Certain cliches about job candidates permeate the software industry. Every hiring manager wants someone who is smart and a self-starter. The ideal candidate is a good team player, who enjoys working in a collaborative environment and stays focused on delivering value to the customer, while writing great code using the company’s technologies.
Candidates also have a list of clichés, which reflect what we want in an employer. We all want an employer who fosters communication, embraces current and next generation technologies, offers a cool perk (free food and telecommuting are popular) and pays a reasonable salary. On both sides, almost all of these things are perfectly reasonable desires.
But let’s look beyond the cliches for a moment. We all have an internal list of criteria that reflects what’s important to us in a job. From the candidate’s perspective, what really matters? What’s the deal killer and what will you compromise on?
Here’s my list, in order:
- Interesting problems to solve. Boredom does not suit me. There are so many interesting problems in this world – new industries to learn, new technical problems to solve, new management challenges. Challenge me and I’m a happy camper. Oh, and existing software can have interesting problems, too.
- Flexible work hours. This is a leading indicator of a culture that I enjoy. If the company doesn’t set work hours and just expects everyone to get their job done and work it out among themselves, then that’s generally a sign of trust between company and employees. I want to work somewhere that has that trust.
- Modern technologies. I want to work with modern technologies. It doesn’t have to be bleeding edge, but it should at least be current. A company that is still working on old technologies (really old, like SQL Server 2000) with no concrete plans to upgrade is sending a bad message about their culture. They’re sending the message that they don’t value making their engineering organization as efficient as possible.
- People. Jerks and control freaks happen. If possible, I’d prefer not to work with them. I like to work at a place where it’s okay to enjoy being around your co-workers, and where a little water cooler conversation is both fun and normal. I don’t enjoy the political problems and angst that come with a command-and-control culture, or an environment where being nasty to other people is accepted.
- Salary and compensation package. I do have a mortgage, after all. I also like to eat. Plus, a place that compensates me appropriately shows that it values the work I do.
What’s your list? What matters to you?