As adverse effects of Covid, we have been witnessing both "The Great Resignation" and "The Big Bang Firing" with looming recession for the past couple of years. In my earlier post titled, "10 Things I Did To Crack Challenges In Hiring Tech Talent", I shared my views and/or experience from the standpoint of an organizational leader. In this post, I care to share my opinions from a smart software developer's standpoint based on my candid conversations (mostly during job interviews for hiring) with hundreds of developers during the past years. And these sure are the ones I second with and so here goes my list:
1.Does the company have Business Analysts (BAs), Quality Analysts (QAs), Project/Product Managers (PMs)?
Make no assumptions. There exists some companies (usually smaller ones) that doesn't hire BAs for whatever lame reason. Then who writes the requirements? Requirements in such places, based on my experience are given orally to the developers letting them shoulder the blame for all things that go wrong.
In such places, it is likely that they don't hire Quality Analysts (QAs) as well. The developer doing all things might look cool for the inexperienced but in reality it plays out against him.
The absence of PMs is a clear sign that you are walking into brutally immature environment where you can expect nothing but circus, where the developers are the acrobats.
ProTip: Just ask, "What is the team structure like?" to at least 2 people during your interview rounds.
2. Does the company have an Engineering Leader?
A good engineering leader does magic to the company by building a strong engineering team, culture and practices. Check out who is leading the technology initiatives and their experience in doing so. If you were to see a business/operations guy doing it as his additional work, you can take for granted that this company has no appreciations for technology and thus the developers. If the company has one, check out to see how outspoken the Engineering Leader is in public forum like Linkedin, Conference videos, etc. Know thy potential leader.
Make bets on joining a company with good Engineering leaders even for lesser compensation. I have personally profited making such bets early on in my career.
ProTip: Check out the Linkedin profiles of leaders, esp. the tech leaders in that company to know where you are heading.
3. What is the churn in Executive Leadership and how long did they stay?
Frequent changes in leadership of a company is a sure sign of red flag. Things can only be worser than you imagine, in terms of work culture. Even if you are desperate, check on the company reviews (in Glassdoor, Ambition, etc.) and dig around it before you make a plunge.
ProTip: Leverage Linkedin for this. You can easily check out for past employees and their tenure, (esp. in case of smaller companies) over the past years.
4. How much do you know about the company culture?
If you got an offer letter re-read the notice period to check if the company is fair and equitable in its business. Check out to see if the company name in advertisement and offer letter is the same; if not, learn more about the surprise to ensure you don't encounter more surprises.
In case of smaller companies, do not shy away from asking the policy documents with regard to leaves, notice period, and other benefits.
ProTip: Leverage platforms like Glassdoor, AmbitionBox to know more about the company. Map it with your experience during your interviews to learn how open, humble, easy going and transparent the company's leadership is.
5. What tech-stack the company is leveraging? If legacy one, know about it's roadmap, and where are they in their journey.
You are at a vantage point to be at the forefront of technology. If the company you are wanting to join, continues to rely on legacy technology, you should know, "why legacy technology is still in use?", "what is the technology roadmap?", "where they are in that journey on technology transformation?", "who is the engineering head, leading the digital transformation endeavors?". Make sure you are not making a career suicide for short term gains.
6. How much does the Job Interview reflect the Job Description (JD)?
Just as how the company has your resume in all rounds of your interview, you as a potential talent for the company should have the JD by your side and see how much the interviews relates to your JD. A mismatch means lack of transparency and/or rat-race work culture where the company is likely aping other companies in processes blindly.
7. Does the company bias for your outcomes or your background (be it education, race etc.) for career growth?
Check out for flags like preference for certain pedigree institutions, certifications etc, in the JD or any conversation. If so, it is likely that you will experience disparity in not just pay, but also career growth in that company.
All through my leadership stints, I have made personal endeavors of breaking this bias and focusing on team member's outcomes over any other paper thing. And I confess, not always I have been successful in my endeavors.
8. Did you experience inconsistencies in statements/promises during your hiring process?
All through your hiring process be alert on what the folks you get to talk have to say. Do watch out for inconsistencies in their statements. Should you catch one, do not hesitate to seek clarification and when you do so beware of the sloppiness in response as an indication of poor work culture. No matter how loudly a company brags about its culture in various forums, take it with a pinch of salt and rely on what you personally experience.
I personally have extended my fold to get these things right to beat the competition during my stints in engineering leadership. I appreciate what a smart talent wants and have worked from the ground-up to attract right talent.
ProTip: Get smarter in identifying the right company. Good luck!
9. Does the company encourage your continuous learning or upskilling?
You get better with continuous learning. It is in your best interest to enquire about the efforts the company takes for upskilling it's employees.
There are a plethora of online learning platforms like Safari Online, Pluralsight, Udemy, Linkedin Learning etc. and most companies have tie-ups with at least one of such elearning platform for employee subscription.
Do not overlook this and you will thank me later.
10. Prefer companies that respects your personal space
Check out to see if the company greets its employees as "Welcome to the family!" and such. In such places, don't be surprised to have bosses using words like "sweet-heart", "darling", etc. in their 1-on-1 conversations with their team members. I see that as dilution of professional and personal life segregation. There are quite a few companies out there that are consciously very professional and employee friendly in their approach where they demonstrate their values with affirmative terms/phrases like "One Team" (not one family), "We care for your personal life" (in explicit circumstances like providing creche facilities for employee kids), etc where the intent, words, spirit and action are in unison without dilution.
I have in my capacity always been explicit in telling my team members that their family comes first and demonstrate my respect for their personal life by not troubling them beyond office hours. My teams have returned the favor by actively participating and being much more productive during office hours than they were earlier.
This list is not a comprehensive one and are the ones that I think are the key ones to know for better decision making with regard to your shift in workplace. Do not hesitate to share what you think should be included in the list based on your experience. Good luck!