Steve Fenton

Software developer interviews

There is a big difference between interviewing for a Theory-X company and a Theory-Y company. The good news is that when you are looking for a Theory-Y company; you don’t need to worry about adjusting your style based on the organisation.

Let’s look at the traditional Theory-X interview first. This is the one they trained you for at school. These interviews are essentially tests and the process is asymmetrical. You listen to a question. You take a good look at the faces of your interviewers. You work out what answer they want to hear. You give them that answer.

But you know what they say; pass a Theory-X interview – get a Theory-X job.

But what about Theory-Y interviews? Well now we aren’t talking about a test at all. In fact, instead of the interviewer setting the agenda the situation is evenly balanced. This is the start of a social contract – “we have a job that you might want, and you might be the person we want to work with”. To get through this kind of interview, both parties need to searching out the information they need to find out whether it is a good move – and both parties will be thinking about whether the other party will be happy about the partnership.

So what do you tell a potential employer in a Theory-Y interview? The truth. They want to know what job you want to do. They can tell you if they can offer that job or not as long as you are willing to describe it. Forget all of your “I’m willing to take on any challenge” or “I work well in a team as well as on my own” lines. Try something more like “I want to have more control over how my code is built and deployed and I don’t want to hand it over to a packaging team when I can just automate the whole process myself” – or whatever it is that floats your boat.

You may discover that your job is composed of aspects that you can self-select into, or that there are no project managers, or that you can use that tool, technique, or technology that you aren’t allowed to touch at in your current job – that’s why you are leaving right? So make sure that the new job isn’t going to be like the one you are leaving by actively determining with your potential new employer whether there is a good match.

Written by Steve Fenton on