10 Apr 2013

What to ask Employer - Part 4 - Generic Questions

(This is Part-4 among an n-Part series detailing the pitfalls when selecting an employer, and provides very basic information that you should inquire when joining a company. Click here, to read from the beginning.)

There are some Generic questions that should invariably figure in all interviews:

Work Days

One should clearly confirm the days of work at a prospective employer. I couldn't recommend strongly enough that you should blindly reject a job profile that requires you to work six days a week. If you have a family you care about, you might want to stick with a 5-day job, if possible.

... back-tracking, another thing that you should make sure is that the weekends are the usual week-off days (i.e. Saturday and Sunday in India). While at it, do confirm if the week-offs are on rotation basis... For e.g. if in March your week-offs were Saturday and Sunday, is it possible that in April they could change to a Monday and Tuesday?

In the remote chance that you're ok with weekoffs that are not Saturday / Sunday, something that is not obvious to most people when someone says '5-day week' they may not always fall together. I've been on five-day work-weeks but the week-offs could be split. For e.g. week-offs could fall on Monday and Thursday. You may be okay with that spin of words, but I couldn't take this change very easily and despite a five-day work-week, I found split weekends difficult to adjust to.

Work Hours

Would you have normal (9am - 6pm) work hours? I would strongly recommend that. The only reason you may want something different (for e.g. 8am - 4pm etc.) is if the traffic situation in your city is downright painful and you prefer to get-in and get-out while the roads are still bearable. Besides that, anything else is something you should consider seriously.

Does your profile include 'Flexi-hours'? If so, be wary. Most companies tune flexi-hours such that you always end up working for more than 8 hours and that although isn't a problem in general, one should be careful if six-months down the line you start feeling a burn-out. 

Another question that could be linked here is that whether late-hours (or early-hours) reliable, comfortable office provided by the office? What are the alternate options to go home? Is it safe at all? How far is office from home? etc... Once you reach home, do you once again have to worry about reaching office 'on-time' the next day. Does the company adjust a late entry on the next day, owing to a late stay-back the previous night? Just be sure that the company is lenient in such cases.

Does your profile provide you a laptop? Does your profile require you to 'check-in' from home? Both of these are good warning signs that you are in for (a lot of) unscheduled work. Often, this may be something that you can't avoid in your field of expertise (Administrators, managers, etc..) but what you should ask is how frequent these 'exceptions' are going to be. I was in the 'exact' situation once and before i even went ahead I 'thankfully' took on paper that the exceptions are supposed to be 'rare', and rare defined as 'once a quarter'. To me that looked completely fine, in fact once a month would have been fine too, but that learning came from another profile wherein, 'after' I finished my work at office, I was required to login from home / chat with clients from home. Almost 'Daily' !! And beyond what words could describe, ... that sucked.

Overtime Policy

Before I begin here, the first thing one should understand is that this point isn't about money. It isn't about leaves either. Its just to know how bad its going to be.

Is the company aware of the kind of 'exceptions' and how frequent and what kind of exceptions happen? Only this would ensure that the company has enough resources to handle the volume, that is if they want to. In places, this generally means that one profile was overworked with all the 'exceptions' such as network downtime, disk failures, performance issues on production machines etc. Clarifying this early on, means that someone who confirmed in print, has to abide by it. At least that's one step better than you realizing this 'on-the-job' and then arguing with your reporting manager about how difficult it is and whether bringing in more hands to handle off-the-hour workload is a doable alternative.

Reporting Structure

Just try to be sure about the following questions:
  • Who would you report to? Any Dual-Reportings are generally a mess.
  • Any teams that you need to take care of?
  • Are my team's performance going to directly impact my performance bonus?
    • If so, can I decide what my team is? (Obviously, if you can't decide your team-members, you'd be paying the price of someone else's mess)

No comments: