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I'm working on some litmus tests for companies during the interview process, and trying to test if the company/team respects its employees before accepting an offer.

For completeness, what I mean by "respects its employees" basically means it treats them as humans first, and resources second. We're all getting paid to do a job, and sometimes that job requires sacrifice, but as much as possible that should be detailed up front, compensated, and minimized if it wasn't originally agreed to.

Some examples of respect:

  • Following through on commitments to employees, even if they were verbal
  • Not requiring regular overtime unless agreed to ahead of time, or renegotiated (regular requiring the same understanding from the employee and company... maybe one week a quarter?).
  • Providing resources to employees as agreed to (e.g. training/actual time off/etc)

Some examples of disrespect:

  • Following the letter of the law, not the spirit (e.g. everything must be in writing, and even then because the company has more power they can semi-followthrough on their commitments)
  • Continuously asking for more of employees, even if that wasn't agreed upon originally
  • Generally "it's good for your resume" type requests (e.g. you should spend your free time ramping up on things that will make us money)

Something that's normally considered respecting your employees, but is simply a nice gesture:

  • Nice words (it's a good start! But these don't mean much unless followed by action; see the note above about powerful parties not following through on their commitments)

My question is this: do the below tests seem like they would be effective in answering the above questions? Can you think of tests that would be more likely to answer the above questions?

  • Past behavior: how much overtime have you worked in the past month? Past year? How much of it was planned? Could be asked on behalf of employees, or directly to them... but there's some wiggle room in the "planned" and "overtime" categories here... it might be useful to define overtime as anything over 40 hours/week.

  • Attitude/policy/work-life balance: when your employees work overtime, do they get time off in lieu? What about over a certain threshold (e.g. a couple of hours here or there isn't a huge deal, but 8+ extra hours per week should probably be returned to the employee). Another note here: it might be useful to see their handbook before accepting... sometimes policies that help employees are loosely defined, while those that punish or extract more time or resources from them are conveniently well defined.

I'm not looking to have an adversarial relationship with my employer.. but I've learned that most companies are very interested in time-to-market, and generally see their employees as resources to be wrung out if the market suggests it would be profitable, or if higher ups make mistakes. I'm looking for a company of humans that understands we have other things to do than work, and wants to exchange money for hard work, rather than some sort of blood-bond that ties you to your keyboard late at night random Saturdays when you'd rather be sleeping or exercising.

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My question is this: do these seem like effective tests to evaluate a company or team's values against the above lists? Are there better tests?

The only "tests" that matter are ones that expose conditions that are important to you. Everyone will (and should) have different "tests", since what's most important to you may not be as important to me.

While interviewing, ask to speak with some of your potential peers.

Then, talk to them about what their work day is like. Ask about overtime and comp time. Ask about training. Ask what they like most about working there and what they like least.

And be prepared to take a lot longer on your job search. Being very selective means fewer companies will meet your requirements. But it also means you have a better chance of finding the kind of company you want.

  • I've updated the section you highlighted to clarify it. my question is about the conditions that are important to me that I detailed in the post. thanks – Throw323423 Jul 1 '20 at 13:07
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First off, never accept an offer until they've sent you a copy of the contract. Same goes for any promises they've given you orally, just add them to the written contract yourself if they're not in there, initial the change, and send the contract back to them with the change you've made (but without signing the contract yourself yet). And if the contract in question refers to the employee manual, never sign the contract until they've sent you a copy of the employee manual.

Don't be afraid to be difficult on those points. Maintaining a little bit of tension at the outset is always a good idea. If you accept their offer too quickly, then there is always the danger of them taking you for granted and putting you on their back burner.

Following through on commitments to employees, even if they were verbal

Document. Document. Document. And yes, it's possible to document things retroactively. Just SMS/email the person what they told you the day before.

If you have an example scenario you can give me, I can tell you what you tell them over SMS (or over email).

Past behavior: how much overtime have you worked in the past month? Past year? How much of it was planned? Could be asked on behalf of employees, or directly to them... but there's some wiggle room in the "planned" and "overtime" categories here... it might be useful to define overtime as anything over 40 hours/week.

These are already excellent questions.

Because these questions are concrete, the employee is less likely to lie about them. If you make the question too vague, or ask about averages, that gives too much room for the employee to estimate and give you the kind of answer his boss wants him to give you.

I would only add the question: "When was your last [project] deadline?" That can help you zero in on the week/month you want to talk about.

Then, I'd say "How many hours did you work that week?", "And the week before that?" This way, there is no need to define what you'd consider overtime.

In addition, I'd keep the follow-up questions open-ended. The more open-ended you make them, the more you give the other person room to make a mistake and to give you too much information.

Also, if the vacation is supposedly unlimited or if work from home is acceptable. Don't be afraid to ask "During your first year, how much vacation did you actually take?" or "During your first year, how much of your week did you normally work from home?".

Unfortunately, you have to say "During your first year...", because many companies will recant on promises by saying "Yes, of course. We all work from home, but not if you've just started." or "Yes, we all take at least 5 weeks vacation, but not..."

With that being said, stay much more vigilant if the manager/HR doesn't let you stay in the room alone with your future co-worker. And be wary if you don't get to interview more than one of your future co-workers. I mean if you will only have one co-worker, that's fine. But if you're supposed to have multiple co-workers and you feel you haven't talked to enough of them, don't be afraid to ask.

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