13

I have developed for a few companies during my career. I have found that there is one thing consistent at each place, everyone is on their own. I feel like I try to answer questions for others when they ask whether they be specific to my project or for a "How To" coding question. I know I have asked plenty of both so I try to pay it forward, but I rarely see it back. Usually, I will see someone answer one to two questions and then they are done.

Am I not looking in the right place for a good company (one with good hiring policies) or possibly asking for help in the wrong way? Basically, I want to know are all companies like this because I cannot keep switching jobs to find out for myself.

How can I find companies with strong teamwork when searching for a job?

This question is closely related. I am on the stance that I expect that help should be a standard for when given and asked for. Obviously there are times when others are busy, but a simple statement of I cannot help right now is sufficient, or I don't know the answer when that is applicable.

  • 1
    What sorts of questions are you asking? How people ask me questions greatly affects how likely I am to respond and help. – enderland Sep 25 '13 at 18:39
  • You should also be worried about having smart team members in the team. How would you find that out ? What is the point of working with a bunch of duds who have just discovered what a great concept OOPS is. – happybuddha Sep 25 '13 at 21:18
  • I agree, you do need a smart team. I can ask technical questions and know when they are answered correctly to find out if there are knowledgeable/creative team members. Technical has always been my forte, reading others has not. – Tat Angel Oct 11 '13 at 14:24
11

If you ask directly about things like this in the interview, you're likely to get the answer they think you're expecting: Why yes of course we help each other out, we're a great team, come work for us.

Instead, I think you have to ask related questions and infer some things about teamwork based on the responses:

It's best if you can talk individually with other developers on the team (i.e. this won't work as well in a group interview) and ask questions such as this:

Example 1:

  • You: What's the most interesting bit of code you've written since you worked here?
  • Dev: blah blah
  • You: Oh, that's cool. What problems did you encounter along the way? How did you solve them?

Example 2:

  • You: What's the most difficult technical/logistical problem you face right now in your project?
  • Dev: blah blah
  • You: Is there somebody on the team who's an expert in that?
  • Dev: Yeah, Jim knows that stuff pretty well
  • You: How easy is it to get answers from him?

Example 3:

  • Do you have any remote team members?
  • What kind of communication tools do you use to keep in touch with them?

Example 4:

  • What's the most interesting hobby that any of your team members has? (this more gauges how much they interact socially, but might be a good proxy for teamwork)

Ultimately, there's no clear answer, just like there's no clear answer to "how can I hire developers who work well in a team?" but these are some that I've used.

  • I have run into that many times during interviews, the automatic response to this and so many questions. I need to remember finesse the information out of them. Thank you for the extra two examples. – Tat Angel Sep 25 '13 at 19:58
  • Given that "you're likely to get the answer they think you're expecting", perhaps there is a way to phrase the questions so it's not clear whether you're hoping to hear about the collaborative teamwork, or whether you're hoping to hear about a culture of rugged individualism? – Carson63000 Sep 26 '13 at 1:45
  • @Carson With the above examples I have something to start with. Over time I will just build up a list of ways to ask. Even if they know what I am asking, at least they will see I am trying to come up with a creative way of asking. Maybe a creative question will get them to let down their guard and give me the info I need. – Tat Angel Oct 11 '13 at 14:27
6

Basically, I want to know are all companies like this because I cannot keep switching jobs to find out for myself.

So far, nobody has answered this part of your question, so I'll give it a shot.

No - not all companies are like this.

Most of the companies I've worked for (and with) have a strong sense of teamwork. Where I work now, there's a very good sense of "we are all in this together" and "how can I help?"

Much of my background is with smaller companies, and startups. Almost without exception they were higher-teamwork shops, perhaps out of necessity.

I have worked for a few much larger companies, and I do see less teamwork. But I can't say for sure that company size is a defining attribute here. It may be - I just don't have enough data points to decide.

So, If you think all companies are "like this", then I suspect we have never worked together, otherwise you would already know the answer (No).

  • It is good to know there is a chance for good teamwork, I suspected this was the case. I have been with a range in size of companies, sometimes I am the only developer (so nobody to lean on). My last position had a good sized team but there was mostly "He Said She Said" issues. Now I have more experience and that means more questions, thank you to SE and everyone on it that is helpful. – Tat Angel Sep 25 '13 at 20:14
3

The best thing you could do is ask the right questions in an interview, but I'm not sure even then it would work.

You can try asking questions like:

What kind of teamwork culture do you guys have here?

But that assumes that the interviewer will give you a completely unbiased and objective answer.

Much better would be to approach individuals already in the company and ask them, outside an interview context, but that might be difficult unless you know them.

It might be that the best way to find companies with the culture that you're looking for is by word of mouth. Unfortunately, that's not always reliable.

Overall, I'm not sure there's any easy, single way to find companies like this.

  • This is a good answer, but as explunit explained (haha nice name) that tends to get the generic response of "We have the best team in the world." (slightly exaggerated). – Tat Angel Sep 25 '13 at 20:00
  • 2
    @JoeStrazzere: Yes, that's why the question I suggested asks the interviewer to describe their team dynamics rather than simply state if it's good or bad. If they have to give a detailed description, they can't just say "Yes we have good teams", they have to say "we have daily stand-ups and work in a close-quarter open-concept environment where everyone communicates" or "We maintain quiet, separate offices and mostly communicate via emails and a wiki". Either of these could be good or bad, depending on what sort of team you like to work in. – FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Sep 26 '13 at 15:16
  • Gathering detailed descriptions of team work is defiantly the way, pros and cons can then be listed based on the details. – Tat Angel Sep 26 '13 at 16:47
2

If you ask What processes do you follow for teamwork?, you should be able get a strong clue of what level of teamwork there is in the organisation.

Generally I would assume that if the company follows/adapts some kind of formal teamwork process (e.g. Scrum, kanban, etc) chances are high that they value teamwork as high as you want them to. Or the company might have some internally developed process as well. Having the "right" process is not the main point, I think it is more that Well, no we have absolutely no process regarding teamwork should be a strong red flag and an indicator that this is somewhere you probably do not want to work.

And by asking that question you will direct the conversation onto something that require more detailed answers than that it can be answered with Oh, we have very good teamwork in our company.

  • Those are good example questions, it helps to find out if the methodology in the environment is geared for a team. However, I have been in an Agile where there were lots of team assignments, but not team work (comradery). – Tat Angel Sep 26 '13 at 15:23
  • I'm not sure that having no formal process at all is directly tied with the amount of teamwork and how much they help each other. I'd tend to think the opposite; that people working within formal processes would be less inclined to help one another. However, it is true that asking about that is a good way to get into that topic. – user14154 Jan 24 '14 at 8:45
1

Some companies would have candidates stay with them for a "testing day", the employment equivalent of a test drive, I guess. I'm not sure how it's called.

It's not always a great practice. For one thing, if you're not hired, you'd have invested quite some time and effort for nothing. Yet, in your case, it would help you get a good feel of how it feels to work for them.

Otherwise, you can research about the company and try to make an idea before the interview, in addition to the other tips given. In my experience, small start-ups have this kind of environment, where everyone helps one another and nobody is left behind. On the other hand, startups can be a difficult environment, a lot of work is needed, sometimes they need to make difficult decisions and let go of a team member who is holding them back, and a lot of them startups will not see the light of the day, or not get very far.

  • I can certainly see that the size of the company might affect how individual teams work as well as team size. I prefer to offer as much help/advice as I can to others, unfortunately I tend to receive the teachers pet response wherever I go for that (Both from managers and coworkers). On the other hand, there are a few that respond exactly opposite to the same from me, that is my primary goal, to easily identify those that appreciate when I offer help or an alternate way to code, etc. With practice, I am sure I will figure that out. – Tat Angel Feb 12 '14 at 16:41

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.