For people working in technical fields (statistics, programming, etc.) it's important to devote time towards self-improvement. In theory, a continuously improving work force should also benefit the business, but the reward is often not immediate and hard to demonstrate to the management.

Thus, I find that it's much easier to have a boss that's sympathetic towards self-learning on the job rather than try to convince a skeptic.

During the interview, how to figure out whether the boss will be open to self-learning on the job (not just at home)? Asking point blank probably won't be effective, since no one would say "No, we do not support employees' learning and improvement."


I'd recommend something open-ended: "How do people learn around here?" Then wait and see whether they mention a training budget (in terms of money or x% of your time), sending people to conferences, or a library, or one of your interviewers spontaneously telling about a training he just attended or a book he just read.

Or take a "commitment to learning" as given and ask your interviewer directly about his or her last learning experience. Was it classroom, virtual, textbook? How did he hear about it? How was it approved? Was it internal or external? How typical was his experience?

Or just ask how someone with your job description would typically spend his day and see whether they naturally mention learning. If they don't, well... you can always ask whether they just forgot it.

Plus, ask to walk around in your prospective office and keep your eyes open. Any textbooks lying around? Conference posters? Anything else learning-related?

  • I like this. A follow-up to "how do people learn new skills?" might be "For instance, would it be reasonable to bring a book in and learn skills during the day or do you usually send your employees out to learn things?" My experiences have been highly cynical, while I think in some company cultures teaching yourself on the job is pretty normal, in others this will be seen as slacking. They feel they will formally train you if need be, or pay for classes (on your time). There will probably be a variety of responses and you can make guesses on culture from there. Jun 3 '16 at 22:01

Ask a whole series of questions:

  • If the solution to a problem is best implemented using a new technology would you support your developer learning that new technology?

  • Do you guys sometimes adopt new technologies which have the potential to be useful? Do you encourage employees to learn these technologies, and offer them the opportunity to research new techniques while on the clock?

They might have a canned answer to one, but not all of them. You'll be able to ascertain their opinion on the matter.

That being said, also use common sense:

  • Does the job require you to deliver results within a very set amount of time?
  • Does your work impact many customers/users, and require very careful vetting before release?

If yes, then most likely the company will try to stick with well-proven, familiar technologies, and demand fast fixes, and lots of testing.

In a company where the applications you're developing are for internal use, etc. you might get a lot more freedom in how you implement them.

  • I don't think any company would truthfully answer "no" to any of your first two bullets - nor to a whole series of such questions. I think this kind of question lacks discriminative ability. Jun 2 '16 at 18:45
  • The problems that the company knows how to solve with its existing knowledge base have already been solved, hence even if you stick with proven technologies there's no guarantee that any one fix will be faster than any other fix. Jun 2 '16 at 20:19

Discuss this when you "meet the team". When you discuss with them any tools or technology ask them about where and how they learned them. If a "meet the team" is not openly offered definitely seek the opportunity out.


I usually like to be honest about how I use my work time. I always tell future employers that I love to learn and that I can often be found with a youtube video about a subject on one screen and my daily busy work on the other. I make it clear this wont affect my ability to get my job done but rather helps me learn new skills and refine existing ones I feel are an asset. Then I'll ask if they have additional ways to help me reach future goals at the company such as tuition reimbursement or training credits.


Find employees who work there and ask them. You might meet some during the day, and beside that they're super easy to find on LinkedIn.

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