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Ask HN: Tools or sites you use to scope out a workplace before taking a job?
448 points by bwb on March 1, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 167 comments
I'd love to know what everyone is doing to scope out a workplace before they take a job there.

Do you email people who work there?

Do you just jump in and hope for the best?

Are there apps or sites you like?

Crunchbase to get current and former founders/execs, last rounds etc. Company website for investor relations page if exists, SEC and regulatory filings to get financials, technology roadmaps, prospectuses, etc. Then avoid pinging anyone on linkedin other than to find who the core informal network that runs the company is.

Find out:

1. Revenue and runway before next funding round or profitability. This trumps all in product decisions. Long runway means they can invest in new platforms and techs with bet on huge growth. Short runway means getting prestige brands into the sales pipeline to woo next investment round, and leveraging technical debt to survive. Would argue tech debt burden can be estimated as a function of remaining runway.

2. Whether board members and executives still have skin in the game and holding their stock. If board is full of early shareholders who have already been made whole, chances are you aren't their next unicorn, there is no explosive growth, and they've checked out. Expect executive level bullshit politics related to their short term compensation milestones.

3. Informal network: Who went to school with/worked with whom, and whether this role will-be / needs-to-be in that fold, or out of it. If you are not in the fold, you are a dilution target, and someones tool for meeting executive compensation milestones before changing the world. Do the work and take the money, but keep your dreams in check.

IMHO, these factors are what determine the company culture.

If the company is private, check out the other companies in the lead VCs portfolio web pages and what kinds of cultures those companies have. People move between them and you can get a better data set for glassdoor searches. If the other companies suck, this one probably will too.

What makes a company a great place to work is its real opportunity for growth because that means people are growing with it, and that brings them into work everyday. This creates a trajectory that defines its culture.

Good luck.

I just looked at the Crunchbase entry for my current company

It’s terrible

Actually, it’s worse than terrible

The revenue is several years old, the technology is wrong, the employees listed is laughable (except the founders)

From the info I do know, I wouldn’t trust the info I don’t know on that site

Since their data is so bad, I’m going to throw out some bad info too: if a company has less that 5,000 people, don’t look at Crunchbase

My company is listed twice (!)

Is this advice for employees? Or VC's? I've NEVER had to do this for any of the jobs in my 20+ years as a software developer ... but there are some interesting points indeed.

If you are accepting stock options for part of your compensation (and you actually care about what the value of those might be), it's important. Otherwise, no.

What is the difference? Employees invest their time and careers into a company. For career growth, it is much better if your company is also growing. Grow or Die.

The difference is that for a lot of people, a job is just a way to pay the bills and for them, it matters very little what a potential employer's future plans are, beyond knowing that they will still have a job in a year.

All this due diligence for a job? Not sure it's the right approach. I would look for other signals, and in general for a good contract and comp package, among other things. What you are proposing is beyond the scope of a normal employee in most cases.

>2. Whether board members and executives still have skin in the game and holding their stock. If board is full of early shareholders who have already been made whole, chances are you aren't their next unicorn, there is no explosive growth, and they've checked out. Expect executive level bullshit politics related to their short term compensation milestones.

Can you elaborate on that?

Scenario I refer to is a bit complex where board members from the first couple of rounds have majority votes about the company and can hire/fire the CEO and influence make up of the key executives.

Later rounds at higher valuations let these members recoup most of the value of their investment, so their downside is now covered and they have all the votes. Nice spot to be in.

To me, this board no longer represents the parties with the most to lose, and what was previously an investment partnership is now just a one-sided gamble. Where when it is founders making decisions, there is skin in the game.

The effect I'm trying to articulate is the board not holding executives accountable for anything other than positioning the company for a sale, and that the incentives can be apparent from the board makeup. Conversely, if massive later stage investors were really interested in the long term prospects of the company, they'd have got board seats.

Point being, as an employee, the day to day at a company that is being positioned to sell to a greater fool is very different from one positioning itself for explosive growth. The make up of the board, assuming it is fit for purpose, may be a tell for which strategy the company is pursuing, and hence, culture.

... especially how one might go about finding that information.

crunchbase, google/yahoo finance, annual reports if they have them, news search... If they're small and low key this may be hard to come by, but in most cases, who senior executives and board members are is public information.

Thanks, the points you make are very important.

Specifically, on "... executive level bullshit politics related to their short term compensation milestones ...", I would like to add, this one is the hardest to figure out and has a significant impact on your growth not just within the company, but as a person in general.

Any more suggestions, on good ways to find out if this is part of the company culture?

Slightly uncomfortable responding to everything in the thread, however, inferring comp milestones is the hardest one.

Public companies are easy because it's all public.

Interesting documents are SEC 8-K's, which are unscheduled filings about material changes to the business. Ask yourself why a couple of times to get to the reasons behind it. Volatility means uncertainty, and uncertainty often implies a power struggle. Nowhere is perfect, but adjust your expectations about how much chill to expect. Read a lot of them to get a sense of what's normal.

If the execs are stacking equity in a public company and only selling to pay taxes, that's a pretty good sign everyone is committed. It's also a sign that there isn't a lot of volatility, and with that stability, growth may be slow, so expect growth opportunities to be commensurate and feel out the trade off.

Huge disclaimer that these are just tea leaves, but to reply to another comment here, you are investing 3-5+ years of your life and your reputation into a company, where a VC is just allocating maybe 1/30th of their fund. You have more to lose as an employee than that investor does. Just keep an eye for the longer term.

Most of us are just happy to get a gig, work with cool people, get paid very well and dream about upside, but when you evaluate every 3-6 months working at a job as opportunity cost against validating an idea against possible market fit, you start looking hard at the trade offs.

Based on crunchbase profiles, if a founder is present, but demoted or marginalized ("special projects"), find out if there is a technical lead who can't say yes, but who can say no to everything. Not a dealbreaker, but a culture variable.

If the founders are out of the picture, ask about tech debt and whether company has enough new runway to stand up a new platform. If not, it means they're hoping to grow their way out, and ask if there's a roadmap for that play. If they don't have an answer, just expect competing priorities as it's going to be very sales driven, with customer/sales politics.

If the CEO or other execs have been there for more than 3 years without profit or a new financing round, who is protecting them and why? (hint, board, running dumb money, possibly angling for sale, not explosive market dominance.)

Window dressing to attract acquirer attention causes insanity on teams because managers have do things to appear positioned, and they are under pressure to "produce," metrics to keep the ball in the air. My experience was it causes rage quits and makes people enemies for life. The pattern of leadership angling for a sale, but must swear they are not makes everyone seem psychotic.

I'm not an authority on this, I happen to write and this is what I've observed.

People behind all this aren't evil, it's just some incentives can be used as tea leaves to get a sense of what questions to ask before you give up 6-10 six-month iterations and pivots on launching your own idea for some snacks and a foozball table. :)

Thank you for invaluable insight in this public forum.

Great advice here, thanks.

If you're a software engineer (or will work closely w/ engineers), I built Key Values (https://www.keyvalues.com) to help w/ this.

Before building KV though, my research process included looking for and reading:

- the company's career and about us pages

- an active blog w/ recent posts (w/in the last 2 months)

- LinkedIn / Twitter / GitHub of founders and existing team members (I'd also look for any old blogs written by (or press written about) these folks before they joined the company)

- checking to see if the company hosts meetups or hackathons I can attend

- seeing if I know anyone who currently works there or worked there before and then reaching out

- cold emailing or Tweeting current team members

Nice idea, but I'm very confused what I'm doing or how it works - it starts with non-zero matches, and then for each thing I click it _increases_ the number of matches...

I'd expect it to start large, and then filter down with more things selected. But it's not even like it's acting the other way, including only companies that match at least one thing I clicked, because it started non-zero.

I'm using OR logic until I have enough companies for AND logic to provide a good user experience. I'm looking forward for that day to come, too, trust me!

If you select multiple values, the results will be ordered by number of matches and prioritize the companies who ranked those values highest.

OR is fine (hopefully the sort order is by most matches first though?) - what's confusing to me is that it starts on a non-zero number. Is that the number of companies that don't match anything? Is there any value in listing them at all, if that's the case?

Highest number of matches and the ranking of those matches. For example, if you select values A and B, a company that lists A as #1 and B as #2 will show up before a company that lists A as #7 and B as #8.

Sorry, I'm not sure I understand what you mean by it starting on a non-zero number. Perhaps you have one of the tags selected?

This site looks nice but a question and couple suggestions for you.

Question: why not include a "high compensation"/"high equity"/"top of market comp"/etc category? Talk about culture and values is nice but as far as I'm concerned the best way for companies to show they care about engineers is to put their money where their mouth is. There's surely a subset of engineers and companies that agree with me on this. It would be useful for matching.

Suggestions: if you're not doing this already, you should limit the number of categories a company or user can select. (And if you are doing this, you should make it clear on the site.) This will help get more meaningful results. Some of the current categories are meaningless - ie. "Impressive team members" ... what company would not claim this? It's only meaningful if you restrict them to, say, 5 categories. Either do this or just eliminate these categories and keep it on pure culture traits like "eats lunch together."

In reverse order:

2. Yup! Companies are limited to choosing 8 values. They're also forced to rank them in order of importance. As you can see, not all companies select Impressive Team Members.

1. Pretty much every other job board / recruiting tool out there filters on compensation. If you're optimizing for comp, you have plenty of places to go! However, there's no place to discover companies that share your values. There's no place to learn about the team or what your day-to-day might look like before jumping through all of the other hoops (cover letters, apps, take-home tests, whiteboarding questions...). Not until Key Values that is. This is the space I'm working to fill.

Additionally, I'd argue that constraining your job search based on comp is a mistake. After some level of $$$, an additional $10k-$20k/year means a lot less than everything else. Value alignment (aka your happiness) is worth so much more.

As a not-so-extreme example: you couldn't pay me a $300k/year to work w/ people I hated.

Oh, and depending on the company and their product/service, I'd also look at their other social media accounts. For example, some have active Instagram and/or YouTube accounts which can be incredibly insightful.

Ps. One lesson I've learned: never judge a company based on their marketing website.

Have you considered adding parameters to the end of the url so selections can be saved and shared?

Thanks for building this! I will definitely use your site when scouting for my next role.

Lynne, KV is a great tool! Thanks a lot for that. If you find time, would love to see -ve metrics as well. That would cover both aspects of a job search: what am I looking for, and what am I looking to avoid.

Maybe I missed the feature but is there a way to search for companies by name over than `crtl+f`? Not a huge deal but might be nice if you researching a potential job found on another site.

Not yet, but I will! There are a lot of features to add once there are more companies on the site. As a team of one, it's all about #prioritization :P

I found it a bit strange that adding more criteria, it matches more companies. What kind of method do you use for filtering?

It would be great if you could filter for the lack of (or the opposite of) some value... e.g. flat organization.

Key Values is a very cool idea! Have you thought about adding a location filter?

Yes of course! It'll happen once there are more companies on the site. For now, Ctrl + F works great on the homepage :P

bookmarked. Will use in the future. I love the simplistic UX.

Really cool website - thank you!

how do you determine the key values for each company?

There are 45 values to choose from and teams select (and rank) the 8 that best describe their engineering culture. I then work closely w/ them to qualify them (aka cut the fluff, answer tough questions, and "prove" it).

Used to use Glassdoor, but it has become progressively more rude/pay-walled over the years, and they allow more paid employer astroturfing than they used to.

I suppose that's just a sign of the times, and I don't necessarily have a grudge against the company for doing so. It does however mean that the site is no longer useful to this end, at least for me.

As for directly contacting a company, I tend not to. Sometimes this works out, other times not. I thought I would hate my current job and thought I was quite unqualified, but it turned out to be pretty fantastic. Just going with the flow sometimes works out that way.

It seems pretty obvious that something is off when a company has 50/50 good and bad reviews, with the bad ones offering a ton of detail, and the good ones way too positive and overly "corporate" with no detail.

Yep, the fastest way to spot a fake positive review is to notice those seem to be written from the perspective of HR, focusing on things like "fast growth" and "lots of opportunities" that are of little to no concern for the typical person, especially if they're listed as the sole positives. A typical dev is less concerned with the growth rate of the company and how many offices are opening in places thousands of miles away -- they're more concerned about their local delivery team, their local office, etc.

Glassdoor is still useful in the sense that you can filter down to the worse reviews. Ignore those that are obviously sour grapes, and get a sense of how bad things are. I see a lot of things like:

Positive Reviewer - "Hypergrowth company! Lots of opportunties, great culture!!!!"

Negative reviewer - "They hired too fast, have no clue what they're doing, and have lots of free food and ping pong."

I saw some time ago that companies were dropping negative reviews by changing company name on glassdoor

> Do you email people who work there?

No. They'll rarely tell you anything useful because they'd risk their job.

Focus on former employees instead if you really must. (And only stick to recent ones if you do, because companies change.) But IMHO you don't actually need to do this nowadays.

> Do you just jump in and hope for the best?

Absolutely not.

At the very least check out their website, their execs, and your future boss. Google whoever you think is relevant and check their respective LinkedIn profiles, blogs, social media, etc.

Even more importantly, pay attention to any hints of company culture or technical red flags during interviews. Ask soft questions as you run into them to keep the interview process flowing; and dig deeper when you're in the negotiation phase.

> Are there apps or sites you like?

Glassdoor was interesting in the past. It still is, but there's a strong sampling bias and a lot of astroturfing. IMHO it's mostly useful to check for recurring, obvious red flags. YMMV.

CrunchBase is sort of useful to get funding data -- when it's accurate. (IMHO you're better off asking this type of data point blank during the interviews.) The important bit here is how they'll approach things like risk taking and technical debt, as already noted in an excellent sibling answer.

AngelList and LinkedIn are useful to get a feel of who the execs and your future boss are. Personally I wouldn't touch a company whose exec team is all 20-somethings with a 10-foot poll. Some youngsters are brilliant but I'd rather see a few adults in the room too. But that's just me...

Google is the most useful tool overall. You'll sometimes be surprised by what comes up when you google some exec's name and go through a few results pages or their social media accounts.


Last point: don't underestimate the value of this research. If you're going to move to some new location and/or change jobs thinking you're going to stay there for more than a few months, take an afternoon to do this research to avoid getting ugly surprises.

I think there is some sort of anti-astroturfing on glassdoor. The salary that they have for us is absurd. It's something like the starting pay at In-N-Out or Chick-Fil-A, for an experienced and specialized software job.

I wonder where that comes from. Perhaps it is from Glassdoor itself, trying to force companies to enter into some sort of business arrangement to correct the nonsense. Perhaps competitors are trying to make us look awful. I'd like to think that the culprit overplayed their hand, and that everybody will disregard the nonsense, but probably some people believe it.

Point of clarification here: emailing friends or former colleagues that work somewhere is a great idea. Ask them what they think. If they're in town, have coffee with them. They will provide you an honest assessment.

You may also be able to network to someone that works there to get their impressions of the place. Like most job-related things, networking is critical.

> Last point: don't underestimate the value of this research. If you're going to move to some new location and/or change jobs thinking you're going to stay there for more than a few months, take an afternoon to do this research to avoid getting ugly surprises.

I didn't see this posted elsewhere. Before researching a company or role I try to note down what I want. As I research, or talk to different folks about roles, my perspective can sometimes change. It's good to be able to come back to your core reasons for investigating the role.

Once you've done the research try to map out the possible trajectories for you from that point (if the company is acquired by market leader that you hate, if they turn out to not be some happy with remote work, etc.) This doesn't take long, but feel like I've seen so many people in my almost 20 years of work life leave me thinking "that was obvious" after a sad conversation.

You can (sometimes) use GitHub to figure out if the company has bad work/life balance, e.g. if you see lots of employees committing code on the weekend on the same dates: https://codewithoutrules.com/2019/01/31/does-company-have-wo...

You'd just end up mistaking commits to my private repositories for work. Also, private contributions have to be enabled in order to show up there.

The parent comment speaks to whether many people at the same org are making commits on the weekends. If it is just one person, no biggie, but if it looks like everyone you find is commiting on the weekend then that is a bad signal.

The other edge case would be an environment where every employee is super active in OSS.

Isn’t it a bad idea to use the same account for work as well as personal projects?

Currently I have a separate ‘home’ account for personal projects and I never touch the work ID from my home.

That's the whole idea of Github Teams. You just add/remove users to teams and subteams as an organization Owner, and you never get access to anything else on their account or even see their private repos or other organizational memberships.

Except that one is still likely using a company-owned laptop/desktop to access that account. Any data or activity on company hardware (such as private keys or cookies) should be considered visible by them as there’s likely to be remote management software, an IT admin account, encryption key escrow, etc. The legal precedent (in the U.S., anyway) gives an employee no expectation of privacy on a company computer or network.

It would still be a CFAA violation for the employer to use those keys to act as the employee against a third-party serivce like Github. So the employee might not be able to object to them seeing that, but they would have no right to use them to access the employee's account on a remote server. Just like if they found a check on your desk they can look at the numbers, but they can't just use them to take money out.

Also, you could and probably should create a new SSH key on the company laptop or a personal access token for HTTPS access so that it can be easily revoked when you leave.

If there are separate accounts then the organisation will likely be private, and you wouldn't be able to research the user accounts in the first place.

I work Tuesday-Saturday, by choice, to align with my wife's schedule. So commits on the weekend may not be a good indicator.

Same boat. I like to take my "weekends" while everybody else is mostly "at work." A lot of things I enjoy doing are very busy on the weekends when a lot of people have the same day(s) off. For instance, going to the beach on a Tuesday is generally a lot better than a Saturday. A lot less traffic to/from, less crowded beaches and restaurants, etc.

https://levels.fyi to make sure the level/comp accurately represents what i'm looking for

This is absolutely fascinating. I don't know how folks are earing this kind of cash when you can go to a recruiter, with more than decade of hands-on startup experience, and when you want more than 200k a year they look at you like you just kicked their cat.

Then you see someone at a place like Lyft with four years of real world experience and one year with the company pulling 300-400k a year without breaking a sweat. And now they’re about to jump onto the IPO rocket ship. I want to clarify that I’m not jealous of these people: it’s great. I just gotta stop and ask myself sometimes what the fuck I’m doing wrong.

Then again this is crowdsourced and might be a load of shit.

If you're serious: get a job at a well-known tech company. You might have to move for this unless you're already in a top-tier tech city (NYC, SF, and Seattle, definitely qualify; maybe Zurich, London, Toronto, and Sydney). Work there for two years. Move to a better tech company. You are now worth $300-400k per year.

If you're not already considered top-tier talent, I think Amazon is the easiest way into this right now. They are hiring at an incredible rate, and their engineers are generally considered good hires by Google, Facebook, etc. The lifestyle and working environment is generally considered acceptable if not exemplary.

Also, invest some time to become an expert at technical interviews. They are somewhat orthogonal to everything else that we do, but they are a near-universal shibboleth at top companies and it doesn't take that much time to get good at them. Most of the questions fall into a few broad categories that you can learn to recognize with practice.

This worked for me. YMMV. The key was relaxing the requirement that I stay in my childhood city, although luckily I only had to move a couple hours away.

> You are now worth $300-400k per year.

Are you sure this number still applies if you're outside of US (London, Toronto, Sydney)? My understanding is that numbers in Europe are nothing like those in the US.

It doesn't apply to Sydney for sure.

I make $50k-100k AUD less in Sydney compared to Bay Area, with all the same HCOL problems.

A very, very good new grad total comp figure in Sydney is say, $150k AUD. That's $106K in USD, which is less than the salary for a new grad at Google or Facebook in the Bay Area. Throw in RSUs, signing bonus, and performance bonuses, and a new grad is making $50-100k AUD more.

The quirk here is that due to the E3 visa, it's about as easy to hire Australians to work in the US as it is to hire them to work in Australia. So why pay more for folks who stay at home?

> So why pay more for folks who stay at home?

What do you mean by this? I could imagine a scenario where the E3 visa puts positive pressure on Australian Software Engineer salaries, causing them to rise.

Put another way: why pay the same price in Australia?

Most companies want to have folks in the same timezone, preferably in the same office. There's really no substitute for being onsite with your peers.

London and Sydney have insanely high costs of living so recruiting and retaining skilled people means paying high in the first place. In London or Sydney you can make £100k or $140k as a good developer. Google simply pays double that at L5 so you don't think about leaving.

Yes, this! I can second this as an engineer who is now a professional consultant, working directly with engineers on both interview and negotiation prep, as well as technical and people leadership coaching.

You want to make the most of not only the various kinds technical interviews you might encounter, but also the behavioral conversations, founder/exec chats, even cover letters are a chance to set an intentional narrative. When you're in the loop with specific companies you can even prepare for specific interview loops and negotiation expectations, and thus have particularly targeted results.

>The lifestyle and working environment is generally considered acceptable if not exemplary.

Isn't Amazon known for having the worst lifestyle and working environment out of all FAANG? https://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/16/technology/inside-amazon-...

Ugh. Yeah, I've heard too many of these stories not to believe them. Most of the people I know at Amazon say they haven't experienced toxicity at that level, though, and that it depends a lot on your manager.

In the absence of a strong, healthy company-wide culture, managers create their own islands of toxicity or calm productivity. I don't know a simple answer of how to ensure you end up on the right one.

It's definitely not a load of shit. Source: I work at one of those companies.

You're not doing anything wrong - only a select number of employers can afford to throw that much money at their recruits. It's just a method of recruiting, nothing more; most other smaller companies / startups can't (or won't) match it so they gain a major advantage over their competitors.

I just managed to pass their interview - maybe that counts for something, but I definitely am not a top 5% engineer. I think there are a lot of advantages you get from smaller places that you won't find at a large "FANG" company as well.

Co-Founder here. Data is crowdsourced but we manually check it regularly to filter out spam. We have enough data now where outliers are weeded out. We've gotten feedback from the community that our data is some of the best compensation data for Bay Area tech companies.

> I just gotta stop and ask myself sometimes what the fuck I’m doing wrong.

Don’t know anything about you beyond your github and HN profile, but I‘ll speculate: perhaps getting hired at 200k or less by the right company is the key to earning 300k+ within a year, while getting hired at 300k is unlikely unless you come straight from a corp/position that is known to pay more.

One thing to remember is that these numbers are typically for Bay Area or Seattle -- places where commuting isn't a feasible option unless you don't mind 2+ hours on the road every day. For San Francisco, making $300k/year you're looking at $185,464 take-home pay.

> In San Francisco and nearby San Mateo and Marin Counties it said $117,400 for a family of four was "low income", while $73,300 (£54,900) was "very low income" - the highest figures anywhere in the country. (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-44725026)

The cost of living in these areas is high and is still growing rapidly. At the end of the day, working in a tech hub is still a middle class to upper middle class job. You can achieve similar or better results in states like Utah and Texas, with a much better work/life balance.

I'm an ex-Californian and moved to a saner state. Total comp for me is roughly ~$150K, with almost all the bells and whistles you'd expect from Silicon Valley (still waiting for 401K matching). My commute is 20 mins and soon to be 5 mins. Property values for a large home where I live are still floating in the $500K range, with only 0.5% property tax. I haven't even topped out the market here either -- I know people making $170K salary + benefits out here.

It’s on the high end of each band but it’s legit. It includes stock though, which can be half of total compensation.

>> IPO rocket ship

The attractiveness of this depends on whether it goes up or down. It's anybody's guess which way it'll go.

Holy shit that is depressing - as a senior engineer in the UK working at one of the largest UK tech based companies I struggle to earn even $100k.

It seems like there must be some opening there for companies willing to pay 25% more to poach great talent.

It just doesn't work like that in the UK, even FAANG pay peanuts because they can get away with it.

But why can they get away with it? Is there a glut of talent? Or a market full of developers who have zero interest in making more than $100k?

There's just no other options; it's still one of the best markets in the EU and going to the US is impossible for most developers so they have to accept the lower salaries.

You would think that some startup in NYC would decide to start hiring in London, then. Instead of struggling to recruit senior developers with a middle of the pack NYC salary at $125–150k, they could offer the same salary in the UK and be standouts in the market.

The question is a bit weird to me because the things you suggest seem like what you would do before you even apply. But when you say "before they take a job there", it seems to imply after the interview, and offer on hand.

When you're interviewing, you're not just letting the employer assess you; you're also assessing the company and the team. You should be asking questions about working there. There's no need to "email people who work there" to ask because you should be asking them during the interview!

My current job is the first time (out of 6 jobs over 14 years) where I am joining a company without anyone I know there -- as in, I responded to a recruiter pinging me, interviewed, and got an offer. I didn't have a friend refer me or anything. It was a risky leap, and made more risky by the fact that it's fully remote (my first remote job), so I had no idea if it was going to be like everyone being overworked, or feeling completely disconnected, or anything. One thing I did that may have appeared weird but was worth doing was, after getting an offer, I asked to speak with yet one more engineer on the team, in a sort of reverse-interview. I extensively asked about working there.

Like someone said, because people don't want to risk their jobs, most of the time they won't say anything negative in such a scenario. But as long as you learn to read between the lines, you can still get useful information out of it.

On the other hand if this is before you interview, none of this matters. Just go interview and decide from there.

I work at a company of 10.5k employees.

Even considering global offices, there are ~5k employees here on campus.

The problem is that every single team, organization, every executive and the functions that roll up to them, are of course different.

The best advice is what others have said here: go into the interviews bright eyed and try as hard to get a sense of the people who interview.

Are they good people? Is there a good mix of people who are task oriented vs relationship oriented?

At the end of the day, looking at things like Glassdoor, LinkedIn, will only give you a very high level picture so the interviews are your best bet.

Also, if you're anything like me, I value money quite a bit over other conditions, so asking about salary up front is a must.

> Also, if you're anything like me, I value money quite a bit over other conditions, so asking about salary up front is a must.

This is an important point. I'm not primarily money-driven, personally, so this isn't a question I typically ask. But if it's important to you, absolutely ask.

Not to say money isn't important. I do have a minimum salary that I'll accept, and I inform them of it when they ask (and they always ask). If an employer at least meets that, I'm good. Offering more money above that is nice, but isn't as big of a driver to me as whether or not I would enjoy working there.

Glassdoor, company engineering blog and careers page on their website to see what the environment, tech stack and benefits are like. Maybe Stackshare.

Next time I will scour online maps to make sure that the engineering spaces aren't within a warehouse no matter how nice they are. The forklift horns honking and beeping drives me to distraction.

Agree on this, not so much for the SV unicorn crowd, but at a couple of interviews I’ve asked to see the actual seat and workstation where I’ll be sitting. I’ve never had honking forklifts, but some office space “corporate accounts payable, Nina speaking, just a moment” type spaces were enough to sour me on the job. It’s mundane maybe, but important to me..


Here's the core of what I do:

I pore over their website, and do web searches on the company and the company's top executives. If I don't personally know anyone who works for (or used to work for) them, then I hit up my professional contacts to see if I can find someone who does. I then ask those people about their day-to-day experience at the company. I make sure to ask, at a minimum, both what they consider great about working there and what they consider awful about it.

What I'm looking for is a good fit -- does the company operate in a way that works for me? Do I feel good about what the company produces and how they do business? Are the employees generally satisfied? That sort of thing.

One thing I would never do unless I were in a crisis of some sort is to just jump in and hope for the best. It's too easy for that to go horribly wrong.

You make it sound like it a marriage or something. If you don't like it you can always leave. That's worked for me so far.

Indeed you can. But if I want short-term work, I take contracts. If I'm looking for a permanent job, I'm specifically looking for some place that I'll be for years. So it is a bit like marriage in that sense.

Also, it's not a great look on your CV when you've only been at a non-contract job for a very short time.

Spending a bit of time to do research on a job, versus going through the hiring process, possible relocation, training and team familiarization, and all the physical and mental stress involved - only to find out you don't fit and then going through the exit process.

Most of the other comments here cover the majority of useful tips/techniques.

However for me, one thing I really like doing is reaching out to employees who quit/left. Ask them for honest information about why they quit and what the existing problems are.

This is interesting. I would assume that negative feedback from these people is less of a signal than positive feedback.

The baseline approval rating from someone who left the company is going to be lower than people working at the company. If an ex-employee is disgruntled or bitter it doesn't tell me that much, unless I hear the same complaint from a lot of people.

If someone left because another great opportunity came along, and they are really positive about their time at the company, I'd say that's a good signal.

For smaller companies, the fit might not be right for certain people, so moving to a company that allows them a path that works better for them isn’t necessarily bad for the company they left

you're probably not wrong, but I think this is a good additional data point to have. It's easy to spot disgruntled reviews of anything. But if someone who left or quit has a composed, reasoned description of plausible problems, it should weigh into your decision at least a little

Every job I’ve had in the past 15 years has had exactly the same office workspace:

- horrid open plan layout with no quiet or privacy.

- comically stupid budget wasted on boutique cafeteria and presentation spaces, catered lunches, coffee, snacks.

- corporate slogans and motivational gimmicks painted on the walls.

Why do you need to research office space for a new job? It’s always exactly the same.

Because there are still good developer jobs out there that give developers offices if they want? That seems to be to be a great reason to do your research.

PS: if you're in Indy I am hiring, you will get an office.

When you are interviewing, make sure you go to the bathroom. Bathroom quality is key indicator of how a company values it's employees.

In our local IT community chat, we have a funny tradition of posting bathroom review videos from different IT companies. From what I've seen, turns out that your assumption is totally true.

Here's a few ways to get a peek at a company's culture, particularly how they interact with customers and how customers perceive them:

1. The company's responses to public issues/tickets/discussions (on GitHub issues/pull requests, a support forum, whatever). Do employees provide thoughtful replies or frustrating form letters ("Great idea! Please vote for your feature request here:")? Is the person responding actually qualified to answer? Where appropriate, does the individual's personality come through or does the reply feel perfunctory or rushed? Do issues ever get closed, and when they do, is a useful explanation provided?

2. Twitter interactions between the company and users. Search Twitter for "to:companyname" for replies and "@companyname" for all mentions. Depending on the company, searching Reddit for the company or product name(s) may also turn up interactions.

3. Search engine keyword research/planner tools. What other words/phrases are used alongside the company or product name? Google and Bing both now restrict their tools, but many third-party planners are public and some include things like inbound link pages. (For a less-complete view, check which phrases are autocompleted in Google and Bing's search form input fields.)

I'm surprised nobody has mentioned AngelList yet. Well, that's not quite true. I saw a few mentions of AngelList itself but nothing about what I feel is their killer feature for job searching: their salaries tool https://angel.co/salaries

Job posts there usually come with a salary range, and salary can be a deal-breaker for a lot of people (most people?), so seeing salary ranges up front for specific companies & positions you're interested in can help avoid a lot of wasted time on both sides due to mismatch in expectations around compensation.

The tool is even more helpful when you're in that initial stage of looking for work but not sure where to apply to yet, because you can filter for jobs that match a certain salary range, within certain locations/industries, level of funding, tech choices, etc.

I also personally really like job searching platforms like Hired.com, Underdog.io, Triplebyte, and AngelList's own A-List that allow you to apply once to their platform and then have companies come to you with offers for interviews, many of which of also require the company to disclose salary range up front so you can decide which offers are worth your time to pursue.

Crunchbase to understand the company's funding

Github to see if they have open source stuff

Company blogs

I've told companies I want to remeet the team after interviews and they've scheduled lunches for me to talk with them in a more low pressure situation

those lunches/coffees are critical

When I was interviewing a few years ago, one of the interviewers I spoke with mentioned they'd used Mattermark[0] to prospect for companies they might be interested in applying to. That seemed like a novel idea given it seems to be targetted primarily towards investors.

[0]: https://mattermark.com/

One piece of advice I heard recently that in hindsight is extremely important -- look around the company and see if there are people who look like you in positions similar to the one you're expecting to get. If there aren't, you're probably not getting the position you think you're getting.

Various OSInt (open source intelligence) tools can be handy, just as they are on a pen-test.

Besides the usual stuff linked to on the site, you can look for email addresses from their domain(s), Google-dork for file extensions on their site and so on.

Often email addresses are tied to discussion forums and such, though perhaps more of that is Github these days.

One tool (forget the name at the moment) would let you look for social media posts/pics in a radius to a given location, so see what pops up nearby the office. If not from the company, might still be informative of the neighbourhood.

Since i'm in IT, DNSDumpster.

This. It gives you can (but not always) give some valuable insights to what services they use, potential security issues, etc.

TransparentCareer has really robust compensation and satisfaction data for business roles and can be filtered and personalized very heavily. They also display the data in ways that make it more accurate and useful such as showing medians and allowing you to only see recent data. (https://www.transparentcareer.com)

That's one of the reasons I built Last10K (https://last10k.com). If the company is publicly traded, they are required to file reports that contains transparent information on a their operations, financial condition and much more. In other words, know how a company actually makes (or doesn't make) money before joining.

Just jump in and keep your eyes and ears open during the interviews. Check glassdoor, etc but let your instinct take over.

Blind is really invaluable for getting the inside scoop at companies large enough to have an active presence on that app.

I spent so much time on Blind when I was jumping ship

Glassdoor, LinkedIn, and emailing previous employees. Current employees aren’t going to give you the low down.

How do you get names and contact info for previous employees?


If you end up needing their email address because you can't send a message on LinkedIn, there's a slew of ways to find someone's email. They might list it on their Twitter, Github, or blog. Companies out there will help you guess it (Clearbit, Hunter, VoilaNorbert, etc.). And if all else fails, googling your best guesses as to what their email is (including their gmail) will often yield a match in some random mailing list, press release, or what have you.

Good question. But I also believe some of it requires being proactive.

1) Keep in mind that during the interview process, you are (read: should be) interviewing them, as much as they are interviewing you. If you sense they don't realize / respect you being an equal in the process then put a note under "red flags."

2) Along the same lines, listen careful during the process. Listen for that is said, and often more importantly, what is not said. Again, be mindful of how they speak with you or maybe it's more like at.

3) Every process has at least one Q&A segment. Prepare some questions. Bring them along printed out if you want. When the moment comes, ask away. If you'd like to speak to current team member(s) ask for that. If you sense friction, that's at least a partial answer. Noted in the red flags column of your "post-date" analysis.

Of course this won't uncover everything, but it's a start. It's also likely yo generate more questions. Do a follow up, if necessary.


For example, yesterday I had a phone call with the head of small marketing / design agency about some PT (but regular) contract dev work. During the course of the conversation I said something like "...and perhaps in time, there can be a junior dev who can take care of some of the more simplistic stuff and I'll focus on the heavy lifting..."

His reply was along the lines of "That doesn't interest me. I'm looking to deal with only one person."

However, what I heard was: "This guy is not aware of the fact that I want to outgrow the mundane stuff and/or I might be willing and able to move into a supervisor position. It also sounds like he's not interested in growing the business in ways where there would be more heavy (dev) lifting. Perhaps my ambitions and desire to grow wouldn't be a good fit."

We're still talking. But that one answer told me __a lot__ even if he didn't realize it. Those are the type of "not said" things I'm talking about.


Ultimately, you are both looking to enter into a LTR. They should want - should things move forward - you to be comfortable and confident they are "the one" for you. If they are resistant to you having __relevant__ and __professional__ questions, then again, that's a signal. Make note of it, and weight it when the time comes.

If he only wants to deal with one person, the other developers could report to you, and he won't need to worry about dealing with them.

I've had people find me on LinkedIn and reach out to do due diligence on companies I've worked at, which I thought was pretty smart.

I would do the same if I were looking at a small company with potentially astroturfed Glassdoor ratings.

Yes, if all the spam hadn't driven me to delete my LinkedIn account, I'd do this as well.

That's what the job interview is for!

In all honesty, I find how everyone behaves during the interview, and my interactions with everyone involved in the interview process, as the best indicators of how the business operates.

Search GitHub for any code repos with the company name (or abbreviations/acronym of the company name) to see if you can get a heads up on what the code challenge may be.

https://www.kununu.com/ - at least for german based companies

Blind app. Lots of users now from different companies

Do you actually find the blind app useful? Most of my experience has been that it's "4chan-lite".

Someone posted asking for the best way to let a friend down easy and tell them they weren't romantically interested. Top response: "Bang his roommate."

Yeah you can ask people working there what it's like. I see posts like this all the time and it's kind of funny reading about ones that are burning down

Generally just the company's site, any other stuff they have posted publicly, news stories about them, etc. I rely mostly on my own personal impressions of the team and leadership. I have only worked for one public company and with that one I did also have a look at some financial returns, but I can't say it mattered terribly to me as long as they were not losing money.

AngelList to get a sense of their current employees/team make-up. If the place is earlier stage, I might look at their investors too.

I'm curious about this, having recently joined a company where I feel completely out of place. I like the work, but I hate the work environment and I'm not really gelling with my coworkers.

I'm not sure how you can assess team dynamics before committing to the job. Unless you sign on as a contractor, you're taking a big risk signing up.

i strongly suggest leaving if you can, its not likely that feeling will change

Yeah, I'm guessing I will underperform until I get fired anyway. I was hoping it would work out, since the company is so large and stable that it could have been my final job over the last 20 years of my career. I have a non-verbal offer from another company who would pay me close to the same, with the option of moving to Austin. I'm just not sure the company(a well known manufacturer of set-top boxes and TV middleware) will be around for the long haul. I met their team though and really felt at home.

Companies House - For UK based companies

I think the expensive paid versions of LinkedIn allow you to see how many people are coming and going from a company, and from that you may be able to figure out if they are on the up or down-swing.

Check the bathrooms. The condition of actual working facilities will tell you more than you want to know about how a company treats its employees.

Please keep in mind that the tips/tools/techniques that people list are highly subjective and may not be applicable everywhere. I realized this from my own experience (worked at two startups in the past, and now at BigCo):

* Glassdoor: Sort reviews by date (people are relatively happy when they join, negative reviews tend to be more current). Take every review (good/bad) with a grain of salt. Reviews with higher "helpful" counts could be more reliable because there are so many companies where the HR writes glowing reviews

* Crunchbase: To know more about the funding situation, list of execs, etc.

* levels.fyi: Salary info. Also check h1bsalaryinfo (website). May/may not be applicable to you, but will give you an idea of what your peers potentially make.

* LinkedIn: Search the name of the company, click on the "People" tab, and look at the list of people who match your background, and then dig out their backgrounds. How long have they been working at the company, what are their previous jobs, how well do you think their background support their roles (even before you talk to them). At my previous company, there were a bunch of people who did sub-par job of being software engineers at their previous companies, and took director/lead/vp roles purely based on their years or experience rather than technical expertise and screwed up the mission big time. This tends to happen at medium/big companies more frequently than at small startups.

* On-site interviews: I know it is going to be extremely hard to gauge a team/company while they are gauging you, but this can be done. Prepare your questions beforehand, and try to see how close or vague their responses are.

* Blind (app) or teamblind (on web): Search for the company and look for comments/questions etc. There may be some discussions which may not be applicable, but it doesn't hurt to search.

* GitHub/Medium: Some companies/startups have their own pages, or at least their team members do (although not current). It'd be good to check those as well.

* Cold emailing: Previous and current employees. Not many will respond, but if even one or two do, I'd highly value their input

* Coffee: Doesn't hurt to try (most people are willing to do this, but don't do this just because they don't have time, or feel awkward about meeting new people)

Most of these will be applicable for smaller companies/startups, but at big companies, it'll be tough knowing all the people you will work with. Ultimately, it's going to boil down to few things:

(a) your instincts: whether you feel you'll fit right in or not, whether the company is good for you or not, whether you believe in the core mission or not. I tend to believe this more.

(b) your team: a good team/team member can make your life at work the best experience or the worst experience. And unfortunately, there is no way to predict this unless you give it a chance.

Good luck!

I agree. The more proactive you are about reaching out or asking the right questions, the more you'll know. Thanks for the detailed suggestions. I personally think Glassdoor is pretty outdated. Blind is more 'real time'

crunchbase / glassdoor / main website + archive.org / github / twitter / facebook / try out their service/app / contact customer support / emailhunter / linkedin / etc.


salaryproject.com for (mostly Software Engineer currently) salaries

salaryproject.com for (mostly Software Engineer) salaries


I heard that HR departments get paid to write on glassdoor.

I used to use Blind. Unfortunately, it has devolved into a kind of clean cut version of 4chan. The topics discussed there used to be about how the culture was at a certain company, total compensation, etc. Now it is a place where the topic of discussion are memes about Indians being incompetent with women, why can't I get laid, I'm so lonely etc.

LinkedIn, AngelList, and Crunchbase are some good places to start to get an idea of the company.

GitHub. Stalk a few of their devs see how they interact with other people in the org and out. How they act in personal projects likely maps how they act professionally as well.

Glassdoor, and filter by most helpful, since it's an open secret that startups write their own fucking reviews.

You always get the down lo when you read a highly upvoted review.

I know this one startup CEO he was caught lying publicly about writing his own glassdoor reviews. It was quite obvious (everybody in the company knew except the CEO).

Don't give notice yet. Instead, take a week of vacation and start the new job during that week. Make your official decision during afternoon tea on Sunday.

I'm pretty sure there's issues with holding two jobs at the same time. Have you done this? And do you just rely on people not finding out?

I had two full time jobs for eight months. The only issue was no leisure time

I've done this a number of times, last time 9 months.

Going on vacation for a week and starting a new job is very difficult to time. You come back give two weeks and have to work really hard transfering knowledge just when you need to be learning everything new job related.

Depends on the country. Here your notice time would be 1 month, so you can't just start "trying out" another full-time job during a holiday.

Edit: mistake in duration

This is very unprofessional and a great way to burn your bridges.

Not all bridges have equal value.

To an employer, the employee's track record provides insight on the behavior they can expect from him.

Your track record is what you present. No one is asking for W2s or tax transcripts. There is no central repository you can call upon for employment history (besides the hot garbage that is Equifax's The Work Number; you have frozen your Work Number profile if your employer reports data to them, right?)

https://krebsonsecurity.com/2017/11/how-to-opt-out-of-equifa... (KrebsOnSecurity: How to Opt Out of Equifax Revealing Your Salary History)

Putting aside the ethical questions of this approach, I've not been able to determine how good a job will be within the first week. It usually takes me a couple months.

I can't think of a company that would not fire a new hire who was still working at his/her previous employer.

Nor can I think of a company that would agree up front to let a new hire do this. Why would you hire people who screw over their employers? They might do the same to you one day when they have decided to leave.

This is a great way to start out with two jobs and end up with zero.

And do what? Just quit your old job on the spot?

Of course not. You tell the old job that you have a personal crisis and that you would love to stay on as a part-time remote consultant...

No offense, but that approach would make me not want to hire someone like that or work with someone like that. It may appear that you’re pulling one over on your previous employer, but if anything, that is probably a blessing for them to no longer have someone that operates in a shady fashion like that employed by them.

Edit: The undesirable behavior was in reference to the lying about a personal crisis. I personally believe in transparency and wouldn’t attempt to capitalize on an employer’s sympathy by lying to them.

I wouldn't lie about a crisis, but it's business. It's not unheard of to take a better offer and offer to work as a consultant at the previous employer.

The lying about the crisis is the part that I was referencing was shady. Working as a consultant for a previous employer is completely acceptable and provides mutual benefit.

Crisis story can be looked at as advertising or setting the table. You leave your old company with a reason and everyone feels better. Your image is safe and your backstory.

If anyone feels like this is dishonest what do you tell your new employer about why you are truly leaving the old position. Do you tell them the owner was rude and you told him off or do you say you left because of a bad personality fit? You are not lying but perhaps a little dishonest. You can have a personal crisis and that could be the new job.

> Crisis story can be looked at as advertising or setting the table.

I'm sorry, it's simply bald-faced lying. If I found out any of my hires had done this, I'd fire them.

> what do you tell your new employer about why you are truly leaving the old position.

I rarely need to tell them anything, but if they ask, I say "I'm seeking new challenges". It's not a lie, and it avoids potentially bad-mouthing prior employers. But I'll be honest here -- it's only happened twice in my career that I left a job because of something bad about the job.

Seeking new challenges is not being honest either. But it makes you see the person in a different light compared to the other more accurate version. That's what is happening with the personal crisis story.

Would you fire that same person if you discover a year later new challenges meant hated old boss and told them off?

Just curious are the positions you manage that easy to fill that you can fire at random?

If someone I knew was fired for that reason a lawsuit would be very likely. The manager would be let go after they lost cost the company so much money. I'm not in the US so I understand the rules might be different but usually you can't fire someone because they broke your personal moral code.

It might be doable without telling your new employer at all.

That's pretty much the same as quitting without notice, not to mention lying.

Yeah this is quite difficult to do legally in the U.K. for tax reasons. Fun idea, but very impractical.

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