Interviewing is a two way street

Dear new developer,

Interviewing is a two way street, and that means that you need to be evaluating your employer as much as they are evaluating you. Yes, you need a job, but your employer needs your skills. It’s also important to note that you’ll never have as much leverage with an employer as you do before you are an employee. You are going to spend a lot of waking hours working on behalf of this organization. Learn something about it.

Interviews are hard to do well. They are designed to extract as much information as possible from the candidate for the employer to be able to make a good decision. Good employers want the exchange to be bi-directional and will take steps to make that happen, whether that is publishing blog posts about the internals of the company or allowing plenty of time for questions or allowing access to individual contributors on the team.

Sometimes the biggest hints about how you will be treated come out in non verbal communication:

  • is the interviewer prepared
  • do things start on time
  • is it a real conversation or a grilling session
  • does the interviewer appear happy
  • do they do what they say they are going to do during the interview
  • are they flexible during the interview
  • do they respond to questions

All of these can add up to paint a picture about the company and the position. Note that none of these are related to the actual work you’ll be doing. That is important as well, but the context in which you do the work is crucial. If you are being paid $200k/year to do a job that makes you miserable, you will likely be unhappy. If you are paid $100k/year to do a job with a team and a project that you enjoy, you will likely be happy. (This assumes that you can live well on either $200k or $100k–feel free to double the numbers if that isn’t the case).

You will never be in a better position to leave a job than before you start it. That is the right time to make sure the information exchange is not one way.

Sincerely,

Dan

Pick a no B.S. employer

Dear new developer,

You may or not may have the luxury of choosing where you work, but when you are looking for a job, steer away from employers that seem full of B.S.

What exactly is B.S. will vary for you. Some people can’t stand politics, while others can’t stand shifting priorities, while others can’t stand rigid hierarchies, while others can’t stand not knowing where they stand. It may take you some time to determine what you can’t stand in a work environment. But interviews go both ways, and when you are talking to possible employer, make sure you find out what their variety of B.S. is. (Unfortunately, all jobs have some kind of toil and drudgery.) You can do this by asking questions like:

  • what’s a typical day like
  • who makes decisions
  • what kind of projects do you do
  • what’s the best and worst parts of your job

No job is perfect, but by keeping an eye out for the particular forms of drudgery that you can tolerate and those you can’t, you’ll be able to find an employer that matches what you need and can offer.

Sincerely,

Dan