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What to look for in an employer

By Phil Factor,

A Job interview for a database Developer is, or should be, a two-way process. They are sussing you out, and you are sussing them out. They are wondering whether you have antisocial habits, or a grudge against humanity. They are also hoping you have the computing skills of Niklaus Wirth, combined with the forbearance of Gandhi. You, meanwhile, are wondering whether they’ll be in business next year. You’ll be hoping for an employer who cares about both the technology and the technologists. You’ll be looking for signs of good management.

So what should you look out for? There are, of course, the classic general danger signs such as a fish-tank in the foyer, and a flagpole outside. Either, evidently, is a classic sign of a company in its terminal stages.  What is life like for staff generally?   Is overtime and weekend-working encouraged?  Bad sign.  Does external promotion predominate? Is staff turnover high? Not good.  Are staff encouraged to share in success with share options and bonuses? Good sign.  Other things will give you a clue about morale.  Did someone offer you real coffee?  Did they take time to explain what the job entailed?  Were they punctual and polite?

There are also a few other things that you would do well to ascertain too, though they are often difficult to do at interview time, and others more appropriate to determine after a job offer.  These are the things that will make a difference to your working life. Everyone looks for something different. I’d be asking myself questions like these: Are the developers given good working conditions? ? What about the quality of IT equipment such as  hardware and  screens?  Is the office space adequate, with quiet, distraction-free workspace in an Open-office area.

 Does the IT department seem open to new ideas and ways of being more productive?  Does the company value and appreciate the need for continuous training, and attendance at conferences such as PASS. Is certification encouraged? Are technical books provided?

I have my particular views on what represents a good place to work. Do they use Database Source Control? Sure it isn’t strictly necessary, but would you want to work somewhere that did not use it? Is there a bug-tracking system?  If they have standards for coding, are they sensible or mindlessly restrictive? What is the security regime for database development? Do they adopt a policy of a properly-defined interface between database and application?  Is there an effective system in place for deployment?  

I’d be interested to hear if you have things that you particularly look out for when looking for a new employer. Of course, not many of us can be too selective about our employer, but  are there things that you’d look for to ease any apprehension about taking up a job offer?

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