#Asia 7 red flags to look out for during a software engineering interview


There’s nothing worse than being stuck in a toxic workplace for years.

Sadly, a lot of developers realize this fact way too late. Disgruntled employees will stay on board for five years, wishing they saw the signs earlier. This is especially true for software developers and engineers. They have to pore over lines of code all day. Reevaluating career choices becomes an afterthought.

While being in a company can start off beautifully and deteriorate over time, most signs of a terrible company are visible even before you sign on the dotted line.

Employers use job interviews to determine if an applicant is a great fit for them. Similarly, applicants should use interviews to see what kind of company they’re getting themselves into. Whether advertently or otherwise, how a job interviewer speaks can expose various red flags that you should be wary about before accepting an offer.

1. “We don’t pay much, but it’s good experience and exposure for you.”

Who wouldn’t want fame? I’d love to be known all over the world, too. But let’s face it: labor isn’t cheap. You don’t work for free. As wonderful as fame is, you need to put food on your table. You didn’t spend your entire life learning code just to earn table scraps.

Unless it’s a big company like Google or Facebook, just being at a company will not merit brownie points on your resume. If a Top 500 company did offer you exposure, then a fat paycheck is already a big guarantee.

Usually, a small company that offers you experience in lieu of cold, hard cash can’t afford you and hopes you can stay on board for next to nothing.

2. “Let’s be honest here, every business in this industry expects 50-hour work weeks. They don’t say they do, but they do.”

As Redditor vivomancer says, “Nope, right out of that interview.” The average work week for any employee lasts 40 hours. Anything more than that should be considered overtime.

Regardless of where you work, overtime is inevitable especially in the software development industry—long hours just testing the code for bugs and errors. However, this shouldn’t be normal.

In fact, that’s why laws state that overtime work is paid at a premium. If a company attempts to normalize a 50-hour work week from the get-go, you can expect to stay in the office until bedtime for weeks on end. If you have even a semblance of a social life, this will burn you out until you’re a lifeless coding and programming husk.

3. “You’re the fifth guy we’re hiring in two years. We hope you can turn things around.”

Employees leaving after only a few months is a sign to skedaddle before you end up as just another notch on their tally. A high turnover rate is a curious mystery. It can imply so many different things, but they almost always lead to the same conclusion—working there is a nightmare. The only exceptions that this should have are for retail jobs like McDonald’s.

If you’re in the professional development world, a high turnover rate is indicative of poor working conditions, terrible bosses, and measly compensation plans.

Similarly, too many cooks spoil the broth. Would you really want to put your hands on software grimed by five different people who may or may not have left intentional bugs out of resentment?

4. “Do you know Java, C++, Python, Angular, and Perl? We need you to have at least five years of experience in each.”

The only way this isn’t a red flag is if they can pay you five times the normal salary for learning five different languages at the same time. As mentioned here, learning a few additional skills in your spare time can bolster your own brand.

That shouldn’t give employers the authority to demand mastery over multiple languages, though. Yes, you can know these languages, but forcing the ability to switch between languages at the snap of a finger is impractical.

This is especially true given that you’re likely working on only a couple at any given time. Companies who demand these young “rockstars” either don’t understand how programming works, or will force you to work beyond your capabilities every single time.

5. “So, how many kids do you have?”

Sharing your personal, intimate details is frowned upon during job interviews. This isn’t a red flag, per se. Just remember that a proper job interview should base itself off merit and experience, not your sex, religion, or family background.

This is even considered illegal in most countries. An interviewer shouldn’t ask these details from you. Likewise, you don’t have to volunteer this information, in case it may be used against you.

6. “Please don’t mind the negative reviews we received on LinkedIn.”

Okay, you got me. An interviewer will never say this out loud.

It’s still a red flag, though. We live in an age of transparency and information availability. Former employees can rat out their companies on their shady practices and hostile working environments.

This is why you should do your research before applying for a job. A quick search on LinkedIn (or even Google) might shine a light on some secrets that your interviewer will try to hide from you. Sometimes, employers don’t realize that developers can have their own private communities online.

7. They simply don’t turn up.

If an interviewer flakes out on you, consider that a sign that they didn’t value you in the first place. If you thoroughly prepare and dress up for an interview only to arrive at a no-show, find other places to work where they value your time. Unless it’s an emergency, there is no reason why an interviewer couldn’t have alerted you earlier of a postponement.

It’s even worse if they don’t show up without any sort of warning, leaving you hanging at the receptionist’s area. That’s just downright disrespectful.

If you’re an unlucky victim of these interviewer blunders, think about if you really plan to work there in the future.

While these are strong red flags, they are not one hundred percent certainties. A company may have redeeming factors or reasons for making these blunders.

At the same time, a company’s red flags aren’t all revealed by mistakes committed by job interviews. Always remember to use your reason whenever you’re making a bold career move.

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