Ask These 10 Questions in a Job Interview When Your Top Priority is to Make More Money

A few years ago, Caleb Kaiser wrote a piece for Wellfound, formerly AngelList, helping job seekers evaluate job prospects. He pointed out that most candidates prioritize one of three main categories when determining their next career move: compensation, career, and culture.

Your priorities shift throughout your career, so it’s valuable to think about your current goals and be honest with yourself. There is no right or wrong answer. Your journey and your motivations are uniquely yours and are entirely valid. Don’t compare yourself to others or fall into the trap of thinking there’s a perfect way to optimize your career path.

Doing due diligence on a company is essential, and assessing that information based on your priorities is crucial for your own success and satisfaction. Over three posts, I will break down 30 questions to ask in a job interview by category. I’ll also answer them on behalf of Atomic Object, as though a candidate was asking them in an interview. Let’s start with compensation. Here are questions to ask if your main priority is to make more money

Figure out how much pure cash you can make.

  1. “What is the salary range for this role?”

    This is an important question to ask. Knowing the salary range allows you to assess what you’ll make now and helps you understand your earning potential in the future should you stay in this role. We have established salary bands for each role based on experience. Our bands were created based on extensive research and data collected. It is important to us that we pay on-market and provide generous benefits, so we regularly review this external data and make adjustments as needed.

  2. “How are raises calculated and awarded?”

    All Atomic employees’ pay is reviewed annually to maintain internal fairness and remain competitive within the market. Any adjustments to our bands are reflected in these raises. These annual compensation reviews are done automatically. We do not make you ask for a raise or “prove” your value by itemizing all you’ve done over the past year. We’ve been checking in with you regularly, helping you develop your skills and grow professionally. We see you and appreciate you. If there are any areas of opportunity for improvement, you’ll know about them right away. An annual review is not the time for that kind of feedback.

  3. “How do bonuses work?”

    Atomic provides quarterly and annual cash profit-sharing bonuses. We do not set up performance-based bonuses as some startups do. These bonuses are often tied to factors far outside of your control, creating a carrot-and-stick system that is more demoralizing than incentivizing. Through our use of open-book management, you have full transparency into how the company is performing and how much you can expect to see in profit sharing.

  4. Bonus question: ask yourself, “How competitive is this offer?”

    While discussing compensation, we encourage candidates to evaluate the total comp and benefits packages offered and factor in the work expectations that come with that package. Unlike a startup that expects long hours to meet tight timelines, we strive to maintain a sustainable pace of 40 hours per week. Every Atom tracks their time, so we have lots of data on this topic. We report quarterly on the average weekly hours worked across the company. At an office and project team level, team leads and Managing Partners keep an eye out for significant changes in hours to help address any potential issues. Occasionally, you may want or need to put in a few extra hours. Since all Atoms are paid for the hours they work, you’ll be compensated for that time.

Establish the long-term viability of the company

  1. “Do you have product-market fit?”

    While this question is specific to a product company, I think it’s interesting to consider our service-market fit. We evaluate this based on various factors, including sales demand, client satisfaction, and our candidate pipelines. If the services we are providing meet what the market is looking for, we will see demand for our work, that demand will convert to new clients, our clients will receive what they need and want from us so they can successfully run their businesses, and in turn, job seekers will want to be part of the team doing that valuable work. We continuously evaluate new technologies and market trends to ensure we’re in the best position to solve our client’s problems efficiently and effectively, which helps us maintain our ranking as a top choice for custom software design and development.

  2. “What is your current growth rate?”

    When talking to a startup, you’ll look for explosive growth. But when talking to an established company, sustainable growth is key. Atomic focuses on a “Great Not Big” approach, valuing the quality of work and employee satisfaction over growth for growth’s sake. Atomic has practiced paced growth for 20+ years and aims to be a 100-year-old company. While our growth may seem slow compared to a startup, this intentional pace creates the stability many crave. A startup may be the right place for those with a higher risk tolerance. However, do some digging and see if the company has a history of rapid growth followed by reductions. This pattern creates volatility that can be incredibly challenging. (For example, it is difficult to maintain focus and morale when your role, responsibilities, and/or priorities suddenly shift or the team around you changes through layoffs.)

  3. “What is your runway?”

    This question is important for startups when they have not achieved profitability. Knowing the cash raised and the company’s burn rate will help you do your own risk analysis. Atomic is not in this category, as we have maintained profitability for nearly our entire 22-year history.

Evaluate the real worth of your equity offer

  1. “What percent of the company do these shares represent?”

  2. “What is your total preference stack?”

  3. “What’s the minimum price you would exit for?”

    Atomic’s approach to equity is different from your typical startup offer, so I will group these three questions. Atomic is a 100% employee-owned company. Atoms are eligible to buy shares one year into employment, and after three to five years, they may receive a larger ownership offer. Ownership is not required, and the decision to invest in the company is highly personal. We explain in detail what ownership in a privately held LLC involves so that each person can make a well-informed decision. Company purpose is an interesting distinction here. Startups strive to find product-market fit and continuously raise capital until they are acquired or achieve profitability. Atomic’s purpose is to be a source of fulfillment for Atoms and a source of good for clients and local communities. With our goal of being a 100-year-old company, an exit is not part of our strategy.

In the following segments of this series, I will focus on the questions to ask if you want to prioritize advancing your career or finding the right culture fit.


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