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Are You an Agile Company?“ – Job Interview Guidelines for Generation Y

In recent months, more and more friends graduating from university or looking to change jobs have asked me whether I could recommend any agile companies to them. This enquiry usually goes hand in hand with the question of how one can actually tell whether a company is agile or not. As a member of the infamous Generation Y, I completely understand that companies, which support and live by the agile values are far more interesting employers. After all, openness, respect, focus, commitment and courage along with agile leadership practices such as Management 3.0 fill my need for self-organization and carrying out value-driven work. However, detecting whether a company can truly be called agile is not so easy. Firstly, many companies spend valuable money on marketing campaigns in order to present themselves as riding with the current agile wave. Secondly, a certain amount of insight into a company is necessary before one is able to pinpoint an organization’s core values. So apart from the usual googling, consulting websites like kununu, or asking around, I suggest that one actually uses the opportunity of the job interview itself to get more insight.

Inspired by the discussion from an Open Space session on the topic of „How do we know whether an organisation is agile?!“ that I hosted at last year’s Agile Coach Camp in Kandersteg (a fantastic un-conference that you should definitely participate in this year) as well as random conversations with friends and colleagues, I have put together an unprioritized set of job interview questions. Of course, this list is not complete and these questions are in addition to the usual ones that you should ask at a job interview …

  • What does the company’s organizational structure look like? (i.e. hierarchies, career paths, departmental silos etc.)
  • How does the company handle staff reviews and performance appraisals?
  • How will my performance be measured?
  • How would you describe the company’s feedback culture? Can you give me any examples?
  • What aspects do you appreciate most about your current employees / co-workers?
  • What are the working conditions like? (i.e. open office, flexible work hours, slack time etc.)
  • How would you describe the communication between the various levels of management and their employees?
  • How much outsourcing and offshoring is being done?

Before you begin with your questions, it might be an idea to start off by explaining how important the work environment and culture are to you for achieving your highest potential. For this reason, you need to ask a few strange questions. And then you ask whatever you wish to ask. However, don’t forget to generally have a look at the company’s hiring practices, as this says a lot about its culture already. That means: Who is interviewing you (team member, management, HR)? What kind of questions are they asking you? What is the atmosphere of the interview like? What do the offices look like?

What do you think – would the answers to these questions help you with your job decision? Can you think of some more questions? What else would you recommend to figure out whether your future employer shares the same values?