I know we've covered what questions you should ask about a company before you would decide to work there. But what do you do with the answers?

In other words, what would you consider a dealbreaker? I.e. what would scare you so much about a company that you wouldn't work there, even if everything else was great?

For example, if they tell me they don't use version control, I wouldn't work there. End of story.

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    "Say, have you read 'Twilight'? What an awesome book! Changed my life!" – BlairHippo Sep 28 '10 at 14:37
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    "We'd like to hire you." Any company willing to hire me is clearly not a company I'd want to work for! – Fishtoaster Sep 28 '10 at 14:46
  • @BlairHippo: the book is still awesome (yes, I read it) if you compare it to the film... not to mention the loads of vampire stories that were published in reaction to Twilight's success. – ShdNx Sep 29 '10 at 10:22
  • The book is always better then the film. – Chris Sep 29 '10 at 12:53
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    I could live with 'Twilight' (i mean, wearing black clothes, speaking wise things noone understands and trying to avoid the sun comes kinda natural to most guys in IT), but when they mention 'Digital Fortress' by dan brown in a sentence without curse words, THAT would be a dealbreaker – keppla Aug 1 '11 at 8:48

33 Answers 33


Companies that feel the need to mention up-front that unpaid (for salaried employees) overtime is required 100% of the time.

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    THIS. THIS. THIS. Occasional "hell weeks" are just part of the industry. But when you're EXPECTED to be putting in "extra" hours just to be perceived as pulling your weight, run. – BlairHippo Sep 28 '10 at 14:33
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    I'll work overtime if it's something I caused - but damned if you're going to throw me on a coder death march so you can underbid on a project and look good to your bosses and get a huge raise while I'm working 60 hour weeks for months on end. – ist_lion Sep 28 '10 at 15:00
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    Or they don't even consider it over-time. – JeffO Sep 28 '10 at 15:05
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    Amen! Worst decision of my career was working for a company after they told me in the interview that "we routinely work 45-50 hours a week." – Austin Salonen Sep 29 '10 at 18:12
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    @Carson63000: Spot on... My first few months I did the same but it was mainly to get things (source control, CI, bug tracking) in place so that I didn't have to work those long days. That ended up burning me because they came to expect that I would work those long days. – Austin Salonen Oct 1 '10 at 13:57

Any form of "punching the clock".

I need flexible hours - give me challenging work, and I'll get it done. Start counting one second of my "time on the clock" as a measure of productivity and I'm out the door.

Maybe what I really want is just plain trust.

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    +1 I hate being "time oriented" rather than "goal oriented". I'll work as much as needed to get an objective accomplished; forcing me to sit at my desk for a certain amount of time (or preventing me from staying when I need to) is absurd. – bedwyr Sep 28 '10 at 14:46
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    +1: The owner of my company calls it 'time-theft' when I get back from lunch 5 mins late. Nevermind the 200hrs of unpaid overtime I've put in. – Steven Evers Sep 28 '10 at 14:52
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    @SnOrfus: Eek. Please tell us your resume is making the rounds, mate.... – BlairHippo Sep 28 '10 at 15:33
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    Respecting and treating someone as an adult can go a long way... – VirtuosiMedia Sep 28 '10 at 17:45
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    Are you serious? I'm paid to get things done - not to be in the office during specified hours. Fortunately, I have an employer (and team, manager, etc.) that gets that. It's possible for me to be in the office from 8am to 8pm every day and do nothing (and hopefully get fired for it); if I don't show up at all - or choose my own flexible hours, but get my work done, that's all that matters. – Alan Oct 2 '10 at 19:04

My shortlist:

  1. Overtime is mandatory (unless I call the shots). Overtime is always a sign of mismanagement. If someone f***s up and I can't do anything about it but waste my spare time to clean up after them, that's a no go for me.

  2. I have to work with the provided tools. Sorry, I'm a senior developer. I didn't spend years refining my skills to be limited arbitrarily.

  3. Bad mood in the team. Dirty/messy workplace. This yells "management doesn't care."

  4. Old computers. A decent computer costs around $1000 (pure hardware). That's about the same as one developer seat per day. If that's not in the budget, sorry, I don't see a point working for a bankrupt company. If the computer is decent, it has to have at least 4GB of RAM. That costs $120 today -> no reason at all to have less.

  5. If my boss is corrupt or tries to corrupt me (lying to customers, making software worse than it could be so we can magically "fix" it for more money, abusing people why they are not present, mobbing).

  6. Agile without any of the rules/tools. Agile is just a label. You need a lot of discipline, rules and management support to be able to be agile. If agile just means for them "we ship crap every two weeks instead of once a year," I quit.

  7. Rules are more important than reality.

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    I've experienced #5 before. Needless to say I was planning my exit strategy that same day. – Jeremy Bade Sep 28 '10 at 18:41
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    RE #6, I always press for details when they say, "We're an agile development shop". Often that just means they don't document or plan anything. – Damovisa Sep 29 '10 at 7:07
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    @David Thornley: Because of my bad experience, I avoid work in places where rules are set into stone by people that don't suffer from them. – Aaron Digulla Sep 29 '10 at 15:38
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    @Aaron - if you came on my team and decided to run your own source code control, you'd be gone pretty quickly. It's simply not possible to efficiently run a large project when everyone is using incompatible tools. Different, but compatible, tools is often fine ... but expecting a .NET development team invested in Visual Studio that you want to do all of your development on a Linux machine with Mono is a sure way to get canned. – Beep beep Sep 29 '10 at 19:58
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    @Aaron, luckily, it sounds like your dealbreakers are quite compatible with employers' dealbreakers: the people you're not interested in working for almost certainly would not want you working for them :-) – Carson63000 Oct 1 '10 at 1:22

Any indication my Internet usage is going to be regulated or spied upon.

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    +1. I have no idea how those scantily clad women got on my desktop. – Josh K Sep 28 '10 at 14:51
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    -1: I disagree with this: There are very good reasons to monitor internet usage. It depends more on why, when and how they monitor it, as well as their policies for what is allowed. When your co-workers get busted hosting child porn web/ftp sites, then you start to see the benefits of monitoring not only from a moral but from a legal standpoint. – Steven Evers Sep 28 '10 at 21:10
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    +1: Even if this were morally defensible, it would still be a waste of company resources. If they need to spy on you to determine whether or not you're being productive, it's not a good place to work. As for potential engagement in unsavory/entirely frightening undertakings: if we as a society don't condone surveillance of our citizens, why should individual companies engage in such a practice? – intuited Sep 28 '10 at 21:19
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    @int the difference is that with the government, you're not using their property or being paid for your time. When a company provides their own equipment and pays you to do something, that is completely different. What if you paid a baby-sitter to watch your child. Would you hesitate even one second to perform surveillance on her if you had any reason to suspect at all that she was stealing from you or abusing your child? Grand ideals about "society not condoning surveillance of citizens" fly out the window when you're talking about YOUR STUFF. – ErikE Sep 28 '10 at 21:42
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    @Emtucifor the fact that companies have a right to employee surveillance does not make it a good policy. They should watch your results, not your internet usage or bathroom habits. If my level of productivity is fine, why would they care that I read news online? Lack of trust produces diminished loyalty. Spy on me, even if it's legal, and I'll make sure I treat you with same amount of respect. – dbkk Sep 29 '10 at 8:51

Dealbreaker: I don't feel like I'm the dumbest person on the team.

What I mean by this is that I don't want to be in a position where I can't learn a lot from my peers. You can always learn from others, but when I worked at one particular company, the people there were amazingly smart, and I felt like I should be back in first grade as far as my programming skills went. However I learned more in a couple years with them than I had in the 5 years prior to that and including school. Now, I try to find a place where my peers make me look bad, because then I know I'll learn a lot.

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    I wish I could relive several years of my life with this mentality. – Steve Sep 29 '10 at 1:58
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    Would this only work for the first decade or so? Since after that you'd be the one that would have to teach other people? – Daemin Sep 29 '10 at 8:02
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    @Daemin: I think/hope it eventually gets to the point where, if you're in the right place, your peers know more about different specializations instead of outright knowing more. – Steven Evers Sep 30 '10 at 22:54
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    Don't know who said it but: "never be the best musician in a band" – Martin Beckett Mar 6 '11 at 4:53
  • It's great that you want to learn a lot. I doubt however that your employer or even your colleagues will be as forgiving as you hope. If you are not as good or better than they are, you will get some time to get your stuff together and if you cannot catch up within the timeframe that THEY have in mind, you will be a goner. – Captain Sensible Jun 24 '11 at 11:50

Sales talks to the customer, then tells us what to build and when to build it.

This is a little more forgivable at companies that don't do software as their primary business, but any serious software company that doesn't allow developers/PMs to interact with the customers is going to produce crappy products, angry customers, missed deadlines, and a lot of misunderstood requirements.

  • Oh, sales... This entire mode of thinking I dislike. – Mark C Sep 29 '10 at 1:35
  • I believe this led to the destruction of one very promising company I was at least peripherally involved with, whose software was the best in the industry. – David Thornley Sep 29 '10 at 14:02
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    Yes, yes, 100 times yes. – Damovisa Sep 29 '10 at 21:23
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    If software is at the heart of the business, you find that the software development gets much more attention. If its only a minor part of the business, then unlikely to get much love. – JBRWilkinson Sep 29 '10 at 22:08
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    Or even worse, Sales tells the customer that the software already does something in order to sell it, and then we have to build it. – Ken Oct 29 '10 at 2:26

Any indication that work/life balance won't be maintained. If a company doesn't have a clear policy regarding family emergencies or life-altering changes (e.g. having a baby or getting married), I wouldn't want to pursue an opportunity with them. This includes being forced to travel an inordinate amount of time.

Work is important, but being present in your family is more so.

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    Unless you don't have a family, then you're probably just a scourge on society ;) (So I borrowed this from Dilbert, but apparently it exists in real life) – Wayne Werner Sep 28 '10 at 17:46
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    Kudos. This is #1 for me as well. I recently moved across country to be with my fiancée and took a new job; I told my new boss, "I am moving across country to form a new relationship, not destroy it." – Chris Holmes Sep 29 '10 at 11:48

Any definite indication that I'm being lied to in the interview about important matters.

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    @Josh K: I've never caught a lie in the interview, but at one job I found out I'd been lied to (about what I'd be expected to do), and eventually things got worse and I started having dreams about toy soldiers coming to rescue me from the company. Seriously. I can still see the arc of the howitzer shells hitting the cubicle walls. It doesn't matter what the lie is about, because if they start lying to you they'll happily continue. – David Thornley Sep 28 '10 at 17:13
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    This happened to me, so it's something I'm particularly sensitive about when I interview. Ironically, the place that lied to me was the only company I've worked for that made a big thing about having an ethics policy. – Stephen Darlington Sep 29 '10 at 10:56
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    +1: This happened to me once. Do you document requirements? Yes! Do you plan according to requirements? Of course! Do you have a product you sell, or does every customer have their own customised version of the software? Product!. No, wait ALL LIES. I left before my trial period was over. It wasn't just one thing, they'd lied about everything If they were truthful only the desperate would join. They folded about 18 months later. – Binary Worrier Sep 29 '10 at 13:13
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    @Baelnorn: I was doing PHP development for a company and they ended up wanting an iPad app. Face meet palm, head meet wall. – Josh K Sep 30 '10 at 2:17
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    I would change that to 'anything at all' no just things that matter. I had an employer note in the interview 'as you can see, the place is a bit of a mess/falling apart because we're in the middle of a renovation.' Turned out that they'd been 'renovating' for 2 years, without any work actually being done. The lie was small, but very foretelling of what was to come. If they lie about little things because they don't want you to know, do you think they'll tell you the big things that they don't want you to know? – Steven Evers Dec 8 '10 at 20:43

The deal breaker is "Anything you create on your own time belongs to the company, and anything that competes with any of several dozen other unrelated businesses owned (now or in the future) by our parent company is prohibited."

The work I do for the company belongs to the company -- no problem. I'm not to compete with the business unit I'm working for -- no problem. But beyond that, such agreements are just asking for trouble, and I can't afford the lawyer power that a company can.

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    I had one clause at a consultancy = you can't later work for any of our clients, or anyone who has clients in common. "Can I see the list of your clients before I sign?" - no that's confidential ! – Martin Beckett Mar 6 '11 at 4:55
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    Unfortunately everyone seems to have some contract now so there aren't many options. This is why we could use a union. As long as that is everywhere and no one boycotts these companies, they get away with it. Mine says they have rights to any products that compete with their business. It is vague defined and I suspect if I invented something I'd have to go to court.... – Cervo May 7 '11 at 21:14
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    Interesting you say that, because I never really care about this - it's pretty much impossible to enforce – Jaco Pretorius Jun 17 '11 at 7:18

We use proprietary version control X

The available free version control systems are so much better in nearly every respect. Using a proprietary one, while not necessarily terrible on its own, but what it implies about the company is.

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    For a large company, it's takes a lot of momentum to deviate from a certain path. Many large companies get products like VSS basically for free, so there's no reason for them not to use it. – Beep beep Sep 28 '10 at 17:53
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    @Jess oddly enough, I see plenty of reasons NOT to use VSS. Even for free... :) – Axelle Ziegler Sep 28 '10 at 19:48
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    Depends on the industry, as Perforce is the only (singular, indeed) VCS that can handle lots of large binary assets. – dash-tom-bang Sep 29 '10 at 1:24
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    If you've ever used ClearCase you'd up-vote this answer ;) – Stephen Darlington Sep 29 '10 at 11:00
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    @Stephen: I had to use CMVC- the VCS that ClearCase replaced. Think about that: acknowledged as worse than ClearCase. >.< – Fishtoaster Sep 29 '10 at 13:59

Working with a boss who thinks I am not apt for the job because I'm a woman (yes, it happened - to a friend).

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    @Hila - That's not a "deal breaker". That's a "money maker". See a lawyer, if that happens to you. – orokusaki Sep 28 '10 at 17:46
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    @orokusaki Life is not always that simple. – Hila Sep 28 '10 at 18:25
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    @orokusaki - I appreciate the analogy. You'll be surprised to find that even when a woman gets beat - it's not always that simple (What if she has kids? What if he threatens to kill her? What if her family considers divorce a great shame and won't talk to her? What if she is financially or in other way dependent on him?). In our case - what if you know that this is what he thinks, although he won't do anything about it because it's the law (can't sue for misogyny)? What if he said something to your friend, who won't do anything because she REALLY needs the job? I'm sorry, life is not boolean. – Hila Sep 29 '10 at 11:17
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    @orokusaki: If the woman has solid evidence that she was turned down because of her sex, and she's willing or able to push hard for recompense, and nothing unfortunate happens, she might get a judgment for $50K (a friend was in a discrimination investigation) in this state. This isn't harassment (unless the woman is asked for sexual favors and can prove it in court), which can get more money. In many places, companies practice illegal discrimination, but avoid letting anybody get solid evidence against them. – David Thornley Sep 29 '10 at 14:01
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    @orokusaki The fail is with you, young orokusaki. – EpsilonVector Oct 1 '10 at 13:24

My dealbreakers are:

  • Working environment == Cubicles
  • Working computers == tiny 15" single monitor, 2 Gb or less of RAM
  • No Internet connection
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    How many developer environments are NOT cubicles? – Beep beep Sep 28 '10 at 17:54
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    @Jess the good ones – JuanZe Sep 28 '10 at 18:26
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    Heh and here I was thinking that I needed to get that quad-dual core machine with 16G RAM upgraded... ;) – dash-tom-bang Sep 29 '10 at 1:24
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    In Denmark you are basically not allowed to put people in cubicles. Every office have to have a windows. :) Of cause you just get open office spaces then. – Bjarke Freund-Hansen Dec 7 '10 at 9:22
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    I would prefer cubicles to open plan. Worst place I saw had gone for private offices/developer - but had built them into a large open plan, so fluorescent lights and AC went across internal walls. You had offices with a section of light in one corner and others where the entire ceiling was lights – Martin Beckett Mar 6 '11 at 4:58

A compensation package comprised mostly of creativity or promises. The bank which holds my mortgage is not impressed by how much money I'll be making when the investors "finally come through."

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    We got so many of those in college- "We'll give you 3% of the company's annual profit!" "What were your profits last year?" "$0." – Fishtoaster Sep 28 '10 at 14:45
  • this should be irrelevant to the "deal". Bonuses are just that - a "bonus". If the base package is not good enough, then you walk. I NEVER consider a bonus as anything that will actually exist ... especially when too many times they've been not awarded due to some political issue – warren Oct 3 '11 at 17:46

I think people are putting to much focus on the technical side of things here. I won't even comment on statements like 'windows is a no go' because in that case a reality-check is in order which is beyond the scope of this.

To get to the point:

Personally I would not so much focus on technical aspects of a job. Sure it's nice if your new company is using a mature SCM solution like perforce or git, it's cool if the firewall has almost no restrictions and you work machine is a 8core with 32gigs of RAM.

Desktop computers can be upgraded and new scm solutions can be implemented if you make valid arguments and manage to convince your boss of the benefits.

What can't be easily fixed is an unfriendly work environment. What can't be easily fixed or changed is the way the employer looks at employees - From my experience that is either (a) machines that you put coffee&cash into and sell the product or people that produce better code when they are treated well and have a good time at work.

My desktop at work is not a power-house and I work with Java even though I'd love to do low-level C programming on micro-controllers. However the working atmosphere is really great. We often have BBQs, regular small developer convention days where people present new stuff they've come across during work etc.

You were quite possibly actually hoping for the kind of technical answers u've been mostly given here so far. I just wanted to put notion on the fact that there is more to a good company than the technical details. Try to make out if the job looks like it has a healthy working environment that wants to make you go to work in the morning rather than shout and curse..

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    Generally speaking (but not always), the issues you dismiss as unimportant are good indicators of how much the company cares. If I don't get at least dual monitors, a good SCM, a decent machine (doesn't need to be a powerhouse), and unblocked internet, then it would take a lot for me to be convinced that said company really cares about their developers. Plus, it would take even more to convince me that they had a developer-oriented culture if they required Windows and didn't write Windows software only. – Jason Baker Dec 9 '10 at 2:29

Mailbox size. Storage is cheap. If you make your employees waste any moment of time clearing out their mailboxes, you've got the wrong priorities.

My previous job had a 100MB limit on personal email accounts and the primary mode of documentation was 10MB+ Powerpoint decks. Given the salary of my then manager, I estimate that she wasted at a minimum of $30k/year of company time organizing her email. Perhaps I was overly stubborn, but it became my personal goal to convince the powers that be that our email policy was easily costing the company on the order of $1mil+ of lost productivity per year.

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    Back in 2001 I worked at a place that gave each employee 100 MB of backup storage on the network. I was doing Access database development at the time. My storage filled up after about three databases. And even at the time it was about $1 worth of storage. – Kyralessa Sep 29 '10 at 3:56
  • what year is this again? When was the last time you worked somewhere with mailbox size limits? – orokusaki Sep 29 '10 at 4:00
  • @orokusaki My current employer has a 40MB limit. In practice it's not annoying, as we never use email to exchange documents. 40MB holds a lot of text only emails. Previous job, the limit was extremely aggravating, because you had to clean out your box every day. – kubi Sep 29 '10 at 9:46
  • We have a limit of 200mb but rather than using the shared drives the common way to collaborate on documents here (large NHS hospital) is a constant back and forth of word files with tracked changes. Chuck a few pictures in these files, random pictures and PDFs and my inbox is a nightmare to manage, I'm constantly pushing the upper edge of my limit. – Chao Oct 29 '10 at 9:20
  • Now that you can give your employees gmail accounts with several gigs of storage for free, I don't really see any excuse to make your employees deal with small inboxes. – Jason Baker Dec 9 '10 at 2:32

Companies which hire w/o asking the candidates to write code

I don't want to work with a company where new "Programmer" in my team doesn't know how to "Program".


Asking for salary history.

That's none of their business and likely to mean they aren't interested in talent so much as hiring warm bodies to burn through.

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    Actually I don't mind this - I just give an honest answer, because in all cases they've given me a great salary anyway. Good businesspeople don't want to hire you for less than you're worth, it's much more expensive to lose you quickly and have to hire you again when you find a better-paid job. – MGOwen Oct 20 '10 at 4:49
  • An example: first employer who asked me this eventually offered me almost double my old salary. – MGOwen Jan 5 '11 at 1:50

I have a short list:

  • Issues with a particular OS. Sure if I'm doing .NET stuff it's probably going to be Windows, but doing PHP / Java development there is no reason to disallow a full range of operating systems. Have a personal grudge against Apple / Linux / Windows that's your business, not mine.
  • Companies that expect or mandate weekend hours. I'm sorry, my weekends are mine. Sure most of the time I'm doing semi-work related stuff anyways, and I may even come in to the office. But sometimes I won't, and you don't have the right to pitch a fit because I don't.
  • If you don't version control that speaks volumes.
  • Non-diverse platforms. It's great that everything is written in Java, however if you aren't open to other options (when there are clearly better languages for certain tasks) you aren't being flexible in an industry that has to be flexible.
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    I agree with all of your points except the OS one. It's nice that you have a preference, but ultimately... best tool for the job, eh? (That is, if you're applying for a .NET job, for example, and insist on using a Mac, you might be a bit peculiar.) – Adam Lear Sep 28 '10 at 15:10
  • @Anna: Hence I don't apply for .NET jobs. ;) I will restructure that point though. – Josh K Sep 28 '10 at 17:41
  • @Josh K: Fair enough. :) – Adam Lear Sep 28 '10 at 17:47
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    @orokusaki: I disagree, but this isn't the place for this argument. – Adam Lear Sep 28 '10 at 18:00
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    @orokusaki - love it or hate it, vendors often exclusively use Windows. If I wasn't on Windows, I couldn't use the tools that I need to use to do my job... (Plus it's not actually bad anymore, hold a grudge much?) – dash-tom-bang Sep 29 '10 at 1:26

Deal Breakers:

  1. No Source Control
  2. App tied to a Database that makes Windows 2000 look like the bleeding edge of technology
  3. No, or poor bug tracking
  4. Timesheets (when not on specific client work) esp. if implemented in a horrible system devised by your sucky payroll software.
  5. Any sign of Major Process Failure - e.g. TPS Reports
  6. No Internet
  • Please define: TPS Reports – Bevan Sep 29 '10 at 20:30
  • @Bevan - TPS Reports is a classic bit from the movie Office Space (if you haven't seen it, go rent it now!) but I was referring in general to any severely flawed process. E.g. if fixing a 1 liner bug requires 10 steps of bugtracking forms, approval, verification, etc. then development is crippled by the process and doomed to fail - run away! – scunliffe Sep 30 '10 at 12:48
  • I have to disagree. I took a job this year that scores at least 4 out of 6 of these issues. Best job I've had: implemented a new source control system, a new bug tracking system, wrote a DAL to decouple the VB6 app from the database, working on normalizing the database and reworking the time entry system. I get to make them all work the way they should. Best job ever... – Scott Whitlock Oct 29 '10 at 0:39
  • Hi @Scott W you are correct, being able to effectively apply change is an awesome feeling and very satisfactory... on the other hand if you find that you can't make headway with the changes/fixes due to "red tape" or management unwilling to budge - you've found yourself a dead end position. – scunliffe Oct 30 '10 at 1:29
  • @Scott - Unless you have really cool bosses, it takes a major effort and a huge amount of stress to make those changes though. You always hear things like "We don't have time to use one of those newfangled 'version control systems'! We need to ship software!" – Jason Baker Dec 9 '10 at 2:37

Are you ready to move away from your town to work abroad?

This is definitely my Dealbreaker

  • No kids and wife left me years ago, and this is a dealbreaker for me, too. If I didn't like where I lived, I'd have moved a long time ago. – BlairHippo Sep 28 '10 at 14:44
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    Oddly, I'm very OK with moving. I'm particular about where I don't want to live, but outside of that, I'm mentally very ok with moving. – Paul Nathan Sep 28 '10 at 16:44
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  • I've moved to the UK for a job... Not that big a deal, really. – configurator Sep 29 '10 at 7:28
  • I would move to the US for a job, if it were good enough. – Callum Rogers Oct 29 '10 at 1:06

Anything that makes me think that they don't know how to manage a software project. 9 times out of 10, when they don't know anything about software development and want to develop software, it's because of one of two things:

  1. They write in-house software and want to offset the cost by selling it.
  2. They saw the margins on software sales in some business magazine and think it's their ticket to getting rich.

And I refuse to work with either of them, ever again.


If the first interview is with an HR rep who knows nothing about the job. Way too bureaucratic for me.

  • just had one of those. I interviewed with HR for 1/2 hr on the phone, and then with IS for 3 hours (one database admin, even though the job requires no DBA tasks whatsoever, just to add to my complaints). – orokusaki Sep 29 '10 at 4:02
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    I can live with it if it's over the phone. – JeffO Sep 29 '10 at 12:08
  • Interesting. First interview with HR is pretty normal in places I've worked - and they've been great places to work. – Bevan Sep 29 '10 at 20:25
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    sometimes its just insulation for an over stressed project team. Given I've spent way too much of my life conducting interviews, I appreciate it when there's a good in house recruiter doing an initial screen to make sure the resume lines up with the actual experience of the candidate. That will cut down by at least 1/2 the number of people I need to interview myself. – MIA Sep 30 '10 at 22:24
  • Meh. It's not so much a no-deal to me as it is a no-deal to the company. I have yet to have an interview with an HR type who actually passed me on to the next level. I always get the impression that if I mentioned that I proved P != NP, they'd reject me for not having 3 years Java experience. – Jason Baker Dec 9 '10 at 2:34

If the founders of the company have moved on, you should too. This isn't an ironclad rule but I've found that companies often lose energy and focus when the founders move on. The people who start successful companies are a rare breed and, though demanding, are great to work with.

  • So Oracle good, Intel bad? ;) – Randy Levy May 9 '11 at 18:51
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    I find this to be a bit too elitist for my taste. Successful companies inevitably grow. A person who is great at starting new companies and running average sized businesses may be the wrong guy to run the company he/she founded once the company moves on to "the next level". – Captain Sensible Jun 24 '11 at 12:04
  • Yes, you're right, this doesn't always apply. However, in my experience (working mostly for small, young companies) it has. It's not a rule so much as a guideline. – lambmj Jun 24 '11 at 17:15

Like a good spamfilter, there are few outright deal breakers, but there are a number of things that will score them up.

  1. Cheap machines. Slow machines with little memory shows they are not interested in maximizing the amount of work I can do for them.
  2. A need to have one machine for e-mail (usually Windows running Outlook) and another for primary duties (programming or system administration.) Constantly jumping back and forth between the two breaks flow and makes it difficult to copy/paste work items into or from e-mail.
  3. Matrixed organizations. When you work primarily with the product team from day to day, but your performance review is done by someone who rarely works with you, that's a recipe for disaster.
  4. A history of poor customer support or low customer loyalty numbers. When a company doesn't treat their customers well, those attitudes from management bleed into how they treat the workforce. Even worse, it can taint how the workforce treats each other.
  5. A history of regular mass layoffs. A national IT company near me seems to have a story every year in the paper about how many they're laying off, and always within a couple weeks (plus or minus) of the New Year.
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    Why would your company want you to have different machines for email and for other work stuff? – configurator Sep 29 '10 at 7:35
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    I interviewed with a place that was getting into iPhone development, but their source control was windows only. Each dev had two machines, a Mac Mini and a windows machine they used to make commits. It sounded like a nightmare. – kubi Sep 29 '10 at 9:50
  • @configurator: I don't think they wanted it. I think they just did that as the easy way out. They had a number of Windows-only apps for internal purposes (HR, e-mail, IM), but the company's entire revenue-raising infrastructure was a mix of *NIX. – John Franklin Sep 29 '10 at 20:05
  • @kubi: Did they at least get iPhones? – configurator Sep 29 '10 at 23:29
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    @configurator They probably had one first-gen iPod Touch that they all shared. – kubi Sep 29 '10 at 23:47

At this stage in my career, a dealbreaker is often the phrase, "you will be required to do some occasional support of existing legacy systems".

Too many times that has resulted in 90% of my time hacking at a VB6 app with no documentation to get it functional again. You're the new guy, therefore the sh*tkicker who has to do the support work.

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    VB6? Consider yourself lucky. I dealt with VB3 (and that was in 2008) – configurator Sep 29 '10 at 7:36
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    I fully support your notion that you shouldn't get the sht jobs just because you're the new guy ... but if I'm interviewing you and get the impression you're not willing to help me *upgrade my legacy systems, no hire. And that's reguardless of how much greenfield development there might be coming up. – Bevan Sep 29 '10 at 20:47
  • @configurator. VB3? WT... I don't even... – Damovisa Sep 29 '10 at 21:20
  • @Bevan - Oh, I'm not talking about upgrading; that's fine. I'm talking about those apps that won't get rewritten because, you know, they work most of the time... – Damovisa Sep 29 '10 at 21:22
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    I've fell for this trick before. I've worked for a company as a senior .net developer, and had to maintain vb6 apps that are over 12 year old. 12 years! C'mon, it ain't that complicated to re-write that with a 8 developer team and 12 years. Considering this app was written by one person, back in the day... – Rick Ratayczak Oct 22 '11 at 16:59

Showing up late for my inteview. You don't get a second chance to make a first impression.

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    Meh. I showed up late for a job interview because the directions were bad. The person giving the interview understood, and it went well. I was offered a better job than the one I originally interviewed for. I'm not saying that its ok to show up late, but just be human about it. Be respectful of other's schedules, but don't avoid the interview because ******** happened on the way. – riwalk Oct 13 '10 at 19:58
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    @Stargazer712 - I'm not suggesting getting up and walking out the very second they are late; it just puts them in a hole that I feel they need to work to climb out. That's why I give my cell phone number. I'd call if I were going to be late. – JeffO Oct 14 '10 at 0:06


If they describe themselves as a "young company" and when you look around you don't see anyone over 35 in any kind of technical position. There's clearly no long term technical career track, and probably nobody experienced enough to learn from. Plus they're probably underpaying and expecting you to work 60+ hour weeks.


My interview "trick question" is usually something along the lines of "What do you guys do for fun?"

In my experience, teams that really gel together end up doing fun stuff together outside of work as well -- bowling, playing badminton, wolpertinger hunting, it doesn't really matter. A blank look from the interviewer at this point is usually a giant red flag for me.

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    "Could you please define 'fun'?" – Mark C Oct 6 '10 at 14:57
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    This sort of thing can be taken too far. I knew someone who applied for a job at some major city (financial) institution. The terms and conditions said something about being obliged to attend a fairly large number of "company sports days" (at the weekends). Creepy. Sorry, but enforced fun ceases to be fun. – timday Dec 18 '10 at 0:32
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    I don't think this one is true if your future co-workers have families. I have enough friends on my own, I don't need a new crew of "drinking buddies", thanks. – Ed Griebel Dec 20 '10 at 16:18
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    I actually quite like this question. It may tell you something about the overall working climate. People who like each other don't mind having lunch with their co-workers once in a while. If there is no friendly atmosfere in the team, then what atmosfere is there? – Captain Sensible Jun 24 '11 at 12:12

Dealbreaker: We don't wanna buy this software, let's pay developers write it, or let's spend months of developers' time wrangling with some crap free alternatives.
I always ask in the interviews what commercial applications you have got and why did you think it is useful for you. Very negative point about a company's resource management.


You can't go round inspecting everything, but a trip to the toilets either before or after the interview can tell you everything you need to know about a company and how it treats its staff.

I'm not a hygene nut, but I do feel it's important that the facilities I'll be using every single day are decent.

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