What Is It Really Like to Work Here?

Image CC0 by José Martín
Canon EOS 60D (18mm, f/10, 1717986919 sec, ISO100)
Image CC0 by José Martín

After reading Joanne Cleaver’s The Dirty Truth About ‘Best Places to Work’ Lists and her follow-up article Are ‘Best Places to Work’ Lists for Real? 5 Ways to Tell, I have decided to change my typical response, when during an interview, the interviewer ask if I have any questions. Normally I would respond with questions designed to show my interest in the firm and the role. For example, I might ask about any specific challenges facing the department or the organization. The interviewer’s response is an opportunity to offer some ideas on how they might approach the problem.

While I think that it’s important to continue to ask these questions, what I read in those two articles has made me realize that perhaps instead of generic questions about work environment and company culture, that more specific question might serve me better. Heck, it might even help the interviewer.

So, after some thought, here are the questions I would ask.

  • How many women/blacks/Hispanics/Asians/LGBT work on your team and in information technology?
  • How many women/blacks/Hispanics/Asians/LGBT have leadership positions?
  • How many women/blacks/Hispanics/Asians/LGBT have senior leadership positions?
  • How well are women/blacks/Hispanics/Asians/LGBT compensated compared to their cis-gendered white male peers?
  • Outside of Media/Communications and Human Resources how many women are in leadership positions?
  • What specific programs does your department or the organization have in place to encourage diversity?
  • How well is the diversity program working?
  • What would you change about company culture?

These questions are not designed to make the interviewer squirm but if she/he does then I have my answer as to her/his mindset. There is a risk that I might be eliminated as a candidate for the job. But would you want to work in a place where these sort of issues are not openly discussed?

What sort of question would you ask?

Escape Clause

Image CC0 by Stefan Kunze
Image CC0 by Stefan Kunze

Even while the internet and its emerging subcultures continue to hint at newer, smarter modes of working and living, you may still be told it’s vain to insist on a station more fulfilling than a permanent stall in a well-reputed grid. According to my critics, even if you find your standard weekday boring, painful or unfulfilling, you ought to embrace it, simply because a third-world coal miner would kill for your benefits package. When so many have so little, attempting to escape a situation in which you can reliably feed yourself and fund a retirement could only be an act of the utmost ingratitude.

A minority of us believe the opposite is true — that escaping from an unfulfilling mainstream lifestyle isn’t a moral failing, but rather a moral imperative. It’s precisely because we have all the necessary freedoms at our fingertips (and because others don’t) that spending our lives in the stable isn’t just foolish, but wrong. To remain, voluntarily, in a life where your talents are wasted and your weekdays are obstacles is to be humble in all the wrong ways.David Cain