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One question I like to ask is "Tell me about the worst day (work-wise) you've had in the last six months." Most of the answers I've had gotten generally have to do with escalations and I find that answers are quite honest and unpracticed. I think the way a team/company handles an unusual high-stress situation is in many ways telling of the team/company dynamic in general. And as a bonus, there's usually a good anecdote about a buried body or two in their codebase, process, you name it.

I have a similar question - "What's your least favorite thing about working here".

I often get some very candid feedback, and have passed on couple roles because of what I've heard.

> I think the way a team/company handles an unusual high-stress situation is in many ways telling of the team/company dynamic in general

What sorts of signals do you look for in these answers?


Good: Addressing the problem, fixing the process.

Bad: Assigning blame, firing the responsible.

(The latter especially for a first instance, though if you've got repeat instances, I'd look first to management, then to staff, for cause.)

Another bad sign is if the cause for the stress is internal, and a pass sign is if it's either management or a major (or the only) client.

If you cannot find ways to eliminate internal causes of stress, or buffer those created by the commercial environment in which you exist, it's going to be somewhere on the continuum between toxic and fatal to me.

Beware the company that replies with "there haven't really been any" - they are lying or every day is stressful.

I'd be hard-pressed to name any notably bad days at work in the last 6 months, and it's definitely not because every day is stressful. I'm not even sure why you think that's unusual unless you've had jobs exclusively in very unpleasant workplaces.

That's too cynical. I'm sure there are many places where things are mostly uneventful - or "boring" to some people.

Not in my experience.

"Firing the responsible" may be an overly-strong comment -- putting pressure on the line rather than improving line management is the upshot of what I'm getting at.

Though truly boring can be a good sign if it's the result of good planning, drilling, practices, and rewarding competence. If it's from complacency, failure to recognise problems, or the ability to push fault or failure off on others (clients, customers, vendors, suppliers, other departments), not so much.

The good sign then is understanding why and how they got to boring.

Ugh. I'd misread parent as a reply to my own comment.

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