Companies Must be Continually Reminded that the Interview Goes Both Ways
We need to collectively turn the tables on companies like this. Let's give them a powerful form of feedback. Let's exercise our right to "route around" bad companies and not apply or accept job offers from corporations that act like we are replaceable cogs. (Alternately, let's all talk between ourselves and collectively compare notes and boost our compensation rates and working conditions. They can't stop us!)
I'm hoping this blog post will help make people more able to discern the good companies from the bad ones. For the record, I do believe there are many good companies out there, but for every good company there seems to be a bunch of bad ones.
Remember: We Write the Software Which Runs the System
As time goes by more and more of the system is becoming automated and computerized. This means we as programmers collectively have the power in these relationships with corporations, but we haven't effectively organized ourselves or figured out how to best exercise our power yet. We now have the technology to instantly communicate between ourselves, which if we all start using it can lead to massive changes in a relatively short period of time.
- Follow your instincts.
Ask a lot of questions. Learn how to interpret body language. Are you treated with respect? Are your questions answered in a straightforward way?
Trust your gut feelings during the interview! If you feel disrespected or not taken seriously, don't ignore it. It's not just in your head. Run away! You won't grow there, and it'll be a dehumanizing place.
- Deeply analyze any critique given to you during the interview
Sometimes critique that seems merit-based is really bias in disguise. It's very important that if you get bad feedback, you stand back and think "Is this true? Or is there just something wrong with this company (elitism, sexism, they just didn't want to hire you, etc)?"
Is there a whiteboard interview? Push back and say no. I've helped hire at several successful companies (easily over 100 people over the years) that didn't use whiteboard interviews at all. Anyone saying "this is just the way things are done" doesn't have perspective and is part of the serious problems our industry has.
Some companies give programmers whiteboard questions from various books verbatim, like this one. This is just downright ridiculous, a waste of time for everyone involved, and a total demonstration that the process is completely bogus.
Whiteboard interviews are extremely stressful to candidates. I've seen amazing programmers just lock up and become dysfunctional in these conditions. We are testing candidates for the wrong abilities. I refuse to take part in any more of this insanity.
Some programmers use these bogus hazing ritual-like whiteboard interviews to help drive down the applicant's ego while simultaneously driving up their egos. This is a huge red flag -- avoid these programmers and the companies who employ them.
- "We only hire senior programmers"
Let's translate: We don't help train new programmers. The phrase "programmer empathy" isn't on our radar here. We probably treat each other like complete trash. We actually assume you are an idiot until you battle your way into a position of respect. Avoid companies like this!
Remember, all senior programmers at one time were junior programmers.
- What's the company's culture?
Ask lots of questions from people who work there. Is the official company message great, but when you pull programmers aside they actually hate working there? Search the web for reviews of the company, search linkedin and find former employees and ask them about the company.
- Talk to the executives
Are they sociopaths? Raging narcissists? Ask them what they look for in programmer candidates, and see how they respond. Do they treat you with respect?
I've known execs who thought programmers were literally crazy, and trust me the companies they ran were not healthy.
- Look around the office
Little things can give you a lot of information. Is the office a mess? How much space and privacy do employees have? Is the environment quiet or loud?
- Does this company give proper attribution for ideas it uses?
I'm throwing this out here because I've noticed one very well known VR company outright steal ideas from its competitors or academics working in the space. Explicitly ask the company about its attribution policy.
Personally, I will never involve myself in any way with people or corporations who outright steal ideas for personal or corporate gain. (I can't believe I have to even say this. We have fallen to the level of stealing and re-branding ideas from each other!)
- Master your fears
What do you fear? Recognize it and look past it, because these companies are designed to exploit your fears and use them against you as a weapon.