thoughts on coding and everything in between
On The Hunt
Time To Go
“We’ve sold the company and over the next few days we will be helping everyone find new opportunities.”
This is not a statement anyone wants to hear at a company meeting. This year, I was one of those employees. It left many people scrambling to make themselves more marketable in just a short amount of time.
Developers were (thankfully) already in high demand and thanks to some terrific leadership, everyone was more than marketable – in some cases we were too relevant as many of us were soon to find out.
But I didn’t just want a j-o-b, I wanted to enjoy my work and look forward to going to work every day (or at least most days!). I wanted to work for a company that I could respect and that respected me & my abilities. I wanted to work in a place that I could help make a difference, improve processes, and participate in making the company great. I wanted to work for a place that would challenge me to think smarter, not harder, and would set me up for further success in my career.
Less Than Appealing
A person looking for a job very rarely has the opportunity to be picky. After all, no one (and no company) is perfect, but there were definitely some interviews where I tried not to run back to my car or hang up mid-sentence! As a prospective employee I was prepared to be a good interviewee, but I certainly was not prepared to be poorly interviewed. I have had the privilege of sitting on both sides of the interview desk but I wasn’t prepared for those who interviewed me to do a bad job.
After being back on the interviewee side of the table again, I have a few recommendations for hiring managers:
- Remember the person who you are interviewing considers time a valuable resource just like you do. Don’t assume that just because they are looking for a job that they have all the time in the world to wait on you or shoot the breeze. If you say you are going to do a 30-45 minute phone interview, don’t let it run into 1.5 hours. If your procedure is to have an interviewee take a test, have the test prepared ahead and make sure an appropriate amount of time has been allotted and communicated for both test and interview.
- Be honest. Do a reality check of your environment and team. Be prepared to share honestly what your interviewee will be getting themselves into if you decide to hire them.
- Include a couple of the people who may be on their team. This is another way of a reality check for both you and the interviewee. It also lets your team know they are valuable and that they will be an important part of the successful addition of a new team member.
- If you start with a phone interview, make it useful. Fifteen minutes of “do you like to code?” or “what do you think you want to do” is not helpful or informative to you or the potential new hire. You both should be able to get a good sense of whether or not it will be a waste of time to conduct a face-to-face interview.
- Pay attention to the right details. You might think all hiring managers are attentive to the details, but that is actually not a genetic trait of managers. You need to know what the interviewee expects from this job (pay, start date, benefits, etc). There’s no need for them to beat around the bush – it is a factual part of a job and one that shouldn’t cause surprises to either party. It is even more important to notice behavioral details. Just because someone “knows” thirty programming languages or they passed your test with flying colors doesn’t make them an automatic hire or the right fit for your team or organization.
I have been very fortunate to be part of a great leadership team I can very proudly say that we almost always did these five things (nobody’s perfect!). However, through this process I have seen more than a few hiring managers not do one or all of these and they have paid the price (as have some of their new hires).
Not The Only Ones Responsible
As a prospective employee, I worked hard at making sure the person interviewing me had no reason to dislike me and even the interviews that I couldn’t wait to get out of I did my best to make the interviewer feel good about having me there. I would not ever recommend that someone looking for a job do anything different. However, you definitely need to be taking mental notes & know what clues are being given that will help you love it or not.
As an interviewee, here are the things I was (or should have been) looking for:
- Are they prepared? I’m sure sometimes this is a tactic used by managers to test a stress reaction, but I actually think that is poor leadership. A good leader should be displaying the kinds of behaviors they expect from their employees. “Attitude reflects leadership, Captain” (Remember the Titans) If you want to be an excellent employee, don’t go to work for someone who doesn’t lead you in that direction.
- Are they using current technologies? It doesn’t have to be bleeding edge, but if the company is going to move forward they will have to be keeping up with current technology. If cost is the excuse, then consider how they might look at paying you. If time is the excuse, then consider the schedule you might be expected to keep. If they don’t have time to ever do things the right way, that indicates poor time management & unrealistic deadlines. If the reason is “That’s the way we’ve always done it.” then consider if they will be able to sustain growth (including your own) and if they will really care about your ideas.
- How do they treat or view their current staff? If there are a lot of secrets to bringing you in, then consider how often you will be communicated with. If they talk down about the staff they have (especially if they are saying how great you are in comparison) consider how they might talk about and think about you when you’re not around. Do they invest in their teams & the workspace? Do the other employees connect with one another regularly about non-work things? You will be spending approximately half of your week there so consider the affects the environment will have on you.
I’m sure you can come up with more things to look out for as well, but of course during the entire interview it is never a good idea to give them the impression that you don’t want to work there. You never know, you might wind up with no options for the time being, so don’t shoot yourself in the foot.
Keep A Sharp Eye Out
Regardless of whether you stay or leave a company and regardless of the reasons why, these are always things to keep an eye out for because people and companies are always changing. Make yourself an excellent employee and expect excellence from your leadership.