Ask These 10 Questions in a Job Interview When Your Top Priority is to Advance Your Career Quickly

In this three-part series on how to find the right job that aligns with your current goals, I am breaking down some well-designed questions that should be asked while interviewing and evaluating a company. These questions originated from Caleb Kaiser’s post specific to startups, but I have applied them more broadly to all companies and answered them on behalf of Atomic Object. Part one explored questions to ask if your priority is to make as much money as possible. In this post, I’ll focus on how you can evaluate a company if career growth is most important to you. 

Chart your room for career growth in this company.

“What progression do you envision for someone in this role?”

Atomic Object is a relatively small company with currently just over 100 Atoms. That means progression with roles is not overly complicated. For makers on our project teams, there is an opportunity to take on a lead role within each project team (most teams have a delivery lead, design lead, and tech lead). At an office level, there’s an opportunity to work up to a Principle Consultant or a Practice Lead.

Additionally, there are more opportunities to lead within Atomic since the company has a co-leadership model. Each office has a pair of Managing Partners, and most of our MPs were previously makers. To facilitate career growth, Atomic offers career development by pairing each team member with a Career Development Manager. In this self-directed program, your CDM acts as a coach who will help you define and reach your goals in a way that works best for you.

“Does this role contribute to higher-level decisions?”

Short answer: yes. Atomic is a 100% employee-owned company with a relatively flat organizational structure and small offices with a high level of autonomy. Everyone within the organization has direct access to all leaders and has various ways to provide feedback at any time. Additionally, the input from each project team goes into office-level decisions. So, in direct and indirect ways, each role at Atomic contributes to higher-level decisions. As Atoms progress in their career, they receive additional opportunities to be more directly involved.

“Will I be able to learn new skills and technologies in this role?”

Learning new technologies and expanding your skills are key aspects of working for Atomic Object. As a consultancy, we’re always taking on new challenges and working with different technologies. No two projects are the same, and since team members typically change to new projects at least once or twice a year, you’ll have ample learning opportunities.

Decide if this company will open doors for you later in your career.

“Does this company have a big ‘brand’ already?”

Atomic Object may not be a “big brand” like the major tech companies, but we are exceptionally well-known across software consultancies. Our online presence has garnered much respect and admiration, largely thanks to our blog, Atomic Spin, consistent press releases, and client-led rankings on sites like Clutch. Our brand is big enough to draw steady inbound demand from clients and potential employees. This question was originally meant to evaluate how much credibility a startup brand might give you. At Atomic, we are also representatives of our clients, past and present. That means our portfolio includes an impressive list of incredible companies and very well-known brands.

“What are the founders’ backgrounds?”

This question was originally meant to determine whether or not the founders of a startup had successful exits in the past. Atomic’s goal is to be a 100-year-old company, so an exit isn’t on our radar. Nonetheless, our founder, Carl Erickson, and our co-CEOs are impressive individuals with stories worth learning about. You can read their bios on our team page and learn about their experiences and perspectives by reading some of their blog posts. Fun fact: all three have or did work for Atomic for at least 20 years, so they have all the good stories!

“What are the backgrounds of the people on your team?”

Your “team” at Atomic includes the entire company since teams change when new projects begin. Across the organization, we have team members from a variety of backgrounds with diverse experiences. You can check out each person’s bio on our team page.

Determine where you want to be and if this company will help you get there.

“Is this company in a field you ultimately want to work in?”

While I can’t answer this for you, I can point you to our portfolio and talk to you about all the industries we work in and the types of problems we solve to help you assess whether or not Atomic aligns with your career growth goals. If you want to go deep in just one problem space, then a consultancy probably isn’t the right choice. But say you’re interested in variety or you aren’t sure yet where you might want to focus down the road. There’s no better place than a consultancy to get experience in multiple industries in a relatively short time.

“Will this company expose you to technology and problems that excite you?”

With the wide variety of our clients, projects, technologies, and unique challenges we’re trying to solve, I’d find it surprising if the answer is no! However, this is a great question, particularly for a product company. For us, there will always be new problems to solve and new technologies to explore, and we get to tackle them all while working at just one company. That’s the beauty of a consultancy.

“Does this company have the role you’d ultimately like to be in?”

This is another great question only you can answer. If there’s a specific role you’re hoping to get into, you need to assess whether or not you’ll get there or closer to it through the roles the company offers. If you’re in one role now, such as a designer, and you’d ultimately like to try being a Product Manager or Delivery Lead, let’s talk about that! Those types of transitions are common at Atomic, so we can explore what that journey might look like for you.

Bonus question: ask yourself, “Do I know any investors or founders who can share insight with me?”

I recommend asking around to gain insight and guidance from key groups of people. Choose someone who really knows you professionally (as in, they know your background and future goals, they understand your industry, and they can point out your blindspot to help push you outside of your comfort zone). Also, choose someone whose background and experience you admire and respect (they have lessons learned from their own career, and they know the professional game so they can help you evaluate strategic moves in your career). Additionally, choose anyone with connections to the company you’re considering (current employees, alumni, advisors, etc. — someone you’d trust to help you better understand what it’s like inside the organization).

In the final segment of this series, I will explore questions to ask if your main priority is finding that perfect culture fit.


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