August 10, 2009, 9:21 PM — You don't need me to tell you that your job satisfaction is based less on the tools you use and the skills you learn than it is on the team and company culture. But how can you tell, while you're going through the interview-and-offer process, if these are folks you want to hang out with?
The job-acquisition dance sometimes seems like it has two performances. There's a public, polished show in which everyone (both candidate and company) tries to make themselves look as attractive as possible, and at the same time there's also an undercurrent in which all the participants are trying to guess what the others are "really like." Sure, he claims to be a JQuery expert, an SEO god, and a bowling champion, but is he really? The company says it's dedicated to the welfare of its employees, blah blah blah. You wonder if they mean it.
When you're desperate for a job, any job, then maybe you feel like you don't have options. We all have to put kibble into the kitty bowl, after all. But when your straits are not quite so dire, and you can sensibly recognize that job interviews go two ways — though it surprises me how few people (especially software developers) keep that in mind — it's important to judge whether you'll fit into the company culture. You want a job that makes you excited to get up and go to work, don't you?
So I was particularly interested in reading 8 Ways Job Seekers Can Assess a Prospective Employer's Corporate Culture, written by my ex-colleague (and, I hope, friend forever) Meredith Levinson. Meredith interviewed Vanessa Hall, author of The Truth About Trust in Business and, as always, she did a fine job at drawing out the author's opinions.
But really, I think Hall left entirely too much on the table. While I don't really disagree with anything she told Meredith, I think the advice on how to evaluate the company culture could stand to be far more granular. When it starts looking like you'll be offered the job, and you start to wonder if you'll say Yes, here's some of the things I'd consider. (Naturally, I'd start with several of the questions in 28 Questions You Wish You Asked the Manager During the Job Interview and, just for balance, read the comments on 19 Ways to Know The Software Development Job Interview is Over as a cautionary tale.)