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Sniffing for Culture Smells & Interviewing Critically

June 28, 2015

Sniffing for Culture Smells & Interviewing Critically

It is incredibly difficult to find a good place to work that matches your very unique requirements. How do you interview successfully while also critically examining a company? How do you sniff out culture smells and determine if a company’s work environment will be toxic to you? How do you discern if you will thrive or drown? Examining perspectives, policies, and real-world practices on diversity, employee satisfaction, and HR is not always best done with a questions-only approach. This talk details a multi-pronged approach to interviewing successfully with potential future employers that will help you sniff out culture smells.


June 28, 2015

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  1. sniffing for culture smells & interviewing critically Liz Abinante @feministy

    [email protected]
  2. so, you’re looking for a new job,

  3. and you’re worried that you’ll end up working

  4. and you’re worried that you’ll end up working for a

    racist company
  5. and you’re worried that you’ll end up working with a

    transphobic boss
  6. and you’re worried that you’ll end up working with misogynistic

  7. and you’re worried that you’ll end up working in a

    toxic environment
  8. how can we prevent that?

  9. how do we find places to work that meet our

    technical, social, and cultural needs?
  10. overview multi-pronged approach finding places to interview pre-interview during the

    interview post-interview
  11. multi-pronged approach

  12. before research beforehand

  13. before find people you or your network know that work

  14. before submit interview requests during initial interview setup

  15. before find an interview buddy

  16. during bring a notebook, with questions

  17. during ask all of your questions multiple times to different

    people & write down their responses
  18. during answer their questions as real as you can, gauge

    their responses
  19. during observe the “office” environment

  20. before, during, and after take breaks in the process self

  21. finding places to interview

  22. who do you know? where do your friends work? if

    you haven’t built a network yet or don’t have friends in tech, look for places that friends-of-friends work
  23. who sponsors what? have a favorite meetup group, conference, or

    cause? look at their sponsors.
  24. activate the whisper network ask friends in private channels if

    they have insight into a company, or if they know anyone there.
  25. pre-interview

  26. research.

  27. research. who works there?

  28. research. who used to work there?

  29. research. what–if any–negative press exists about the company?

  30. research. where does their funding come from and who do

    they report to?
  31. research. what does the demographic look like to an outsider?

  32. tactics.

  33. tactics. ask to be interviewed by a person from an

    underrepresented group in that role
  34. tactics. ask to be interviewed by someone in a different

  35. take note! who do they pick? what do they do?

    are they a “token”?
  36. tactics. submit interview requests as soon as you setup the

  37. take note! how do they respond? do they fill all

    of your requests?
  38. tactics. prepare a list of cultural screening questions based on

    your requirements
  39. tactics. ask to speak with a representative from HR

  40. tactics. ask about the interview format & prepare as best

    as you can
  41. during the interview

  42. prepare your notes & questions ahead of time

  43. office? try and visit the different departments

  44. office? observe the environment & actions happening around you

  45. take your time, provide real answers.

  46. if you can*, do not hide or downplay the importance

    of the things you care about. * do not feel unsafe, aren’t forced to out yourself
  47. if asking questions forces you to out yourself

  48. find someone internally who can ask those questions for you

  49. attempt to meet with HR confidentially

  50. or request interview modifications & do research that will help

    you answer your questions without asking
  51. sample questions

  52. all questions available online.

  53. 3 broad categories diversity employee value & retention HR

  54. diversity

  55. why do you think diversity in the workforce is important?

    how do you define diversity?
  56. do you have trans-inclusive healthcare? what does it cover?

  57. do you have a parental, maternity, or paternity leave policy?

    lactation rooms on-site?
  58. what does success in regards to diversity at this company

    look like to you?
  59. what diversity-focused initiatives or policies have been enacted in the

    last year? results?
  60. what work do you think needs to be done to

    improve the work environment for underrepresented groups?
  61. employee value & retention

  62. do you provide job training for employees? which departments have

    training budgets?
  63. what career paths are available from this position?

  64. do you have career paths for all positions?

  65. do you track metrics on retention & job satisfaction? do

    you cross- reference data with demographics?
  66. HR

  67. do you have an HR department? who do they report

  68. how does HR handle internal complaints?

  69. are employee salaries confidential information?

  70. what is HR’s charter or primary function?

  71. observations

  72. who eats lunch together? do people socialize outside of their

  73. do they have gender-neutral bathrooms?

  74. what does the employee demographic look like? what’s the average

    employee age?
  75. are there people from underrepresented groups in upper management roles?

  76. how are the lowest-level employees treated? do they get the

    same perks as engineers?
  77. are they promoting internally or hiring externally? experienced only, varying

  78. is it difficult to enact change? what changes have they

    made recently and how long did they take?
  79. look for HR antipatterns modelviewculture.com/pieces/hr-antipatterns-at-startups

  80. post-interview

  81. follow up with any additional or unanswered questions. you can

    reach out to any of your interviewers.
  82. gather your notes & research.

  83. examine perspectives vs. policies and real-world practices

  84. do their words match their actions?

  85. what stances do they take on the things that matter

    the most to you?
  86. thanks! questions online: lizabinante.com Liz Abinante • @feministy • [email protected]