My Guide To Job Searching Websites

It’s all fine and good to tell people to change jobs or find an interview but how does that actually go? I’ve tried a few different sites with varying experiences.

When applying…

Before starting make sure you have a resume written up, a list of 3 – 5 key skills you want to advertise, and (optionally) a headline or professional description of yourself. You will be copying this information across each website in one form or another. Once that’s out of the way, plan 15 – 30 minutes to set up each account. So much for the quick and easy job hunt these sites advertise.

The Sites

For each of the sites I tried, I’ll go over pros and cons specifically related to job hunting and getting interviews.

  • Indeed
  • Hired
  • StackOverflow
  • Glassdoor
  • LinkedIn
  • Technical networks

There are even more sites out there that I didn’t look out there are probably a few new ones since I started writing this…

Indeed

What makes Indeed stand out?

Indeed very much goes for simple job hunting. Basic UI with no popup notifications makes it less overwhelming to use, if you can handle the blue and white theme for more than 5 minutes.

Pros

  • No frills experience – purely job search and apply with some company information
  • Little to no spam
  • Offers Seen by Indeed if you want help from Indeed finding a job

Cons

  • Nothing added – yes, I put that as a pro too but if you change your mind later, you’ll need to start using a different site.
  • There are two ways to respond to messages: text (as normal) or they offer a special UI to give a canned response. If I used the provided responses, I couldn’t see what option I responded with so sometimes I responded twice accidentally.
options
What is the difference between “Your contact details will not be shared” and “I would not like my contact details shared with this employer”?
  • The overall user experience wasn’t great but if it gets you a job, does it matter?

Recommended?

I would use this site if I only wanted to apply to jobs and not sign up for social media accounts like StackOverflow or LinkedIn.

Hired

hred

What makes Hired stand out?

Hired stands out because they do the searching for you. Once you create a profile, you can sit back, relax, and wait for the interview requests to come in.

Pros

  • No need to search for jobs – recruiters will search for you
  • You can block former employers
  • Scheduling your first interview happens on the Hired website – no more awkward scheduling emails
  • Filling out your profile allows you to specify non-technical job search criteria like company culture, industry, and career goals

Cons

  • I got a lot of emails encouraging me to do skills tests, talk to career coaches, and improve my profile. I was emailed continually for months afterward asking about my experience.
  • I can’t see what’s going on with the job search. Am I not getting requests because it’s a low season or because I am not in demand?
  • The search will last 2 weeks and then it will stop… probably? Despite the notice they said they’d give, I didn’t see anything that would tell me I’m no longer being shopped around.
  • Along with most other hiring sites, Hired is not remote or alternative work arrangement friendly but you can’t really tell unless you do two rounds: one remote location search and one on-site search (as I did).

Recommended?

If you already have a solid background in your career, Hired is a good hands-off way to get interviews for traditional jobs. If you’re seriously searching, you’ll need to use another site as well.

LinkedIn

What makes LinkedIn stand out?

LinkedIn is a social media and networking platform in addition to a job search tool. This can help you get jobs in a few different ways. If you regularly add coworkers to your LinkedIn network, when they find a new job, they may reach out to you to see if you’re interested in working there. Similarly, if you liked working with them, you can ask for a referral to their company. This is a “passive” way of using LinkedIn, though you have to actively add people regularly.

The other way LinkedIn being a social networking platform can help is where recruiters can send you messages about job openings without needing to exchange emails or phone numbers. LinkedIn makes this a little less annoying by giving you control over whether to start a conversation with the recruiter or not.

Pros

  • You can be a passive or an active searching and able to hide yourself from recruiters in settings
  • You can see other profiles of people similar to you in your network to compare what is in demand at particular companies or what your competition is putting out there
  • You can use the site to build reputation by using their social media features as well as using the feeds or groups to keep up with where you need to go in terms of career development
  • If you want to give someone your contact information, LinkedIn is better than your personal email or phone number for work related networking

Cons

  • You can get a lot of recruiters messaging you for jobs you aren’t interested in because a word or two on your profile matches their search criteria
  • You need to put in more work on your profile and having a network on the site
  • Even though you can put a description on your profile about what you’re looking for, no one reads it and will message you anyway
  • It is really noisy at first with a lot of notifications, social media features, and integrations with other products like skills assessments, certification programs, etc.
  • You can definitely set this up to work well for you but, as mentioned above, it’s a bit of work

Recommended?

This is good for both passive and active job hunters but I’d mostly recommend this if you’re looking to get recruiters messaging you over time (i.e. passive) or if you want to build a digital network. You can use this as the simple search and apply but there are other sites that make it simpler if that’s all you’re looking for.

StackOverflow Jobs

What makes StackOverflow stand out?

StackOverflow jobs stands out because it offers a lot more freelance, contracting, and remote positions compared to the other sites. Several of the other sites had very little to offer in terms of these three “alternative” working styles. The downside is that you can see some sketchy job postings but nothing as bad as the freelance sites out there like Upwork or Freelancer.

Pros

  • Different types of work than on-site full time.
  • Similar to Github, you can use your StackOverflow account to show technical contributions in the community but it’s optional.
  • Some listings show expected salary, which makes salary comparisons a lot less work. This is also in Glassdoor but not the others.
  • Very little “stalking” – no notifications, no sudden change in my ads or popups telling me to reapply.

Cons

  • You’re not going to see many of the large tech companies here. For example, searching for “Amazon” has something on the other sites but not here.
  • Again, some listings might be for individuals or small companies looking for one off work that is more like a freelance task and these can be scams.

Recommended?

If you’re looking for alternative work or you want to work for smaller, non-tech companies, StackOverflow has more of those. It also has more contracts and “gigs” (for example, on-demand interviewers) for those looking for temporary work.

Glassdoor

What makes Glassdoor stand out?

Glassdoor has always stood out for showing data on company ratings and salaries. Ever since I joined the tech industry almost a decade ago, Glassdoor was referenced as the place to check for getting salary estimates. These days, other sites like Indeed above,are trying to catch up in this area but it will take a while to get the data.

Pros

  • Find companies that match your values and lifestyle needs in addition to having open positions.
  • Description of interview difficulty and interview questions.
  • If used in addition to other job search sites, can help you negotiate recruiter calls when seeing what to ask for in terms of pay.

Cons

  • So many notifications. Every time you do a search or you look at a job description, the default is to show a popup and an email asking if you’d like to go back and apply.
  • The data can be misleading. If you look into some of their charts and reports, there may be very little people reporting so it skews the result. All of this is self reported so you’ll need to take care with dishonesty or exaggeration in the information.

Recommended?

I can’t stand how many notification popups I see on this site when I use it but if I stay logged out and only use it to see the general company information, it’s okay. I think if you want to go all in on one site, this could be a good one to use – like LinkedIn, it can be the One Site you use with some effort.

Technical Communities…

…and in person networking

What makes technical communities stand out?

Technical communities can allow you to branch out beyond your current title and experience. You can go to one tech event and be a software developer looking for management positions. At another event, you can be looking for a startup co-founder. In each case, you can test out your pitch and gauge people’s reactions. This can help you find the right set of words to put on your online profiles or it can result in the partnership or job you’re looking for.

Pros

  • You don’t need to spend hours crafting the right phrases to fit perfectly on your one page resume – having a LinkedIn profile helps but isn’t needed.
  • You can find opportunities outside of what’s online. Some startups can’t afford posting jobs on LinkedIn or Glassdoor and only show up at networking events..
  • You can grow your network to find people who will help you get a job in the future, study interview questions with, or hang out and play board games.

Cons

  • Unpredictable results with a high time investment.
  • More costly considering event tickets and transportation costs.
  • Very draining if you’re an extrovert, though networking through Slack or Twitter can make this work a little better.

Recommended?

If you’re looking for startups or looking to found one, networking in technical communities is often the only way to find companies early on. Otherwise, this type of networking can be good if you’re just shopping around and don’t want to keep up an online profile. For those who want more dynamic careers, investing time in a specific technical community for a while will generate opportunities. This can mean becoming a contributor or maintainer for a GitHub project or a part-time instructor for boot camp classes, things harder to find on job boards.

What do I use?

As you might have gathered, I use a mix of sites for different things:

  • Glassdoor: for salary and company information
  • LinkedIn: primary professional profile and interacting with recruiters
  • StackOverflow Jobs: when looking for temporary work or gigs
  • Technical communities: keeping an eye open for trends and job postings I might not find otherwise

For the whole roundup: I don’t use Hired or Indeed because they have nothing new or convincing to offer. If I’m bored, I might do a round of Hired but as I’m in an “alternative working arrangement”, it isn’t useful.

Next Time

A lot of job hunting sites are offering skills quizzes. I’m going to run through some of these and do another post on how those go for a few sites that offer them.

My Interview with Google

While not an original post by far, I’d like to share my experience interviewing with Google. Since Google is constantly changing their interview process, this was conducted in Spring 2019. This is a bit of a ramble so I’ll highlight key points as I go.

The Summoning

Ever since I interviewed for Google back in my college days for an internship, I get calls from them once or twice a year asking if I’m interested in applying. Sometimes I tell them yes, sometimes no, and sometimes “never call me again”. They still call. Unfortunately, this means I can’t help you get a call from their recruiters because I’ve been stuck on their radar for years, whether I want to be or not.

Key Point: If you don’t think you can get a job at Google yet, apply anyway and they will stay in touch with you as your experience starts to match what they need. It’s not creepy: it’s Google.

Anyway, one day I was checking my Gmail inbox and was inspired to go through my spam to see if the filters were too aggressive. Ironically, there was a recruiter email from Google asking to schedule a call. In their defense, it was being forwarded from my college email address (as per history above) so I guess they weren’t flagging themselves so much as my university.

I almost always agree to do a call, mostly because I one day hope to hear they’ve embraced fully remote work. I don’t think this will ever happen. Still, who knows how long I’ll be stuck on their recruiting radar?

During the call I get the usual spiel about what teams are in my area and which offices I can apply for, immigration questions, and when I’d like to interview. Normally, I’ll ask about working from home or flexible hours but this time I had another motive to interview: I was coaching people in technical interviews and figured putting myself in their place would be a good way to help them. See how altruistic I am by making the great sacrifice of interviewing for one of the top tech companies? My motives aside, I figured I’d get them to send me their list of study materials, I’d go over them with my mentees, do a phone screen, and share my notes.

Surprise! You get to skip the phone screen because your friends at Google recommended you. Ugh. I didn’t really want to do the full 6 hours of walking over algorithmic coals but fine Retrospectively, I think I need to find better hobbies than interviewing at tech companies.

Key Point: If you have former classmates or colleagues at Google, their recommendation will not only get you an interview but can also decide whether you get the job. 

“The Usual Spiel”

As mentioned above, recruiters tend to follow a script and Google is no exception. Below are the points covered:

  • Locations of new and existing offices in your area as well as questions about where you would like to work. Key Point: An interview anywhere for Google is good for any location at Google, including any country or continent.
  • A list of teams hiring in your area along with their current projects.
  • New company initiatives around benefits, diversity, etc.
  • What the interview process looks like:
    • (Usually) a phone screen
    • An on-site interview for 6 hours with 5 hours of technical interviews and 1 hour of lunch with a Googler
    • Judgement – tentative offer or rejection
    • Requests for references, preferably internal to Google but also external
    • Selection of a start date
    • Team rotations/team shopping: you spend 1 – 2 weeks on a team to decide whether you want to work with them or not
    • Team selection and assimilation into the Borg
  • Promises to send follow up emails and interview materials

Key Point: I was told after Spring 2019 there would be 4 technical interviews and 1 ‘soft skills’ interview. 

When and What

First Email: Study Materials

The first email sent after the call was to thank me for my interest and provide an impossible amount of material to review. Oh, but don’t worry, this is probably stuff that you already deal with day to day. Right. When was the last time I not only used but implemented a priority queue backed by a min/max heap? Never. This is the same deal with Facebook, Microsoft, and Amazon interviews so I didn’t worry about it too much. It’s just a matter of prioritizing topics against time.

For System Design, this is a great example of prioritization based on time: https://github.com/donnemartin/system-design-primer

How To Prioritize?

If I don’t have much time, I’ll jump right into practice problems and do 50/50 problems and reviewing concepts. If I have some time, I’ll review all data structures and algorithms first then do as many practice problems as possible. With extra time, I will review all operating systems and system design concepts. I almost always skip discrete math and the whole NP-complete business. This time around I had extra time so when I wasn’t doing problems I was reading through system design books.

Key Point: If you feel you cannot achieve “excellence” or “proficiency” in at least the data structures and algorithms concepts, I recommend requesting a follow up in 3 – 6 months to allow for more study time. There’s no harm in failing but if you definitely want the job this time around then set yourself up to be as successful as possible.

The Materials: Copy Pasted From The Email

PREPARING FOR YOUR ON-SITE INTERVIEW

This is a non-exhaustive list of topics that may or may not be covered during your interviews. Its intent is to guide your study and preparation.

INTERVIEW PREP BLOGS & VIDEOS

INTERVIEW APPROACH

  • The interviews focus on coding, data structures, algorithms, computer science theory, and systems design (systems design questions normally reserved for applicants with 5+ years of industry experience)

  • Likely additional topics include: hash tables, heaps, binary trees, linked lists, depth-first search, recursion (think CS 101 – concepts that everyone knows but doesn’t always quickly come-to-mind).More information on Algorithms

  • Many questions are open-ended and are deliberately underspecified to see how you engage the problem. Verbalize your thought process as you work to understand, approach, and solve the problem. Interviewers want to see which areas you find most important to the problem’s solution. Think about ways to improve the solution you’ll present. In many cases, the first answer that springs to mind will need refining. Verbalize your initial thoughts to the question. Ask clarifying questions if you don’t understand the problem or need more information. As a rule: efficient solution > brute force solution

  • For in-depth study – 3 highly recommended reads from Sr. Engineers: (1) “Programming Interviews Exposed: Secrets to Landing Your Next Job” (2) “Programming Pearls” and (3) “Cormen/Leiserson/Rivest/Stein: Introduction to Algorithms”

SAMPLE TOPICS

  • Coding: construct / traverse data structures, implement system routines, distill large data sets to single values, transform one data set to another

  • Algorithm Design / Analysis: big-O analysis, sorting and hashing, handling obscenely large amounts of data. Also see topics listed under ‘Coding’

  • System Design: features sets, interfaces, class hierarchies, designing a system under certain constraints, simplicity and robustness, trade-offs

  • Open-Ended Discussion: biggest challenges faced, best/worst designs seen, performance analysis and optimization, testing, ideas for improving existing product

HOW TO SUCCEED

  • We believe in collaboration and sharing ideas. Most importantly, you’ll need more information from the interviewer to analyze & answer the question to its full extent

  • If you don’t understand something or are stuck, please question your interviewer and ask for clarification and/or a hint

  • When asked to provide a solution, first define and frame the problem as you see it

  • If you need to assume something, verbally check it’s a correct assumption

  • Describe how you want to tackle solving each part of the question

  • Always let your interviewer know what you are thinking as they are just as interested in your thought process as the final solution

  • Finally, listen – don’t miss a hint if your interviewer is trying to assist you

TECHNICAL DOMAINS (understanding these concepts is necessary to succeed in a Google Interview)

  • Algorithm Complexity: Understand big-O complexity analysis and Big-O notations (aka – “the run time characteristic of an algorithm.”) Working through practice problems is key

  • Sorting: Know how to sort. Don’t do bubble-sort. Know the details of at least one n*log(n) sorting algorithm, preferably two (say, quicksort and merge sort). Merge sort can be highly useful in situations where quicksort is impractical

  • Hashtables: The single most important data structure. Be able to implement one using only arrays in your favorite language with time limitations

  • Trees: Know about trees; basic tree construction, traversal and manipulation algorithms. Familiarize yourself with binary trees, n-ary trees, and trie-trees. Know at least one type of balanced binary tree, whether it’s a red/black tree, a splay tree or an AVL tree, and know how it’s implemented. Understand tree traversal algorithms: BFS and DFS, and know the difference between inorder, postorder and preorder

  • Graphs: There are 3 basic ways to represent a graph in memory (objects and pointers, matrix, and adjacency list); know each representation and its pros & cons. Know the basic graph traversal algorithms: breadth-first search & depth-first search. Know their computational complexity, their tradeoffs, and how to implement them in real code. Time permitting, study fancier algorithms such as Dijkstra and A*.

  • Other Data Structures: Know as many other data structures and algorithms as possible. Start with the famous classes of NP-complete problems, such as traveling salesman and the knapsack problem. Must recognize them when an interviewer asks you them in disguise. Find out what NP-complete means

  • Mathematics: Some interviewers ask basic discrete math questions. At Google we are surrounded by counting problems, probability problems, and other Discrete Math 101 situations. Know the essentials of combinatorics and probability. Be familiar with n-choose-k problems and their ilk – the more the better

  • Operating Systems: Concepts to know: (1) processes, threads and concurrency issues. (2) locks, mutexes, semaphores, and monitors (3) deadlock & livelock and how to avoid them (4) resources processes needs, and thread needs, and how context switching works, and how it’s initiated by the OS and underlying hardware (5) scheduling (6) multi-core: the fundamentals of “modern” concurrency constructs

Second Email: Time and Place

For scheduling, you are going to have to take a day off work (if you are currently working). You are asked to provide 3+ days in the next 4 weeks when you can interview. You will get an email confirming the time as one of those days you selected. I usually see 9 am or 10 am start times with 3 pm or 4 pm end times. The email includes instructions on parking, time to arrive, where to arrive, who to ask for, etc. This will vary based on which office you’ve selected for your interview location but read the whole email. The location I went to had a very strange parking situation so I needed to show up 30 min early. Finally, upon confirmation of the date, you need to file a formal application with Google using one of their tools.

Key Point: Read the whole interview confirmation email.

Interview Day

Key Point: Bring what makes you comfortable. As below, I like having physical pen and paper to take notes during the interviews.

As they say in the email, wear what you are comfortable with. Bring whatever you think you might need. I recommend bringing a notebook and a pen. I like to write down the names of my interviewers, which team they worked on, how long they’ve worked at Google, and notes on the questions they asked. I also bring chocolate and Tylenol because interviews are stressful.

Why write down that information? One or more of your interviewers might be a future teammate. Also, if you are not extended an offer, you can keep the questions to understand where your gaps are. Finally, if all your interviewers have been at the company 2 years or less, maybe that’s something you want to ask your recruiter about – what happens to employees after 2 years?

Things you might not expect:

  • Interview rooms can be really hot, like “I hope they don’t notice how much I’m sweating” hot or cold enough to feel like you’re directly in the path of the industrial air conditioner
  • You’re not going to be in the same room all day so make sure you don’t bring so much stuff that you’ll be uncomfortable carrying it around from room to room
  • You’ll be waiting for up to 30 mins from the scheduled “start time” of your interview – bring something to read or do
  • You will be given the opportunity to code on a computer or whiteboard. You can choose what you’re most comfortable with at each interview.

Impressions and Amenities

DISCLAIMER: I have pre-existing negative feelings about large tech companies. Have your salt at the ready.

The good things about Google corporate offices are fairly well known: free food, gyms, nap nooks, laundry, commuting cars/buses, etc. I found all my interviewers easy to talk to. In past Google interview, there were a few “hard to deal with” interviewers and I was happy not repeating that experience. The amenities were clearly well kept and organized.

The negatives are similar to other large tech companies (Amazon, Facebook, and sometimes Microsoft). All these things are what I heard from my interviewers:

  • There are too many people in the offices so you need to come in earlier and earlier to find parking
  • You have to avoid the cafeterias during lunch time because of how crowded they are
  • Organizations are constantly being moved under new leaders and moved to new buildings, sometimes in other cities
  • The offices are being shifted around to support the high populations so often that you always get lost

A few additional things stood out. First, there was a nap nook. Nap nooks are meant as small rooms or enclosures where you could take a nap during work. I’m used to seeing them as very small rooms about the size of a walk-in closet with a light, maybe a recliner or a cot, and enough room for prayer mats. This is similar to what I encountered:

via-we-heart-it_rect540 alcove bed
Credit to http://concordgreen.blogspot.com/2010/12/in-praise-of-bed-alcoves.html

Kudos for making the decor look, ah, “homey” but this makes me just a little bit uncomfortable. Can you imagine sitting next to your manager on that couch for a quick chat? Ew.

The second thing that stood out was how one interviewer described the difference between this location and Mountain View.

People here are a lot more interested in work-life balance and family rather than getting work done quickly.

I see. I guess it’s good that I’m not applying to work in Mountain View. Or maybe I want to burn out like a supernova: a high energy, crazy-bright star, with a short life on its way to complete destruction. But a rich supernova.

Coding Questions

As a friendly reminder, our interview questions are confidential, so please keep things under wraps.

~Google

I won’t tell you the questions but I will share the areas you would need to study to answer them.

Question 1: Card Game

  • Object-oriented design
  • Multi-dimensional arrays
  • Randomness
  • Multi-threaded access to shared objects (I used the word “semaphore” at some point)

Question 2: Merge K Lists

  • Greedy algorithms
  • The merge k lists problem – this wasn’t the question but I really kicked myself for skipping it during my practice after this interview

Question 3: Empire Building Board Game

  • Binary trees
  • Graph search
  • Linked Lists vs. Arrays

Question 4: I Heard You Like Trees

Question 5: Design a Cache

  • This was actually the question

The Result

As of writing this post, I do not have the result of the interview and I suspect I won’t for another few weeks. Google is infamous for long deliberation on candidates. I’ll update this post with the result when it makes it to me.

Very delayed update almost 6 months later…

As expected, I didn’t get the job. Why? When given a technical interview question, it is expected that you have the correct answer right away. Out of a pool of hundreds of questions, this is really a matter of luck. However, I was told I had excellent communication skills. Too bad Google doesn’t like good communicators.

While this may seem like a bad outcome, I came out with stronger interview skills, further conviction that I don’t want to work at Google, and a boost in my confidence as a communicator. It also helps that a Googler I met after the interview described the team in interviewed for as “a massive dumpster fire” and handed in his resignation shortly after.

Defensive Interviewing

If you’ve interviewed anywhere in tech, you’ll hear the advice or instructions to have questions ready for your interviewers. Which questions do you ask though?

Hopes and Fears

Everything boils down to what you want to happen and what you don’t want to happen.

Hopes

  • Belonging
  • Achievement
  • Trust
  • Growth
  • Variety
  • Money – this one is salary negotiation so I’ll skip it

Fears

  • Exploitation
  • Rejection and isolation
  • Boredom
  • Stress

Now that we’ve got the heavy stuff out of the way, how does that translate into interview questions?

Belonging / Rejection and Isolation

A sense of belonging contributes to happiness. A sense of happiness contributes to productivity. Thus, you will be more successful if you feel like you belong. Even when your job is really bad, if you feel like “you’re all in it together”, it’s easier to pull through.

Questions:

  • What is the diversity of your team?
  • Are there people like me on the team?
  • Who will be my mentor when I join?
  • What are some social activities we will do as a team?
  • What communities for technical and non-technical topics exist at the company?
  • Do you feel like you could be friends with some of the people you work with if they weren’t your coworkers?
  • How often will I have 1 on 1s with my manager?

Scenario one: a diverse group of people who welcome new members with an automatic support network of a mentor and bond through shared interests. Scenario two: a monochromatic team of humorless people you can’t identify with that leave you to struggle alone and generally don’t talk to each other. Take your pick.

Achievement, Growth, and Variety / Boredom

Boredom is bad. Boredom is similar to stress. You disassociate and (eventually) become depressed or destructive. Work that slightly exceeds your skill set is ideal for maximum engagement and learning (according to Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman). You can keep things interesting through promotions, new skills, or role changes. Additionally, if you want to climb the ladder, make sure there are at least a few rungs.

Questions:

  • What does promotion look like here?
  • How long does someone like me stay in this role before being considered for promotion?
  • Do you support 20% time or time to grow professionally via hackathons, conferences, or tech talks?
  • Does this company encourage moving between teams if there are other opportunities available?
  • Does this company support role changes and what does a successful role change look like?

Trust / Exploitation

People typically know when something they are going to say will put people off. The managers and recruiters of the world know this and choose to omit or mislead when it comes to that information. Instead of trying to catch them in a lie, probe to fill out the truthiness of their answers. This was taught to me as “peeling the onion”. In this metaphor, the more you peel the onion, you might get more onion or, I don’t know, a radish.

Questions:

  • What tasks are you working on right now? Ask for specifics.
  • What would you say is the key success criteria for your job? Why?
  • What is an example of the first project (not task) I will be working on? How is this important to our customer?
  • How involved will I be in designing new features and choosing team priorities? How often will I get a chance to influence project direction?
  • How many people with my role are on the team? (the more there are, the more reliable their answers)
  • If I am interested in working on something in particular, how would I go about getting assigned to the project? Give me an example of when you did this.
  • When something goes wrong, what is the recovery? Maybe a bug is pushed or a customer says the feature was done wrongly or a service goes down. Is there a retrospective? Does it get fixed right away?
  • Who is responsible for operations, customer contact, and project planning?

This is probably the hardest one to detect. Often, teams want to hire someone to do the housekeeping, like bug fixes, legacy maintenance, mindless migration, and minor management activities. You need to ask questions to confirm there is enough “meaty” work for you and housekeeping is spread evenly or kept to a minimum.

General Red Flags

  • Your manager has been in the company or sub-org for less than 6 months. This usually means they haven’t been through a performance cycle and there is a risk that they aren’t sure what it looks like for you to do a good job. If you don’t know how to do a good job, you might not be rewarded for the work you do. However, after about a year to a year and a half, most managers figure it out.
  • You are being hired for a “generic” position. This is basically job roulette. It’s worked out well for me in the past but it’s also opportunity for you to be placed where no one else wants to be.
  • There are a lot of buzzwords. If something sounds good but doesn’t tell you anything specific, they might be trying to hide something. “We do machine learning” is the equivalent of saying “we develop software”. It generates excitement but doesn’t tell you that you’ll actually be a code monkey for the scientists who do the “real” machine learning.
  • “We have no operations.” This is very job dependent. I’m talking about services, cloud, and larger software applications. If you have no ops, you have no usage or no customers. On the other side, you might have a lot of ops but someone else deals with it. This is an organizational anti-pattern and guarantees someone will strongly dislike you on that ops team. Not fun.
  • “We are a rapidly growing team.” This can genuinely be exciting if you are joining a team of smart and capable people coming together to create a new great thing. Or this could mean the managers are throwing bodies at a problem in such a way that creates stress, confusion, and general unhappiness.

It’s Too Late

If you’ve found yourself in a job where it didn’t live up to your expectation, first, figure out which questions to ask next time you interview. Second, tell someone it wasn’t what you expected and firmly ask to be placed somewhere that meets those expectations. Third, as soon as you can, decide whether you want to stay or go. Be intentional about what job you are choosing to do. By taking responsibility, you give yourself control over your situation and who doesn’t like control?

Good luck interviewing!