As the tech market has heated up over the past couple of years I've been approached with increased frequency by companies trying to hire me away from my current job. So far none have succeeded!
In the interests of helping them understand why and maybe improve, here are some of the reasons I've passed on them.
Benefits / culture
I'm 48 at the time of writing this. I may come across as younger because I actively spend time with my teenager and also work at a cool marketing company. But I've been working for almost 30 years, I've worked a lot of companies of various sizes, and I really hope I'm closer to retirement than the start of my career.
Some examples of benefits or company culture that don't interest me:
- Paid parental leave - this is great, but it's the law in Canada, and I am not having more kids. Do you offer similar leave to spend time with elderly parents who need care?
- Unlimited vacation – sure, but not really, most of the time the company is gambling you'll take less than you should, and it's also an end-run around having to track a corporate liability that should be part of your benefits. If a company doesn't value me and my team enough to make specific amounts of vacation time part of our compensation, like other health benefits, and then push us to take that time during the year – that's a red flag.
- Work hard – Working hard is a game for young people with more energy than experience. I work smart, plan properly and expect others to do the same, and don't bang my head against problems that have already been solved. If you're working hard all the time maybe flag that as a problem instead of something to celebrate, and hire more experienced staff?
- Play hard – One of my goals when starting a job is not to make friends (though I do enjoy when that happens), and certainly not anything approaching "family". I have both of those already, and I have no interest in spending work-sponsored time outside of work hours with my coworkers. This includes team building exercises, sports teams, annual events, and certainly anything requiring travel. I am at a job to work, my recreation time is my own.
- In-office perks – I've been working remote for 6 years, and I have no plans to go back into an office unless it's to pick up/drop off work equipment. I don't care about coffee or snacks or catered meals, I have a kitchen and expect my salary to be sufficient to feed myself. I rarely drink alcohol, and certainly not when working.
- Dog-friendly offices – How do you inclusively handle people with severe dog allergies? I don't have them, but know people who do. Are they forced to work from home? Do they even apply to your company when they see that on your website?
Add-ons instead of base pay
Monetary add-ons to compensation besides salary are nice to have, but I have a mortgage and bills and savings requirements, so my expected base salary is fixed. If you want to add on bonuses or stock options or whatever else that's great, but if my base pay doesn't cover my budget then there's no point in proceeding.
No offense intended to anyone who prefers a commision-based job, or one where a large part of compensation is a bonus, or are willing to gamble on options – those are just not for me.
A lot of companies seem to think that by building technology platforms or furthering capitalist goals of helping other companies make money they are performing some inherent social good.
I have the opposite view, that those companies are by default a social negative, and need to actively demonstrate what they are doing to be socially responsible and give back to their local communities and the world.
If you don't actively help your employees be more socially responsible (time off for volunteering, matching charitable donations, etc) and your company isn't directly contributing back (pro-bono work or other contributions to non-profits or charities), then I'm probably not a good fit for you.
There are a growing number of companies whose mission and business combine both financial growth and socially responsible actions – I am very intersted in working for those companies.
Executive and general diversity
I realize that as a white middle-aged male it may be unexpected that I want diversity at a company I work for, especially as it may limit my chances of being hired, but I do.
I will look for your executive team on your website – if they're not visible, or only a few founders out of a larger executive team, that's a red flag. If they're visible and all white that's a red flag. If the only women in your exec are heads of HR and Marketing that's a red flag.
Any softening of diversity language on your website (ie, "we strive to be inclusive") is a red flag. There is no try, just do it, you have no excuse.
If you claim to be diverse and inclusive, but have a large team and lots of pictures and videos of staff on your website and there are noticeable gaps in diversity – that's a red flag.
Keep in mind that I am a hiring manager in technology, I understand that it's difficult. Stop making excuses and just do it.
I will look up your company on Glassdoor. If the majority of your reviews are almost identical, are uniformly positive and 5-star, and are from people at the company <1yr, I will assume you're asking staff to astroturf the reviews – red flag.
I will look at your low-rated reviews on Glassdoor. If you give multi-page non-responses to negative reviews that don't directly commit to anything or identify how you're addressing the problems identified - red flag.
"Growth is hard" is not an excuse for treating people badly.
I'll generally distrust any overall rating over 4.5.