Regardless of what people will tell you, trying to leave our personalities at the door is not possible. Not acknowledging who we are is not going to help with your work relationships and your performance. A job you do should be in line with who you are and what’s important to you.
The following assessments will give you a starting point to explore a cultural match between you and an organization you want to work with.
Part 1: Personal Assessment
A career is a series of experiments, to formulate a hypothesis for your next experiment, you need to figure out where you stand.
The following questions will help you list some assumptions you have about yourself. It’s important to note that your answers will only be assumptions, so make sure you evaluate each of those assumptions periodically to see whether or not they have proven to be true. The human mind has a tendency to assume some things about itself that fit with it’s current mental model, but not with the way we actually feel.
- What are my core values?
- How much time am I prepared to spend at work, how much time do I want to spend with my family/relationships, other things I want to invest time in (sports, hobbies, communities etc.)?
- How much money do I need (now, mid-/-long-term)?
- Do I want to be paid according to my performance, or do I prefer a fixed salary?
- In a Startup context, would prefer cash or equity?
- Do I prefer a strong sense of direction, or can I handle lots of changes of direction and scope?
- Is status important to me (job title, salary, company car, single office)? If so, why is that?
- What are my preferred ways of learning and growing ? (self-motivated or guided, alone at home reading books or in trainings, workshops, through people, etc)
- Do I want mentoring or guidance?
- What is my aim for a career path, am I only interested in working with technology, or am I also interested in working with people, or creating products.
- In a Startup context: Into what kind of position I want to grow when the company gets bigger?
- What kind of accountability do I want?
- Do I want to grow into a specialist (I-shaped) or a generalist with a strong specialist foundation (T-shaped)?
- What kind of leadership/management do I want?
- Do I want a company that has hierarchies and structure, or do I prefer a self-organizing system?
- Do I want to work alone and autonomously, or in a team, maybe even an agile team?
- What is my style of communication?
- Do I have strong feelings when it comes to technology? are there technologies I don’t want to work with, or do I simply use what gets the job done?
Part 2: Workplace Assessment
Products and technology may inspire you, but all the little daily experiences are much more relevant for your motivation and well-being.
This means it is important to figure out if you and a company are a cultural fit.
You also need to find out what will be expected of you in your new role, what will be your accountability and resources, whom will you be reporting to etc.
If a company is dodgy or unclear about a subject that is important to you, it’s probably not a good match.
In preparation to an interview, select the questions that seem relevant to you, and take them with you to the job interview.
Make sure you state at the beginning of the job interview that you have prepared a number of questions you would like to ask at the end of the interview so the interviewer can adjust their agenda to make time for your questions. Depending on the number of questions you bring and on the total time available for the interview, ask for 10-20 minutes time.
Remember, it’s a good thing to be curious about your new job, there should be time for that.
When you ask the questions, make sure you take notes about the answers. You need to confirm at least the important points with your employer before you sign the contract, to avoid confusion and misunderstandings down the road.
Role and Accountability
- What am I responsible/accountable for?
- Who am I reporting to, and how would that work in detail?
- What resources are at my disposal?
- Who are the stakeholders of my work?
- How would you define outstanding performance for my role?
- How would you help me to achieve outstanding performance?
- What else would you expect from me in my new role?
- What are the usual working hours
- How long do people usually stick around on weekdays?
- Are people usually working on weekends? If that is the case, why?
- How much time do you expect me to invest per week?
- What is your policy about remote work?
- What do you expect me to wear at work?
- How is training handled?
- Is there a budget for training for my role?
- How much work time am I expected to invest in learning or experiments?
- Am I expected to commit my free time learning/training for job related skills?
- What range of topics do you consider adequate for training (just technology, or also leadership and facilitation skills)?
- Will I be working alone or in a team or circle?
- How do you expect me to contribute in a team?
- Is there a process or methodology that is being followed (e.g. Scrum, Kanban, Sociocracy, Lean)?
- What regular meetings am I expected to attend?
- How are decisions affecting me/my work being made, and by whom?
- Who does time estimates and decides about deadlines?
- How is the planning process, who is involved?
- How is work prioritized?
- How do you lead and mentor employees?
- Is there a transparent formula to calculate my salary, or is it subject to individual negotiation?
- What would I do if I wanted a pay rise?
- How do you expect me to give feedback on team and company matters?
- How and when will I receive feedback?
- Do you have performance evaluations? How are they conducted?
- What is the vision for the company
- What are the shared values?
- What is the vision for the product I’m working on?
- Is there a mission statement for my team?
- How do you devise your product and company strategies?
- What are the structures I will be working in (hierarchies, departments)?
- …add specific questions about technology as you see fit…
- What happens when I want to use a new technology or programming language for a task or project?
- Do you want me to grow into a specialist or a generalist? (I-shaped vs. T-shaped)
- Do you expect me to do things that are not in my field of specialization (like a bit of manual testing for database specialist)?
Make sure you leave the interview knowing exactly what will happen and who is responsible.
- What are the next steps?
- What is the time-frame for a decision?
- Who will take initiative and contact the other party?
Part 3: After the interview
Schedule 30 minutes right after the interview (even before you call your partner or your parents) to reflect and write down your observations. This creates space for valuable insights, often even certainty about whether or not the job is right for you.
Giving closure to your job interview allows you to move on to the next thing on your agenda without any open loops or things to ponder. You will then be able to give a reflected report to anyone you will talk to about that interview, making in much more likely you have positive emotions about what happened and about the eventual outcome.
It’s important that you do this in writing, because only then you can later (maybe even years later) come back to your notes and compare them with other job interviews.
- What were the three most notable things about the interview?
Tone and Atmosphere
- How was the general atmosphere in the interview?
- Was the interview conducted in a way that allowed me to be honest and do a good job of presenting my abilities and personality?
- Were my interviewers curious about me as a person, or does it feel like they did not deviate from a standardized procedure?
- Did I feel welcome? Did I feel treated as a peer?
- Was there enough time for the interview, or did it feel rushed?
- Did the interview inspire trust in the people I met?
- Do I think they feel like they could trust me?
- Were the interviewers open about what they wanted to learn about me, or did it feel like they had a hidden agenda/secret tests or assessments?
- Was the interviewer well prepared and confident?
- Were there people present I would actually work with (e.g. my line manager or peers)?
- Who would make the decision about hiring me? Were they present?
Reaction to questions
- How did my interviewers react to my questions?
- Was there enough time to answer them all?
- Did my interviewer appreciate my interest in my working conditions, or were they surprised, even annoyed?
- Were the answers simple and straightforward, or evading the point?
- Were there answers that indicated a sense of reflection and improvement (“we do it like this, but we want to change that into …”, “I never thought about that” etc.)?
- Did the interviewer offer to be contacted for more questions?
- Name three things that I did really well?
- Name three things that could do with improvement?
- Is there anything I could follow up on (setting something right, thoughts, research etc.)?
- What would make the biggest difference with my next job interview?
As soon as you feel like you have made up your mind about the job, sleep on it, but at the next day, call them up and let them know. No matter what your decision is, it is a major event in the hiring process and as such it should be communicated soon to maintain an open and respectful relationship.
I wish you find an organization that values your contribution.
This work by Bernhard Bockelbrink is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.