13

In a software development company I was told they have three month probation period. I am curious if it is ok if I ask the manager what they expect during this probation period and how likely a candidate is to pass it.

If this probation period has likelihood of passing 10% this is a NO NO for me - because first I will miss other opportunities during these 3 months, and then I need to explain three month gap or why I left to another company. So is it ok to ask what they expect in this probation period candidate in order to pass it?

7
  • 13
    This is a very standard practice, companies don't employ someone just so they can get rid of them and laugh mischievously. This is a safety net in case you have lied about your skills or you are not a good personal fit for the company. This also works both ways and gives you a chance to escape if you don't like it. You could ask but I'm not sure what impression this will give.
    – DavidB
    May 27, 2016 at 11:16
  • 1
    These mean different things in different countries. Where are you from?
    – Lilienthal
    May 27, 2016 at 11:29
  • 2
    This is very common in almost all companies I've been in. They just want to make sure you are what you say, and you didn't talk your way through an interview. Cutting you for no reason(or small reasons) would cost a lot of money and not make sense. So no worries.
    – cbll
    May 27, 2016 at 11:32
  • 9
    Definitely discuss what their expectations are. They shouldn't really be any different from what will be expected of you after your probationary period. I wouldn't ask what percent of candidates pass their probationary period. If a potential candidate asked me this I would think they are questioning our hiring practices or they have concerns they won't be able to do the job. Just be confident in your abilities, ask for feedback on how things are going, and it will work out.
    – Marc
    May 27, 2016 at 12:48
  • 2
    If the employer balks because you ask a question about how the probation period will work, especially if you happen to not have encountered it before, and if you asked politely and whatnot. Well, that's a company you wouldn't have wanted to work for anyways.
    – stannius
    May 27, 2016 at 19:41

9 Answers 9

21

Yes, it is OK to ask. Generally, anything you are concerned about is OK to ask during the interview period - that's what it is for!

In some cases (I don't think this one is one) asking about something might hurt your chances of an offer. That usually means it's a bad fit anyway - it's clearly something that you care about.

In addition, probation periods are very common in many places. It's usually more of a safety-net - only if a new hire under performs severely, they will be fired after this period.

3
  • 10
    I would say not only is it OK to ask but it should be your responsibility to understand what constitutes as a very important clause in your contract. Tactfully approaching your manager, explaining that this probation period is a new concept to you and that you want to fully understand how it fits in with your new role will show that you are a thoughtful and responsible employee.
    – DanK
    May 27, 2016 at 12:40
  • 3
    DanK's comment really should be baked into this answer. This is the kind of thing that shows you recognize when something might be subjective and how to make it objective. In the software world, that skill is invaluable. Anyone who's had twelve rounds of back and forth with QA because the business user said "It's not right" without saying why knows this pain.
    – corsiKa
    May 27, 2016 at 17:08
  • just interview was held already -... does that make any difference w.r.t to asking?
    – user51063
    May 27, 2016 at 20:43
10

Probation is a safety net for the employer and usually for both sides.

So, 'why safety net' - because it's easier, better and cheaper, not just for the employer but the employee too, to be able to walk away from a working relationship if it's clearly not working out.

This is, as others have said, standard practice... Normally, both 'sides' can walk away without complications (e.g. Notice periods) within the probation period. No matter how well the interview went, there are certain things that neither party will know about how a working relationship will progress until you've both tried it on for size.

Unless your performance falls grossly short of what you promised during the interview, think of the probation period as them acknowledging it will take time for you to start performing and giving you time for that to happen.

It's very unlikely indeed that this is some kind of trick from an unethical employer; if I need someone on my team for 3 months, it's both easier and probably more cost effective in the long run to offer a temp employee a 3 month contract.

4
  • 1
    I especially like the insights in the last paragraph: not passing your probationary period requires some big red flags in my experience. However, I have some issues with your second last paragraph. A probation period is not about acknowledging that employees need time to start performing. I want my employees to continously improve their performance, not just during the probation period. While I might expect a fresh graduate to not perform cost effectively immediately, a new hire with work experience can be expected to perform pretty much from day one. May 27, 2016 at 13:11
  • 2
    @Underdetermined an experienced new hire can be expected to perform from day one to some extent yes, but even if the job they are doing for you is literally 100% identical to their previous job (which is unlikely) then they'll still take time to come up to standard as they need to learn where form x is kept, or where the files are or how files are organised on the build server, etc.
    – Rob Moir
    May 27, 2016 at 13:14
  • @RobM in my case i'm not even very well familiar with tech they use, but they are aware of it
    – user51063
    May 27, 2016 at 14:50
  • Probation period is very much a double edged sword. I have seen three of employees walk out on probation because the job was not what was advertised according to them. On the otherhand ive only ever seen one dismissal on probation. So i take that my sample is somehow skewed.
    – joojaa
    May 27, 2016 at 22:11
5

I am a Software Development Manager in the UK and currently recruiting developers - Here is why I offer a 3 month probation period (To confirm what others have said).

It is very possible for a candidate to slip through the interview net - either accidently or intentionally. Having someone on the team who doesn't fit or want to be there is terrible long term for the person and the team. Both sides have a one week notice period for the first 3 months.

I can categorically tell you that I have never, ever considered hiring someone on a temporary basis for three months instead of using a contractor - For the reasons others have already said - And genuinely most (Even evil) companies aren't That evil - I've found anyway.

Here's the numbers to explain why it just doesn't make sense: Developers salary in North of England is (say) £40K per year or £10K for the probation period of three months. Getting in a decent contractor may cost me (say) £300 per day, or 300*5*12=£18K for 3 months.

At first glance its way cheaper to hire and fire permanent. However remember most recruitment agencies are taking a fee of 20%.

Factor that in and it now costs £18K to hire and fire within the first three months. So companies don't really save money, would get immediate bad will and will quickly find even recruitment agencies won't touch them.

I'd also encourage any candidate to ask questions about the probation period in an interview.

I've hired developers for small startups to FTSEE 100 companies and every time the company has always wanted to get the right person in.

Hope this helps.

P.S. - If you are the candidate I'm interviewing on Tuesday - Ask me. Really - I'll respect you more for it.

1
  • No I am really not - but I can apply if you have remote vacancies :))) PS. Yes just interview period has passed over
    – user51063
    May 27, 2016 at 20:39
3

Every job I've had to date (UK) has had a probation period (sometimes 3 months, sometimes 6 months) and it's never been an issue and I've never known anyone to fail one. Obviously it must happen but it seems to be vanishingly rare - the company has put all the effort into interviewing you, sorting out contracts etc. - they want you to succeed.

In terms of what to expect some companies will have a plan together of what you need to achieve in the probation period, but that's not always the case. Don't always expect to get told you've passed the probation either. In my experience you leave work at the end of your probation and come in the next day and your security pass still works, therefore you've passed.

It might be worth having a chat at the start, if they don't approach you and find out what is expected for you at the end of the period. It shows willing and would perhaps help to get a positive initial reputation as well.

Provided you haven't massively over exaggerated your suitability for the job then you should be fine!

2
  • 1
    I have once heard of a guy who failed 10 minutes into his probation period. I think he was asked to do some job and said it was beneath him, and the company fully agreed :-)
    – gnasher729
    May 27, 2016 at 12:19
  • 1
    @gnasher729 Had seen a lad mess up an IT hardware delivery to a client near the end of his second month in my last employment which resulted in myself and 2 other engineers on site with incorrect equipment and the wrong software. Literally the only time I've ever seen someone not pass the probation period.
    – iamgory
    May 27, 2016 at 12:46
3

In terms of percentages: If you fail your notice period, it means the person interviewing you did a very bad job at judging you. It's very inconvenient for the company, because now they don't have an employee they were looking for, and have to go through the whole, expensive hiring process again. So the percentage of failures is quite low.

There are really two ways to fail: By doing something really stupid in the first week - that gives the company a chance to call #2 and #3 on their list of potential employees and offer them the job (that's also why you shouldn't burn your bridges if you don't get a job; there's a tiny chance they call you within a week). "Something stupid" would be mostly about your behaviour. You are expected to make mistakes in your job, except reckless mistakes that could cost money instead of asking for help would be bad.

Or you work through the notice period, and shortly before the end your manager asks himself if you are up to the job, and the answer is "no". Obviously he would take into account that you are new to that particular job and will improve over time. He would also take into account that letting you go means a new, expensive hiring process, taking on someone else who has no experience, without any guarantee that the next guy is any better. So you would likely be safe as long as you come somewhat close to their expectations.

1
  • as mentioned elsewhere, this is governmental organization, but I doubt this matters in this case
    – user51063
    May 27, 2016 at 13:18
1

Software development, I think, is a very specific situation because unlike a lot of other jobs there are a lot of people out there who can give a good interview and might even have even memorized enough tricks to pass a short competency test, but when it comes down to it can't actually develop software. To an extent you should always feel as an SDEV that you begin a job on a probationary period. The companies that spell it out might have been burned in the past, but I've definitely worked at places where people were given a month or even six months to work out whatever they were going to do before they were let go, even with no probationary period in place.

I think that if you can write code then you're probably OK, and if you can't then you probably are not. Otherwise, I would use other criteria than this one to determine if the place is a good fit for you. If it seems overly competitive or there are signs that management is not nice (perhaps there's a high turnover rate, maybe it's just a vibe you get during the interview) then that "probationary period" might in fact be a big red flag, but even there the red flag isn't so much in the probation, it's

I will say that if you're familiar with a particular stack and you're moving out of that particular stack, you might want to make clear where your strengths and weaknesses are heading in. If a company has that "let's see how this person does for 3 months before granting them a FT position" outlook at the forefront, you positioned yourself as a front-end ace in the interview, and you struggle off the bat with a website set up in Angular, then that's going to look a lot worse than if you admit that you don't have experience with that particular framework. The flip side of that is that the company may decide not to hire you in favor of someone else who does claim to be an ace (who in turn may not be truthful). Good salesmanship is key here.

The final thing that I would be most concerned about in your position is if the company in question is hiring, say, 2 devs to fill one slot with the intention that the poorer performing one will be shown the door. Honestly, I have not really seen this happen in practice - good devs are too hard to find to alienate one by doing that, and besides, companies tend to be too cheap to pay for 2 guys for 3 months knowing that they really only want one of them - but it's probably a thing I'd stay away from personally.

1
  • i've mentioned what I know and don't honestly on interview. their tech is new to me... but I am ok with it. I am also finishing an assignment they gave me now
    – user51063
    May 27, 2016 at 17:12
1

Taking another perspective than the other answers, the probation period, in Europe (generally speaking), is a safety net for the company only.

The rules are more or less that you can leave with a notice of n days after m weeks during this period. Same applies to the company. The point is that you can always leave afterwards (with usually a 3 months notice), while the company must go through hoops to fire you.

The other point is that the notice period has way less impact for the company than it has for you.

  • You decide to leave your previous job without any guarantee that you will keep the next one.

  • For the company, sure, this is a pain to go through the hiring process again but the impact is not likely to be like yours.

So yes, this is a very common practice (at least in Europe) but it is mostly for the benefit of the company. You can try to negotiate but except if you are an exceptional candidate, you will have to go through it.

0

I am curious is it ok if I ask the manager: what do they expect during this probation period? How likely is candidate to pass it? Because if this probation period has likelihood of passing 10% this is a NO NO for me - because first I will miss other opportunities during this 3 month, and then I need to explain three month gap or why I left to another company. So is it ok to ask what they expect in this probation period form candidate in order to pass it?

Yes ask if there are any expectations. If it sounds like they have a difficult set of hurdles ask for more details. In some companies they expect you to finish one or more training classes during probation. Others expect certification is a process. Others only have a probationary period as a safety-net.

With some companies you might not be treated as a permanent employee. They may limit your ability to receive full benefits, or your ability to transfer to another team while in the probationary period.

So yes you should ask more details. You should even ask if there is a mandatory set of review meetings during the probationary period.

1
  • this is actually a governmental organization not a company - but I doubt it matters in this case
    – user51063
    May 27, 2016 at 13:14
0

In terms of percentages from my experience it's more like 98% pass and 2% fail because they just can't get it together.

You can ask the manager what it means, but they actually don't really know until you do something to mess up. Even if you mess up, it has to be pretty bad before they'll let you go, they are investing time and money and resources into you. You have to be pretty awful to fail usually. Or have totally misrepresented your skillset or something like that.

You must log in to answer this question.