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Ask HN: How do you evaluate a job offer and the company offering it?
84 points by newcoeval on Mar 28, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 85 comments
What do you personally look for in an offer and company to help you decide whether or not to take a job that you've been offered?



Here are the five things I look out for when evaluating a new position:

1. Is the salary enough to pay my rent, feed me, and allow me to save a little bit every month? (This one is obvious. Don't take a job that will put you in debt!!!)

2. Do I trust that my direct manager will protect me from bullshit? (This is a REALLY important one for me, and is the reason I've rejected offers. If your future manager is an asshole or treats you like shit during the interview, don't take the job. A good manager exists to make sure you do the best work you can possibly do for the company, and gives you any resources you might need for that. A good manager is your leader, not your enemy.)

3. Will I be able to learn and grow in this role? (A good manager will help immensely with this one.)

4. Do I like the people I will be working with? (If you don't at least tolerate the people you work with on a daily basis, you're going to be miserable).

5. Is my commute within reason?


(I'm a programmer so my personal rules reflect that)

I like these guidelines.

For salary, my rule is "does the offered salary meet local norms for the position and the company's situation, and does it show respect for me and for the role I will be playing?" I wouldn't be applying for the job if "norms" for the job would not meet my needs (and, as another replier points out, leave more than a little after expenses to plan for the future).

Also, I look hard at the working conditions and environment. I don't really start talking about this stuff until after an offer, but I'm watching for signs throughout the process:

* Are the hours humane? Overworking programmers is a sign of disrespect for the role.

* Is it friendly to women? An engineering team with no women is a huge red flag of bad management and culture, for teams of more than about 5 people. For smaller teams, is there a sense that hiring women is important?

* Does the company try to dominate the employee's non-working life? Regular "happy hours", catered dinner at night (RED FLAG), bar/keggerator in the office... all bad signs to me

* Is there flexibility about when and where the work gets done, or is it ass-in-a-seat-9-to-7?

* Do people stick around? Has my manager pulled in people he/she has worked with in the past (big plus)?


> Does the company try to dominate the employee's non-working life? Regular "happy hours", catered dinner at night (RED FLAG), bar/keggerator in the office... all bad signs to me.

That's one of the biggest red flags for me, both for work-life balance and what the company is spending money on. If they have all sorts of fancy toys around the office I'm not sure I can trust that they are spending their money wisely.


When I graduated from college and was applying for literally everything, I started a list of companies who had pictures of ping-pong tables in their job postings. They always appeared to be included as proof that the company was 'fun'.

Call me cynical, but I think those "perks" exist purely for marketing purposes. The greatest expense of a ping-pong table is almost certainly the space it takes up in the office, and overall I'd say it's a relatively inexpensive marketing tactic, and it's definitely a cheap line item when it comes to employee perks as well.

The biggest issue with ping pong, and similar games (bubble hockey, foosball, bags), is that if you need a break, you will need to find someone else to take it with you. Furthermore, you are basically broadcasting to the entire workplace that you aren't working at the moment, which is disruptive even if they break is well-deserved.

I worked at a place that had something like that, and I literally never saw anyone playing it.


Had a ping pong table at the old office, can confirm was never used.


The foosball table at my last place of work definitely saw use. It was away from work areas, mind you.


>Is it friendly to women? An engineering team with no women is a huge red flag of bad management and culture, for teams of more than about 5 people. For smaller teams, is there a sense that hiring women is important?

Personally, I'd rather a team that hires based on meritocracy than gender.


I don't believe the parent is saying to hire on gender rather than meritocracy; I believe they are pointing out that 1) Women ARE a certain portion of good devs, so a true meritocracy would have some women (beyond an org of a certain size, of course) If a company of sufficient size has NO women devs, then something is likely off, whether in discouraging applicants, turning good applicants away, or causing people to leave. 2) Even the concept of meritocracy is complex, and success of the team, not just the individual, is worth something. For instance, at a consultancy(actually this probably holds true to some amount everywhere), there's a lot more to having a successful project than just how fast or accurately you code the algorithm (though of course, you have to be able to do that as a baseline). How well you present, how well you listen, how well you understand the client's needs, how well you can explain things, or mentor your fellow developers, or see around corners... Having a diverse team can contribute least a little value in these sort of non-code things that lead a project to overall success, rather than executing wonderfully right off a cliff. It's a factor to consider, among many, when hiring.


This.

A large company without females at all would be quite suspicious, to say the least.


In case you aren't just trolling:

A lack of meritocracy causing of a lack of female engineers is ignorant.

There are plenty of meritorious but under-represented populations; especially female engineers. A culture without enough women or without a plan to hire women is a red flag. Surrounding yourself with people that support [your] unsubstantiated biases increases the likelihood that the culture is unhealthy.


A culture without enough [any underrepresented group] or without a plan to hire [underrepresented group] is a red flag.

Do you evaluate potential workplaces based on the number of hispanics, blacks, Australians, Irish, Jews and Muslims as well?


What about other men-dominated (thus sexist), well-paying industries?

Are you also concerned about the lack of female plumbers? Construction workers? Miners, perhaps?


I don't interact with those industries regularly, so neither am I confronted with their gross gender inequality nor can I encourage their employers to do better at attracting female applicants.

For dev jobs, both the problem visibility and remedial actions are obvious to me.

To answer your question: yes


Construction work, plumbing and mining (for workers) are not well paying industry when compared to software.

Also, these industries are male dominated because they require hard labour and working conditions, which is often biologically unsuitable for women. Even then, in South Asian countries you can find even ratio females to males in construction work. They do the same hard labour as men, and as the use of machinery and automation is rarer (in these regions), it's even more manual hard labour.


I don't plan on being one of those, so it's rather abstract.


Me too, yet I'm surrounded by middling young white men who went to top tier US colleges.


So are you saying that there are so few good women in tech as to be < 20% of the pool out there? And that's across all the people you'd need to staff a team of 5 (so could include things like QA and UX).

Because on the one hand I agree with the sentiment, but I also agree with the original statement that having a decent sized team without women is a red flag. Every place I've worked, even if in development there were few women (due to, yes, it being hard to find them), there were plenty as product owners, as QA, or as UX. Whereas the one place I can think of that I worked that only had one at the time I joined (the marketing person, for a small startup of 20 people), it was quite toxic and unwelcoming when they later added a female UX.


I'm really happy to see commute time in your list (among the other points). I'm a big believer in increasing quality of life by decreasing commute time, something which is increasingly difficult in the largest metropolitan job centers of America.


Re #2, couldn't agree more. I was 10 years into my career before I understood the value and purpose of manager as "Enabler", protecting me from unnecessary BS and giving me the tools/opportunity to do my job; majority of my colleagues still only see managers as either productive "team leads / designers", or useless - giving them no other value outside of their technical contributions.


This is a great way to look at it. Few things I'd add: 6. Does the CEO have a strong vision and character? Roughly, are they more like Elon Musk (engineering driven, moves quickly), Jeff Bezos (long term thinker, experiments a lot), Mark Beinoff (business savvy, sales driven) or Travis Kalanick (win at all costs). No matter what companies say, their culture is determined by the CEO - their values, motivations, personality. This is important for startups.

7. What excites the people working there? (the people you interviewed with). Is it passion for company mission? Great colleagues? Big investors / lots of money raised (red flag)? Frat culture? (specific schools or groups) (red flag).


I like these (I am 2 years out of college, so my experience might be completely different)

On 2,3 and 4. Some companies have anonymous interview procedures where your manager or team mates might not be the people interviewing you (more so if you are straight out of college).

My addition for new grads: I would incline towards companies with tough interviews(comparatively), probability of smarter colleagues and high expectations. I might be totally wrong, after all I have been in the industry for only two years.


This would basically be my list as well, with a strong emphasis on #2.

I go further on #2 and ask myself, "Do I want to work for this person?" (in terms of character, trust, will he/she have my back, do they care about my growth, etc.) and "Will I learn a lot from this person?" (skills, experience, industry knowledge, etc.)


Just save a "little" bit? you should be aiming for 1k savings per month


What about for positions not in the Bay Area bubble?


Does that not apply to all major metropolitan areas?


No, not every major city pays devs living expenses + $1,000/month.


Well I was managing about £1500k/month into my ISA last year central London.


That's grand pal.


Obviously this is relative to your location


I think "save 10%" is the rule-of-thumb and a more inclusive way to state it.


I will touch on something that everyone else seems to be taking for granted - salary is a complicated concept. There are a few factors that you need to consider when comparing salaries from two different companies.

The first thing I will look into is 401k. Early stage startups do a particularly bad job of this. Ask if you have an employer-sponsored 401k plan and how much the employer will contribute. I'd also ask about the investment options, just to be safe.

Next is healthcare package. Ask for the full prospectus for all available options and how much they cost, after employer contribution. Also make sure that your dependents are covered too.

Ask about WFH policy. If you don't have to commute to work everyday for 9 AM meetings, you can save a lot and live better by living further away from city center / downtown area.

Make sure you have enough PTO for vacations. Ask about accrual policy and make sure their policy is to pay you for unused PTO when you leave.

If you have a bonus target, make sure you know exactly what you have to do to get all / most of it. It is easy to promise bonus when they can get away without paying it.

There are many more points like the above. The cost / savings from these add up. You are the only one who can do the math and decide whether it is substantial or not.


Additionally, salary is about more than gaining wealth–it's the indicator of whether my time is well-spent. All else being equal, a company can pay me well because my skill-set in their hands creates value. Contrarily, if a company can't pay me well, presumably my time won't be spent doing something valuable.

My morale is directly tied to a sense of value and pride in my work, which means it's directly tied to salary, and not because I'm greedy.

Don't work–or at least be very careful–at a company that can't pay you well but hopes to someday. Unless things change quickly, it means you're not creating something worthwhile.


I look at their code. Deeply. To me, this is more important than everything else put together.

I don't like jerk bosses, difficult customers, unrealistic deadlines, lack of specs, reqs, or schedules, tough commutes, or unreasonable pay, but over the years, I've learned to live with them.

I have never learned to live with shitty code.

I'll answer your phones. I'll clean your toilets. I'll even take your daughter to the movies.

But I will never refactor another 800 line case statement with 26 early exits, 14 double negatives, and 90 unintelligible variable assignments inside a 23,000 line module. Never.

I wish I had adopted this philosophy years ago. Oh how much better my life would have been.


How do you look at a company's code before you get on the job? I've never been in a situation where my company or my company's clients would have been ok with that.


Some big companies have open source libraries you can check out. Smaller companies not so much.


Insist on it! I can't tell you how sorry I hadn't done this sooner.

If they won't comply, that's a big red flag. Run the other way.


In most industries, this is not a red flag at all. Nobody doing anything serious would let normal applicants look openly at their codebase.


You don't have to (and should not) request access to the whole codebase, simply asking to see a single medium sized file from a project you would be expected to work with is often enough. I've asked for this before with great success, some companies will ask you to sign a short NDA beforehand, most don't even bother. Sure, it leaves the chance that they will simply show you the pretty parts, but at least you'll know that there are some pretty parts at the very least.


Much of the time, the software isn't what makes for a great company - it's how that software makes the business work. A company can have the best code in the world, but if Uber had no cars, AirBNB had no houses, or Facebook didn't have your friends - they would be pointless.


I'm not sure if you're serious or not. A small company selling a proprietary software product ABSOLUTELY WILL NOT EVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES show you their code before you've signed contracts.


I've never had someone ask this, but I would offer to let them browse some code and recent PRs on my laptop while I sit alongside.


If they won't comply, that means someone read their employment contract and non-disclosure agreements.


But I will never refactor another 800 line case statement with 26 early exits, 14 double negatives, and 90 unintelligible variable assignments inside a 23,000 line module. Never.

But there's the sign that they really need you.


Paraphrasing JFK:

"We pay you the big bucks not because what you do is easy, but because it is hard"


I'm not sure you can ever adequately analyze the code in the amount of time needed to make a decision -- unless the code is less than say 20,000 lines.

Any company of reasonable size will have ugly code bases somewhere, someplace, hidden in the dark reaches that nobody wants to touch because it was written 5 years ago and no one who wrote it is around anymore.


I reject jobs if:

- interviewers talk poorly about their employees (means they are bad managers)

- the interview is too easy (means they do not know how to recognize talent)

- they are too agreeable (could mean they are not being honest about the role)

Ask to the interviewers:

- What are the traits of your most valuable engineers?

- What are the traits of your low performing engineers?

- How do you balance features with bug fixing and technical debt?

- Is the project on track?

You want to get a feeling of their definition of success, and if they're already being successful by their own metrics.


This is for contract work, which I exclusively do, so may not apply to employment. I've never done employment. Seems like a bad deal to me. Anyway, cliffnotes of my standard contract:

- I work remotely. Under no circumstances will I ever show up in person at your office or any other location that requires me to spend time away from places I want to be.

- I bill 2 weeks in advance. You chose to buy hours of my time and my compensation is tied to those hours. My compensation is not tied to any kind of result. If you are unhappy with the result, there is no way for you to sue me. If you decide to hire me and then waste my time with meetings and your IT department not being able to procure a simple ssh key, that is your problem, not mine.

- I understand that you have deadlines, but so do I. I need to be places and under no circumstances will I ever work more than 40 hours in a week as part of this contract. If you need more resources, we will have to talk about a separate contract.

- I do not care for your employees. You are hiring me because you need me to fix their mistakes, do not expect them to be happy about that. If you want to make it my job to be their nanny, I'm cool with that, but don't expect them to suddenly drop the wilful incompetence.

- You get a weekly e-mail update which should suffice as far as communication is concerned. Anything beyond that has to be initiated by you and will consume time that I could spend working productively.

- I work with Python, exclusively (and some fun low level languages but nobody works with those anyway). I understand that back in 2013 someone decided that node.js was a great idea and now they left because it wasn't all that great, but that's not my problem. If you want it fixed, we can rebuild it in python. It will work phenomenally.

- I do absolutely not do any kind of User Interface work. I know people who do and can manage them for you. But I will not ever touch anything like that personally. Watching paint dry is at least an order of magnitude more entertaining.

- This is a contract negotiation, not a job interview. You can ask me technical questions if it makes you feel better about yourself, but time spent on such nonsense will be considered billable hours.

Those are the things that matter to me. Other things do not. I charge extra for boring work, like "restFUL API". No its not difficult to instantiate a framework to write some endpoints.

Its perhaps not surprising that my list of priorities doesn't touch on usual employment stuff. Its not employment, after all.


I legitimately can't tell if this is satire or not.


Was it an entertaining read?


Do you get a lot of work? Not judging, just curious.


Why would you be judging?

Right now I'm booked until October. I don't want to make commitments beyond roughly 6 months in advance, but I certainly could.


- Do you specialize in any domain further to the above (e-commerce only, for example)?

- Do you work alone, ever outsource anything to freelancers, or maybe are more like an agency?

- Were you ever in a situation where client was unhappy with what you have delivered? How did you handle that?

- How do you find leads or how do leads find you? Do you have mostly repeat or new business?

- How did you get your first leads?


>- Do you specialize in any domain further to the above (e-commerce only, for example)?

Not a domain. I like working on problems that are challenging in an algorithmical/mathematical sense. Where the solution is not necessarily "obvious". If you want to consider that a domain, then yes.

> - Do you work alone, ever outsource anything to freelancers, or maybe are more like an agency?

For now, its just me. I certainly have the dealflow and could expand it to generate work for me than just me, but the problem is quality control. Even if I had an engineer who I'd be willing to funnel contracts to, how do I make sure that he stays on top of his game/doesn't get complacent? I'm not comfortable with the idea yet and feel like maintaining reputation is more important.

I occasionally contract out some UI stuff if it has to be done, but since I bill hourly, I can't really make this work in my favor. Its at best a bit better than breaking even.

The reason I do hourly work is because people are really uneasy with project based contracts, probably because they've been burned by this kind of business too many times already. Selling hours seems to be way easier.

> - Were you ever in a situation where client was unhappy with what you have delivered? How did you handle that?

No. Part of the reason is that I'm good at what I do. A potentially bigger reason is that you have to manage expectations. Underpromise, overdeliver all the time. Customers, in general, even though they are "engineering managers" have no fucking clue how long something takes. They think building a very basic rest api takes 9 months when it takes 2 weeks. The next one thinks you can knock out a google clone in a week. Just need to educate them on what is going to happen.

If someone is truly unreasonably unreasonable or wants to pull shenanigans, I'd probably just cancel the contract and go on vacation or something. My contracts are tight and I have cash in the bank. And I can always pick up a small contract to do something fun for a little less cash. Like a startup MVP.

> - How do you find leads or how do leads find you? Do you have mostly repeat or new business?

Keep in mind that this is mostly middle management somewhere inside big corps that existed for way longer than the internet does. These folks arent necessarily tech savvy and some of them became engineering managers because they were the guy in the office who knew how to operate the company printer. They have equally well qualified engineers working for them.

These guys talk to each other. In restaurants, like normal human beings. They have friends who hold similar jobs with similar issues. Most of my business comes from such conversations. Manager A who has worked with me and everything went well talks to Manager B who has very similar issues, in that nothing works, and Manager A tells them that they know this one guy who makes things work. That's how I get leads. Weird, huh.

Keep in mind that I don't need many leads. If I do 3x4 months of work in a year, that requires probably no more than 6 qualified inbound leads in a year, excluding repeat business.

I'd say that nowadays, every 3rd contract is with a truly new customer. Repeat business is super easy because once someone hired me and suddenly software magically works, and then the contract ends and I disappear into the shadows and suddenly things slowly wither away and they tell me about it and I tell them its because reasons and then they bring me back in to solve another issue and it just works, that's like magic for them.

And you have to keep in mind that this is for usually really simple stuff like "I have this data and we have 6 guys whose entire job it is to sit in front of excel all day and maybe cant we have a computer do it?" and internally im like "that probably takes 3 hours to implement tops" and theyre like "we've got budget for 12 weeks do you think that thats possible?". At that point you have a real problem because the idea that this is going to take half an afternoon is completely outside their reality, so you have to find other things they need done. Once you've explained to them all the things they can do with 12 weeks of budget, they are mega sold. Suddenly they have a web app to which they can upload files and all their data appears as visualizations on their conference room TV or whatever and it completely blows their mind.

> - How did you get your first leads?

Basically luck. I started a company with a guy and it went somewhat well but we pulled the classic mistake of premature founding team marriage and it fell apart due to personal reasons, so the guy bought me out.

I did then bum around on upwork to look for a short-ish thing to do because I was going to have surgery 8 weeks down the line anyway. I found something in the mountains of shit that is upwork and took it from there. I guess my first contract was some kind of automated bid adjustment tool for adwords.

Most of my leads is past customers talking to new customers. You really have to accept that you are selling high literature to the illiterate, though. Lots of hand holding and management of expectations.


Thanks, really appreciate your detailed response.

Bumming around Upwork right now myself after quitting a programming job couple of months back. Got to say I enjoy being able to set expectations and over-deliver, breath of fresh air after years working with team leads and managers. Need to start landing more gigs though.


If I was you I'd bum around Toptal over upwork. Application process takes forever, though. (months)


I'm curious what type and size of companies and industries you primarily work with?


The average customer is a manager of a small team between 6 and 15 people inside a company of 150-300.

For some reason, there are a lot of managers who have budget but are denied headcount by HR, which forces them to work with contractors. Don't ask me why that is. A lot of processes in old corporations make very little sense in the way you would expect common sense to play out.


This policy makes sense in the context of veteran employees: if a department is given a block allocation of funds instead of a headcount, it becomes much more lucrative to get rid of a senior employee and hire two individually somewhat less efficient, but together more productive, new guys than to keep the one experienced guy on. Headcounts protect the old guard and allow managers to say "I will keep x people on my software team" rather than "I will spend x dollars, so you're all getting a pay cut/fired".


Do people still actually believe that two warm bodies outperform one senior engineer who has worked on this particular software for years and therefore knows his way around it?


It depends on the situation. There are cases where a senior engineer outperforms three or more warm bodies and cases where two warm bodies would be much more preferable, it depends on the content of that job.

And I have witnessed a case where simply removing "one senior engineer who has worked on this particular software for years and therefore knows his way around it" was a key part of finally getting that software on track, as he was providing literally negative value.

Also, relying on particular single people who "know their way around" some code is an organizational smell - if you have such a dependency then that's a management problem/business risk that needs to be fixed. You do need shared ownership and people who can replace each other, and (except for the very short term) a better engineer will be more productive than a worse engineer who has been stuck on maintaining that code for years.


- If any of your actions make me so miserable I get in a fight with my spouse, the contract is finished.


exactly


Nobody has mentioned this so this is all I have to add:

Work/life balance (a.k.a. will I be expected to work 80 hours a week, or will I be fighting fires at 3am on a regular basis.)

Sadly sometimes they will lie and you don't find out what it's really like until you start the job. This happened to a friend recently. Despite setting expectations up front about hours, work/life balance, etc. the first week he started working there he noticed developers were fighting fires (and getting distracted) all day long and often at night/weekends. Luckily for this friend, he had another offer come along and he gave his new employer a choice: Let me help you fix this problem or I walk.

"Well, this is actually better than what it used to be like."

(He quit (a week after his start date,) and took the other offer.)


These are my top 5. Usually I think its common sense especially if your the one applying for the job, one would assume that you want the job if it was offered to you.

1. Is the job described what your actually going to be doing?

2. Team/Company Culture, did you meet the team? how are the managers? the company values? etc..

3. Salary expectations (whatever yours is or anyones is) don't be afraid to negotiate if you feel its to low.

4. Do you see your self here for more than a year?

5. Room to grow, do you want to become a manager? or a senior developer? what options are available to you?


For the matter of the Team/Company culture, I'd also add - Do they expect you to come in and merge into a unchanging culture, or would you add to, and change the culture?


I look back on the interview process because it tells you a lot about the company. Numbers don't tell you much. It's all about how good or bad you've been treated. So I look at:

- the kind of questions they asked, was it mostly stupid algorithm stuff? Useless 15 minutes HR multiple choice questions?

- the interviewers. Were they involved during the interview or were they thinking about their day ahead? Were they jerks, making you feel like crap? Did they asked anything else than work related questions such as "how is your day going?", "what did you do this weekend?". etc.

- Last but not least, I look at HR, how transparent and genuine were they during the process? Very often, when it comes to arguing about salary, feedback, etc, they often show that they lie and don't even make sense. Like "you were the last person we've interviewer" when one of the interviewer told you - you were the first candidate in the process!. Things like that...

I've been through a LOT of interviews. The process is a snapshot of the company. Most of the companies fail at it. More often than candidates actually.


I take a different look. I think it's it's nearly impossible to get a feel of a company from an interview or offer. Often they're trying to put the best spin on the company and you're never really guaranteed to work under the same manager you were hired under.

Case in point: I was hired under one manager, then another manager (who was worse than the first) replaced him three months later, and I was fired two years later.

It may take a year to discover the true bullshit the company is hiding. So in that case ignorance is bliss. Enjoy that time, and if you smell something rotten, best steer clear of it, even if that means getting a new job.

The most important thing is your happiness. To me that's salary. Some people like clean code. Some people want to grow in a position. Some people want a good commute. I don't care that much about the code base, because I'm technically a hired whore. And currently my commute is 4 plane segments a week, and I don't mind it because in the end, the people are nice.

Sure it helps if the people treat you nice, but as long as you are the employee, you can be treated like shit at anytime during your employment, and you may have very little recourse.

The other thing to steer clear of is how much the company brands it's employees. If your own personal identity is wrapped up in the company brand, then if you or one of your co-workers are later separated, it can be especially painful.

In short, figure out what it is you want from a company, and see if it matches your needs, roll the dice and hope for the best.


In addition to what's been mentioned:

Did they respect your time in the interview process?

-Good: schedule a full day of interviews and make the offer within a day or so.

-Bad: ask you to come into their office several times, or make you wait outside the CEO's office for 30 minutes (feel free to replace CEO with department head, partner, etc)

Did the interview involve a reasonable number of people to make a decision?

- Good: mixture of peers or management levels, each interview session has a clear point

- Bad: lengthy HR gate keeping, meeting with multiple non-technical people to evaluate your culture fit, seemingly everyone in the org needs to sign off on a hire

In general, I've found that organizations execute "real" projects the way they execute interviews.


If you're in Silicon Valley and you comp is partially equity based, I would ask for the high-level financials and strategy for the business. Your job offer value is predicated on those artifacts.


Evaluate single job offer vs multiple job offers are totally different things.

Some of the parameters that can be used for evaluating a job offer:

1. Startups: How much money the company has in terms of its burn-rate? Given a choice, I would not join a startup that is running out of funding and next round of funding is nowhere in sights.

2. Growth in team: Are you replacing someone or it's a new position. If I am replacing someone the scope of work will be well defined. It will be worth checking why the earlier person left. If it is a new position, check how the team will grow. If a team grows, earlier employees tend to get bigger roles.

3. Compensation and other benefits: This is mostly a relative study, but I would not join a company that is not really giving me a decent raise in terms of salary or stocks. I have not seen people not join a company for healthcare benefits unless it is a really low paying job.

4. Commute and other flexibilities: You may be ok with commuting for an hour, but if you are asked to reach office at 9 am, your 1 hour commute might get converted into a 2 hour commute. So check out what are reasonable work hours and how flexible is the company in terms of working from home, sick leave and PTOs in general.

5. Manager and upper management: It is not very easy to figure out how the company management is, by taking to someone who is making you the job offer. Check our reviews on glassdoor and similar sites. Take them with a pinch of salt, because those reviews are either from frustrated employees or employees who were requested to write reviews.

6. Work: Join a company that will help you grow both in terms of compensation and skills. A general rule of thumb is to see if taking this job will help you in finding your next job.


How to evaluate job offers:

"Do I know someone in it and do they say it's awesome?"

Anything else is just bullshit, come on. you're a programmer. network just a little teeny tiny bit with your peers. you can work wherever you want. why should you be the first person to try an unknown job environment, when you can just join one that is good already?

Statistically, nothing else you can possibly do will come close to having as good a result for you. Find out which of your friends are working at awesome places and then just onboard with them. that simple.

Now, I realize you were asking about how to evaluate a job offer you've already received! Well, the answer is simple: using the exact methodology above.

But how can you do that, you say? How can I evaluate a job offer on the basis of my friends working there, if I don't have any friends working there?

You still can. But how! How! It's a logical inconsistency!

Nope. Just make a friend!!! If you're in the office, go barge in and apologetically steal 10 minutes of someone's attention, become friends with them and figure out if they're saying the workplace is awesome.

Can't do that? You'll have to dig deeper. Network your way into finding someone (by name) who works there. Then figure how to email them and make a friend over email. 100% serious.

This is how you actually separate bullshit from reality. You'll be investing many months of your life there. A bit of hustling to make sure you're getting someplace awesome will pay better dividends than anything else you can possibly spend that time doing.

EDIT: Downvotes? I've just given you a formula that is all but guaranteed to make you happy.


I downvoted you for two reasons.

1. the topic of the post is "How do you evaluate a job offer" but you're not phrasing things as if it's your own personal technique, but rather suggesting that everyone ought to do things this way, and if they don't there's something deficient about them.

2. you seem to be willfully ignorant about the very real and very important personality differences that people have. not everyone has (or wants) a huge network of acquaintances in the industry. just because you're an extrovert doesn't mean everyone is, or that what works for you will work for them.


Sorry, I'm simply going to disagree with you. The assumption that you've made, which is that I'm extroverted, is not true. Introverts can exercise extreme willpower and actively build acquaintanceships.

I stand by my recommendations for everyone: if you get a job offer, do not accept it until you are acquainted with someone working at that company. Period. Regardless of the level of challenge that this is for you. Even if that means (on your way out of an on-site interview) barging into someone's workspace, interrupting them apologetically, and kindly requesting they spend five minutes talking to you.

What's going to happen if you barge in (during your interview) and apologetically interrupt someone you have no business talking with? Are they going to sue you? For what?

Doing this, very simply, will give you a very good outcome over the short, medium, and long term. It's the best advice in existence. No other advice is remotely as good.

Besides telling you how I evaluate offers, I've given you the best advice that exists. Period. I am claiming no advice in existence is nearly as good.

That is an extreme claim and the benefits I've cited justify it. If you disagree, you are wrong.

The argument I am using is this one: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proof_by_assertion but I am actively choosing to make this argument, on the strength of its validity. It is, simply speaking, correct. (A glance at my karma and posting history will show that I am serious.)

Do this. Don't do anything else suggested by anyone in this thread. (Or at least, not until you do this.) This is the advice that will actually make you happy.

It does not require an existing network. You can do it ad-hoc and at the last minute. You are NOT done until you have at least an email acquaintanceship with someone working for that company. Drill that into your life and live it.

This determines your happiness over the next 1, 2, 4, 10 and 40 years. Regardless of the level of challenge this poses for you: do it. As you can see, I feel very strongly about this!


Downvoting is the same as censoring, period.

You really need to ask whether or not you just disagree with him (which is what you seem to do here.) Or whether the post is off-topic (which it does not appear to be because you made an argument against his point)


it's not the same as censoring. its ranking. a downvote is an intent to rank some content lower than other competing content.


There are plenty of companies with very small IT departments where it would be next to impossible to network with them. I work in a team of 3.


So? Were the other two on vacation and impossible to reach when you had to make a decision about whether to work there?

If you have no way of having any access to either of the other two people on the team, you are just playing with dice. Good for you if you're happy - you could have made a more confident decision if you talked with one of the other two on the team first.


I was the first member of the IT department, so they weren't even working there. It was great when I started, but has gone downhill in the last 6 months.


>but has gone downhill in the last 6 months.

sorry, didn't you just prove my point? But regardless, even if we ignore the part you just added and pretend you're working in a paradise (the impression your first comment gave) - being hired as the first and only member of the IT department is not the situation most people are entering into.

I mean, it's like the major problem with bootstrapping your company as a sole founder: although you're your own boss, your boss actually kind of sucks, is bad at managing and communicating tasks and deadlines, and basically he doesn't know what he's doing. :)

I would say for obvious reasons my advice doesn't apply as much to first and other very early hires. But if there is a team you would be joining - definitely my advice will give you great results.


>sorry, didn't you just prove my point?

Er, no. Because even if the other two had been around then they would have probably said yes its a great place to work, which it was when I started. Things can change relatively quickly, which I would say negates your point even more.


wait a moment. So you are saying that if you received the offer today (posit this) and suppose you followed my suggestion and ended up as part of your due dilligence talking to the other two people: if you talked to them as an outsider, would you come to the misleading conclusion that it's a great place, but the reality is that it's a bad place to work now?

I want to be clear that this is what you're saying. It is an interesting claim, to be sure. It is contrary to all of my experience. In particular, I feel you would be able to filter their recommendation through your impression of who they are, so that I do not feel you would come to the wrong conclusion as an outsider. Very interested in your answer to this.


No, I am saying I received the offer when no one was around to ask. Had those guys been working there at that time they would have probably said it was a good place to work.


Thanks. I think that is a special case.


Offer checklist: checklist for deciding whether to join a specific company from https://notes.breakoutlist.com/offer-checklist-checklist-for...

Are there people in this group that I want to be working with in 20 years? (Before evaluating this question, make sure you give people a chance to show their interestingness, either by looking up their profiles/websites online, or asking them many questions when you meet them)

Would I buy the product if I was the customer? (Charlie Munger, Vice Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway along with Warren Buffet, in my opinion one of the best investors in history) Do I respect and admire the people I’d be working with/for? (Charlie Munger)

Do I enjoy hanging out with the people? (Charlie Munger)

Is my future manager stellar? (Keith Rabois)

Is the CEO a learning machine?

Is this valuable (to the world), and going to remain valuable over the next 10+ years? (Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, Palantir, Clarium Capital, Founders Fund, Mithril Capital) Does the world/people want this, and will they continue to want it over the next 10+ years? (Big difference between what is valuable and what people want. i.e. perhaps reading for two hours a day is more valuable than spending two hours on Facebook, but looking at the numbers would indicate most people ‘want’ the latter more)

Am I going to be able to perform the job (well), and maintain/improve my ability to perform over the coming years? (Peter Thiel)

Are other people not doing this, and not going to start in the next few years? Note, this question is less relevant for a mid or later stage company. (Peter Thiel)

Is this something that I feel I am slightly unqualified to do? (Marissa Mayer) Please don’t use this to justify taking an impressive role at an unimpressive company.

Would it be fun to work on this and with this group? (Paul Bucheit, employee #23 at Google, creator of Gmail, YC partner) Is this either a mid-stage high growth company, or an early stage company with an extraordinarily strong team and network? Obviously, if it’s something that just seems really fun and interesting to you, that’s great too. (Joe Lonsdale, Marc Andreessen, Andy Rachleff, etc)

1. Network 2. Market and Growth Rate 3. Optionality (does it build new career capital/skills for you, or is it more of the same) 4. Brand (more important if you don’t already have 1–2 strong brands like MIT CS or Google Engineer on your resume) — Elad Gil, co-founder of Color Genomics, early investor in many past breakout companies, e.g. Airbnb series A, Optimizely seed Does the company have at least one of the above attributes noted by Elad?

Are you less focused on both role and compensation (because even in a less important role where you earn less, if the company ends up being a far more important company you will have far more future opportunities)? (Elad Gil)

If they have impressed you with revenue numbers, are you aware of how they are reporting revenue and the differences between for example GMV and net revenue, or revenue and bookings? (http://a16z.com/2015/08/21/16-metrics/)

Have you read some/all of the pages on understanding offer letters? If not, re-read the sections on ‘Understanding options and equity’ on BreakoutCareers

If this is a pre-breakout company, have you read some/all of the pages on thinking like a VC? If not, check out the section ‘Think like a VC’ on BreakoutCareers. There are three types of start-ups: 1) Ones that are so young that it’s difficult to tell if the dogs are going to eat the dog food. 2) Ones where there’s clear evidence of market pull. 3) Ones that are unfortunately stuck in a push market or have a very difficult product to sell. The trick is to say away from #3. You only go to #1 if you are a domain expert and you have an informed opinion on a product/market, but this is a rare trait. The real trick is to end-up in #2. — Doug Leone, Sequoia Capital Does this either fit #1 with you being a domain expert, or #2?

Is this a ‘tribe’ you want to be a part of? (John Lilly, Partner at Greylock)

Struggling to decide between two options that both fare well? Ask: ‘Where would I be spending the most time with people that I admire the most?’ (If you don’t know who you admire the most, consider looking for people who are energetic, smart, independent minded and curious)


Take salary (incl benefits) divide by 52. That's your weekly. Then divide by real hours.

Checking emails after hours? Include that. Thinking through problems in the shower? Include that time too. Maintenance at 2am Saturday night? Incl that x2.

If the number seems small bc you're working 60 real hours a week, then think again.

Trying to factor in stock? When it comes to investing warren buffet says go for the s&p 500!




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