I've identified a few things I need in a contract to be a good fit for me, and one of those is a flexible management. I want a team and management that doesn't micro manage, is capable of adjusting to change, supports appropriate level of refactoring, and generally sticks to what I feel 'agile' development is suppose to be.

I want a manager that if I go to him and say I don't like a ticket because x they would be willing to say "hmm your right, maybe we should instead consider doing Y'. Not that they have to always agree with me, but they should listen to their programmers and be flexible enough to be willing to consider alternatives, honestly debate when feature creep or refactoring may be justifiable for long term growth vs when it's too excessive. I don't want management that is going to say you can't do that with a ticket because it will affect our burn rate, why should making a made up statistic look 'good' be one's top priority in decision making? In short folks who actually listen to their development team!

Furthermore while I know technical debt will always exist in a project, and to a certain degree developers are generally going to prefer cleaning it up more them management because we want to be proud of our code while management just wants something that meets customer needs, I also want to avoid management that accepts too high a level of technical debt without making any real efforts to cleaning it up.

And of course I just want pleasant manager. One that doesn't point fingers when bugs inevitable happens but instead focuses on fixing things, one that is willing to listen to a developer and try to tailor tickets to the developers interest (within reason, obviously some work just needs to be done rather or not it's enjoyable). A manager that's simple pleasant to deal with.

Of course I say I want this, but how do I know if I'm getting it? A contract feels like such an unknown when I go in. I can ask questions at an interview, but the people who are interviewing me will often say what they think I want to hear, I've been assured that their team is just like what I want when it totally wasn't on plenty of occasions. Even when I ask questions I don't really feel like I have any real understanding for what I'm getting myself into before I have to pick something and that I just have to pray it will work out.

So how do I ask questions that actually give me useful feedback on what the management and team will be like? How do I know going in if it's going to be a team and management structure I'll work well in or one I'll hate before I commit myself?

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    What they say and what happens will often be different.
    – Solar Mike
    Dec 30, 2022 at 17:26
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    None of what you are asking appears to be much to do with "agile" as most people understand it. Those questions can answered either way by a company that is doing pure Waterfall or BDUF. Dec 31, 2022 at 16:36
  • "Agile" is too much of a buzzword, and almost nobody does proper "Agile", nor even understands when it is inappropriate.
    – Nelson
    Jan 9, 2023 at 7:54

4 Answers 4


So how do I ask questions that actually give me useful feedback on what the management and team will be like? How do I know going in if it's going to be a team and management structure I'll work well in or one I'll hate before I commit myself?

You ask lots and lots of questions, then gauge the responses.

Ask the hiring manager:

  • If I go to you and say I don't like a ticket because x, how would you respond?
  • What do you do when your developers identify technical debt?
  • Do you try to tailor work tickets to developers' individual interests?

Ask your potential peers:

  • Tell me about [the manager]. Would you say they are pleasant to work for?
  • Do you like working here?
  • What do you like least?

Of course I say I want this, but how do I know if I'm getting it?

You will only know if you are getting it after working there a while. There are no guarantees in life.


Talk to the people in the department. Ask them how the workload is managed/tracked, whether release dates are treated as agile or waterfall, and so on. They should be willing to tell you what the environment is like.

Note that this will also help you detect groups that are overdoing agile to the point of spending too much time on process and not enough on getting things done. (Too many people, not focused enough, etc.)

You may still be disappointed. Management still talks more about agile than actually doing it, since upper management still often works with waterfall planning deadlines. But things have been getting better.


You cannot.

You can ensure about something if that thing is already there. You are like asking "How can I ensure that I will find this book in this library?". Well, if the book is not there you cannot find it, and no action by you can put the book there. You don't control library actions.

If your question is "How can I ensure that I found sign of X in a company in interview with the company?" then again if the sign is not there you cannot find it. Even if you do find a sign the interviwer may be just pretending it. There is no sure way to tell. The interviewer is likely to have more experience in the game than you.

The only sure way to tell is to talk with people who are already working there. Bringing this up with interviewer is unlikely to get you the opportunity, its an unusual request and interviewer don't get anything worth the trouble from it and you don't want to give impression of being high maintenance.

Usually companies take multiple interviews, atleast in tech sector, so use that as an opportunity to get that information, from the interviewers themselves. Dont ask a yes/no question. Ask how about their process, the detail. Don't telegraph to them what you like to hear, don't use terms.

See if the multiple accounts fit with each other. As in say what others say in different words, or add in each other. If they say conflicting things - things that cannot happen physically together then most likely none of them are happening.


Sometimes you just have to suck it and see, then vote with your feet.

Only very naive managers will admit to being hell to work for, or that their product is embarrassingly bad.

And when you do focus questions on a particular issue, either other important issues will be forgotten or skipped over, or adverse inferences will be drawn from asking the question, or the answer will be fudged or ambiguous.

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