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questions to ask before accepting job

After a relatively short hunt, I've gotten an offer.  I'm pretty interested in the job, but before I leave the place I've been for seven years (and possibly burn some bridges), I want to be as sure as I can that it's the right move.

What kind of questions do you wish you had asked before accepting an offer?  Could you have avoided a nightmare job or bad manager if you had done some more digging?  I know there's no sure thing, but I want to do as much due diligence as possible.

thanks

Jason
Thursday, June 03, 2004

You're asking whether I'm willing to work overtime sometimes. How many hours/week should I average? What's "normal" here?

Who defines the schedule, how? Who do I talk to if I'm becoming behind the schedule, and what might their reply be?

avoiding a nightmare job
Thursday, June 03, 2004

Non-compete agreement?
What about moonlighting/side-work?
Why did the guy I'm replacing leave? (Assuming you're a replacement)

GiorgioG
Thursday, June 03, 2004

What are the purchasing authority levels?

This can tell you a lot about a company - if the CEO has to approve every purchase over $50, that's a warning sign...

Philo

Philo
Thursday, June 03, 2004

If you haven't already met them, see if you can have lunch (or some other semi-casual setting) with your potential peers and immediate superior.  It may sound odd, but you'd be surprised.  A good employer is going to appreciate your effort to ensure you're a good fit.

Over lunch, pay attention.  How is the team dynamic?  Do you mesh with it well?  Most importantly, are they smart and capable?

I've both accepted and rejected offers based on interaction like this, and still feel pretty good that they were all good decisions.

Ian Olsen
Thursday, June 03, 2004

"Do you press charges?"

MrFancypants
Thursday, June 03, 2004

These are more generic to the company's overall health, but probably just as germane to your survival there:

1) What's the overall business outlook look like?
2) How are the products/service sold today?  Which channels are growing and which are shrinking?  How are those changes being addressed?
3) How often do we get to meet with the business-people to make sure we're designing/developing the right stuff?

http://badblue.com/blog
Thursday, June 03, 2004

Really all of the above questions should be asked during the interview and workplace tour, not after. 

Especially if it's a large-ish company, you're probably only going to be dealing with HR at this point, and they won't know any of those.

Guy LeDouche
Thursday, June 03, 2004

"Can I get time off on and around (important family holiday)?"

I left a job once because they wouldn't give me the time off (it was only three days, and one was already a holiday).

I said, "If I'd known from the beginning I couldn't get off for this holiday, I wouldn't have taken the job."

They replied, "If that was a necessary condition for you to take the job, you should have mentioned it up front."

So now I do mention it up front.

Kyralessa
Thursday, June 03, 2004


"Do I get a red stapler? A genuine Swingline?"

X
Thursday, June 03, 2004

All of the previous comments are excellent and are great questions to ask.  Only problem is during an interview both sides are putting forward their best B.S. 

Go with your gut instinct.  I ignored mine on my current gig and I am looking for a new gig only after 18 months after starting. 

Anonx
Thursday, June 03, 2004

What questions you ask also depend on why you are leaving your current job.  And what parts of your current jobs you like and dislike. 

Bella
Thursday, June 03, 2004

"This can tell you a lot about a company - if the CEO has to approve every purchase over $50, that's a warning sign..."

I see we've worked for the same companies, Philo.  ;)

Norrick
Thursday, June 03, 2004

1 - Ask if the company has had a history of layoffs. If so, find out what measures they took to avoid them (salary cuts, furloughs, etc.).  Private companies are often better in this regard.

2 - Ask about the backgrounds of senior management.  Are the top ranks filled with people that sales/marketing, finance, operations, or tech backgrounds?  Are there any people with tech backgrounds in senior management?  Sometimes, but not always, this will tell a lot about your status and how you will be treated in the company.

3 - Ask about team meetings, status reports, etc.  This will tip you off to micro management or mushroom management (kept in the dark and fed shit).

4 - Ask about the last time they missed (or were on the verge of missing) a major milestone. Ask why 5 times.

yet another anon
Friday, June 04, 2004

"Are there any hot babes in the marketing department I can f*ck?!" :-P

Wisea**
Friday, June 04, 2004

Jason wrote, "What kind of questions do you wish you had asked before accepting an offer? "

Imo, when asking such a question you really should:

* Provide more background about yourself such as the type of work experience you have (business app development - desktop/client-server/web applications, embedded, shrinkwrap).

* Tell us what type of company is interested in interviewing you (a consulting firm, a large insurance company, a game company, an ISV, etc.).


Jason wrote, "Could you have avoided a nightmare job or bad manager if you had done some more digging?  I know there's no sure thing, but I want to do as much due diligence as possible."

Here is what I did. I sat down and spent several hours compiling a list of questions that I POTENTIALLY want to ask the interviewer. My "list of questions" vary depending on whom I am speaking with (an HR droid, a high-level executive, a hiring manager, a project manager, a developer, etc.) and the type of employment I am seeking (full-time vs. contract work).

One Programmer's Opinion
Friday, June 04, 2004

Jason,

How about this question:

"Would you like me to take a few minutes at your whiteboard to explain what I think are the challenges and problems you're facing in your business today, and then show you how I would tackle them to make your department more profitable?"

For some interesting interview tips, see here:
http://www.asktheheadhunter.com/crocs.htm

Regards,

Mark
----
Author of "Comprehensive VB .NET Debugging"
http://www.apress.com/book/bookDisplay.html?bID=128

Mark Pearce
Friday, June 04, 2004

"What is your favorite software engineering text?" (for technical interviews)

Devil's Advocate
Friday, June 04, 2004

"Do I get a red stapler? A genuine Swingline?"

Everyone in my office does actually have one.

Great place to work!

anon
Friday, June 04, 2004

Ask how many developers they have, then ask how many designers and testers.  If they say they are too "fast paced" and "innovative" to have dedicated designers/testers, run for the hills! 

hightequity
Friday, June 04, 2004

"Would you like me to take a few minutes at your whiteboard to explain what I think are the challenges and problems you're facing in your business today, and then show you how I would tackle them to make your department more profitable?"

That will  backfire. Nobody likes the new guy who comes in thinking he has all the answers, and wants to change everything.

Guy LeDouche
Friday, June 04, 2004

""Would you like me to take a few minutes at your whiteboard to explain what I think are the challenges and problems you're facing in your business today, and then show you how I would tackle them to make your department more profitable"

That would work fine if you are being hired to come in and solve those problems. Otherwise, you risk looking like the know-it-all type who likes to stick his nose in everyone else's business while ignoring the job you've been hired to do.

If you're going to ask a question such as this, make sure the problems you are asking about directly relate to the job at hand.

Mark Hoffman
Friday, June 04, 2004

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