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The Post-Interview Conundrum

You have an offer - should you accept it?

There are a myriad of reason why one is successful or unsuccessful in an interview. This article will not cover the art of impressing the interviewer or provide sample technical questions (data structures, java, logical) but instead elucidate the reasoning in signing on to the dotted line. If you are interested in sample technical questions and answers, there are a lot of texts - books, articles, blogs - that are available. In fact, there is a compilation of sample questions along with some answers on my blog (see the "See Also" section below).

The interviewee (he is one who is being asked questions by the interviewer) should reason carefully and not be pressured into accepting an offer. This is easier said than done when you are looking for a job but might save you from a lot of conflict and turmoil in case a wrong decision is made and you end up in a position that is not aligned to your aspirations and goals.

Facets that affect the interviewee's decision

From the interviewee's perspective, provided all goes well, and you have aced the interview; should you be an employee at this company? To answer that question, we will cover the following facets as well:

  1. Company Culture - Every company has a a culture associated with it. As people leave and new employees come in, they bring in their own set of values thereby having an effect on the culture. The culture filters down to the way employees interact with each other, the processes, the level of symbiosis to achieve goals. For instance: Google is known very favorably for its culture - engineers are able to spend time on open source projects that they choose, the amenities that it offers to its employees, outstanding engineer morale etc. A fictitious start-up, "ABCD Software", lack of synergy within the team, higher attrition, engineers keeping information to themselves. The company culture in almost all cases flows from the top of the hierarchy to the bottom and you need to figure this out and validate your ability to first comprehend and relate to it.
  2. Manager - The manager is your guide and on this premise he becomes a very crucial element in your success. "Is he confident? Is he authoritarian? Does he have the knowledge? Does he make the workplace fun while at the same time achieving the goals?"; are some of the traits that need to be discerned.
  3. Team - Another equally important criterion in affirming to a position is quality of the team. "Are the team members satisfied?" - if they are then it augurs well. "Are the members competent? Is there an open communication channel, collaboration? Can you learn from them?" - these also need to be answered. If team members are afraid to ask questions then the team is not going anywhere - requires an urgent fix.
  4. Financial package - covers salary and bonuses, 401K etc. I will not cover this aspect in this entry.

Capturing and Analyzing Data with a Huge Slice of Introspection

If you are being referred to this position, you might get an insiders account of all these questions making your life easier. If you have a friend who works in the group that the position is for or your friend has an understanding of the group then the process of capturing data on the company, manager and team becomes much easier. 

In order to apply the data that the interview process would have so collected, it is paramount that the interviewee should be aware of his abilities and needs of a kind of culture and environment he likes to work in. Joe like to be technical, be part of a team, process-oriented; long term goal is to grow to be a manager. Jim is the same except his long term goal is to remain technical. John likes to hear himself speak whereas Jason is a quiet fellow who prefers to let his work do the talking. Some work best in a flexible timings environment whereas some prefer a 9 to 5. Some like to work from ground zero and take the software solution from initiation to completion whereas for some it does not matter - coming in and taking existing development to the next level is alright.

All this information needs to be discerned from the conversation with the prospective employer. Of course, one cannot pass in a sheet with the questions or ask them directly. One has to get answers to all these without attracting any unwanted attention.

For instance: if you would like to know if there are flexible timings or work from home then that can be easily answered by the recruiter if you are going through one. Or, perhaps asking, "are there flexible timings?". Or, "How is the commute?" - this might lead to information on when the engineers get to office and leave in the evening. 

The one question that pops up generally is, "Why do you want to join this company and what are  you looking for?". The best answer to this question is what the interviewer wants to hear. But how would you know that? If only you knew. You have researched the company, the job requirements and have thought about the overlap with your interests and career goals. You could base the answer on that. There is another way to answer this question - by another question. But you need to ask first - "What are you looking for this position?" - as soon as you know, you have your information that can be used.

One could pop up the question as to how the manager spends his day. The goal of this exercise is to understand if has any interests out of work. The reasoning is to get a sense of his/her "work-life" balance.

The team along with the manager are the people that you would be in regular contact with for the next 'x' not of years. It is immensely important to have a fair understanding of your requirements, the culture of the team, the team members and your manager to predict the job satisfaction to be derived. Whether your goals would be or not be achieved or surpassed, will you be motivated, will you be recognized, will this be a job or a career - these are some of the questions that you would need data on on the onset before affirming and taking up a position at any company.

See Also

If you need to sharpen your brain before an interview, the following should do it:

  1. Sample technical questions and some answers on my blog (work in progress since new questions keep on filtering in)
  2. How Would You Move Mount Fuji - a book by William Poundstone
  3. Puzzles for Programmers and Pros - Dennis Shasha

More Stories By Gaurav Khanna

I have 12 years of Java with special emphasis on the server and have architected and designed many systems and components. I have been employed as lead engineer at Hyperion Solutions in the Common Technology / Platform group (acquired by Oracle corp). I have been employed at Apple most recently and Hyperion prior to that. I have a Bachelors in Technology in Computer Science and Engineering. I have led teams and mentored engineers in my earlier assignments as well. Have run a 6:30 mile, practiced boxing and jiu-jitsu, am a regular at the gym and like the outdoors. I would like to continue in technology perhaps moving on to establishing a tech startup. You would find me here or at my blog: