One of the best tricks I've learned in my career, is that the best way to know about a company you are applying to is to “interview your interviewers”.
The following is a series of questions I ask in each interview, and just like those in programming, these may look like trick questions. But in reality there are no tricks, and there are no right or wrong answers; they are just designed to understand the soul of a company. By understanding these values, you will learn if this is the place you want to be.
- If your company disappeared tomorrow, would your users be losing something valuable?
- Do your users love your product just because it has all the buzzwords in “the cool product checklist” or is it because it lets them become “The minimum badass user”? (Bonus points for following Kathy Sierra)
- Does your team understand that there are three different ways of solving an user problem: Training, Design or Engineering and in the end great solutions will end up involving all three? Curiously enough, like Dieter Rams would say: the less of them the better.
- Is your engineering team proud of what they built, yet realize it is not perfect and it will never be finished? Do they understand that great systems take 10 years, and they must always be evolving?
- Are you open to experimentation and don't dismiss ideas just because they look simple, hacky or not finished? The next big thing will look like a toy.
- Is there a bookshelf in the offices? Are the books old and dusty or does the shelf look like a college university library, crammed with both classics and new material, and people are fighting for copies? What book should every engineer/designer/salesman/manager be reading?
And there is something that keeps happening to me whenever I run into a company that I enjoy, the conversation suddenly stops being an interview and it becomes two friends talking about what makes web development great. If you happen to find a company that makes you feel that way, go work there now.
And most importantly, these are questions you should be asking your company every single day. Because the answers to this questions will surely change as the company grows and mature, yet the spirit of the answers should remain the same.