I left my last place of work because they wanted to promote me away from software development, which I like and know how to do, to management duties. -- AndreasKrueger
- Read CompetitiveSalary and NegotiatingPatternLanguage, so that you know what to say if you decide you do like them.
- Try not to get too excited. Most opportunities can sound interesting on first brush, but it's hard to evaluate it fairly if you're already emotionally involved. You can do that if and when you SignUp?.
- Don't let the recruiter get too excited either. Popping someone's bubble when you say no tends to limit future opportunities with that person/company.
(Please add either descriptions/refinements of the problem, or suggestions.
I think I've had about 20 employers, counting significant consulting jobs, over about the same number of years, which I suspect is a large number even for a NomadicProgrammer
. Anyway it seems large to me. My guidelines these days are:
I'll argue, at least on the low-flow fixtures. At least in the US, high-flow fixtures are illegal, so any new building has low-flow. As for the rest, you're on the money.
- Listen. Sure, of course you listen ... but you're busy fielding nosy questions, working on weirdo logic puzzles and trying to look good in a suit. You might forget to listen unless you consciously think: listen.
- Believe your first impression. If you're not on the same wavelength with a prospective employer, you'll know. You might not accept it, but you'll know. You might imagine wavelength problems will go away. They won't.
- Look at the furniture and offices. Will you be happy cooped up like a battery hen? Can you really trust an organization that's so stupid it can't figure out how to provide a reasonable work environment?
- Visit the restroom. Why? To check out the toilet paper and fixtures. If they're cheap, dirty, or low-flow, watch out, so's the company.
- Is the organization willing to pay too much for you? If so they probably paid too much money for your prospective coworkers - so they may not be adequately skilled.
- Will they pay too little? Sure the work might be interesting, but if they can't recognize talent or if they're really strapped for cash, they may not stay viable long enough to suit you.
- And get it in cash. Options are great, but they don't pay the rent.
- Find the mess. Pay no attention to the power structures, org charts or your place in the grand scheme. You're being brought in because these people have a problem they can't handle. They might not know what it is, or they might not tell you what it is, but it's there all right. Finding it lets you know what you'll really be working on.
- Find your buddy. There's going to be at least one person in the organization who's your life-preserver. No matter what, you have to be able to keep that one person delighted with you - for a reference if nothing else. If you can't identify someone who could be your buddy, you're feeding yourself to the sharks.
- Talk about what you expect to do there. If you want to do XP, for example, talk about XP. See what the reaction is. If there are chuckles, rolled-eyes, reflex head-shakes, or embarrassing silences, you may be scuppered before you start. -- PeterMerel
Great list, Peter. I wish I knew all that about two years ago....You should also "hang out" with your prospective teammates for a while. You'll know pretty quickly whether you have anything in common with them. If not, then don't waste any more of your time. You won't really enjoy spending 8 hours a day at work. -- AnthonyLander
I'd add: Visit the lunch room. An explosion of posters reminding you to "make a new pot if you take the last cup" and "don't leave dirty dishes in the sink" is a warning sign.
Generally, I'd say, I watch for companies that have any kind of serious insight into developer desires. Another $20k is the answer most companies have to the developer crunch, and it's a crummy answer. I never work as an employee any more, but the companies I prefer to contract for recognize that more money in the quest for loyalty is a dead path, and focus their attempts instead on the many alternative benefits they can offer developers, both tangible and intangible. -- MichaelHill
for an interesting view of this topic.
Also see http://home.earthlink.net/~jdc24/worksIns.htm
for a worksheet to rate the quality of employers.
- Camp out in the parking lot at the end of the work day, and catch people leaving.
- Call in and pose as an investor, ask questions. How are you treated?
- Do a http://google.com search on 'resume' and the company name. You're looking for ex-employees who might be willing to share some dirt via email. You want to turn up things that you can then explore by asking questions in a subsequent interview.
- Go to http://www.edgaronline.com and find the company's most recent yearly SEC filing. There's a section in there that list the of the company and their compensation packages. How do these compare to others in the industry? Are officers milking the company? It will be easier to ask for $$ after seeing those compensation packages.
See also: QualifyingEmployees