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Listener Question: Sahar's Second Question On the Show! Sahar asks, "Is it ok to ask for a trial period as a candidate?"

Published 8/5/2016

In today's episode, I answer Sahar's question about whether or not it's okay to ask for a trial period as the interviewee.

Today's episode is sponsored by Linode! Head over to Linode.com/developertea or use the code DeveloperTea20 at checkout for a $20 credit towards your cloud hosting account! Thanks again to Linode for your support of Developer Tea.

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Hey everyone, welcome to Developer Tea. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and in today's episode I answer listener Sahara's question, is it okay for me to ask for a trial period as a candidate? This is such a cool happenstance. Sahara actually sent in a question previously. Sahara's question was dealing with balance. I will let you go and listen to that episode. I don't want to ruin it for you. We'll include a link in the show notes of course. But Sahara's second question, he sent in via email to me. He says, hi Jonathan, this is the second time that I'm contacting you. The first time you provided me with great advice and took the time to go into detail on the podcast. And as a result, I have a better job now and have more opportunities to learn and grow as a developer. So thank you. Now I want to pause right there for a second and say Sahara while my podcast may have been some inspiration for you, you are the one who earned that job. So all of that credit should be going to you, not to me. I can only provide you with my thoughts and my inspiration, but you're the one who goes and gets the job. You're the one who goes and does the work. So congratulations on you getting that job. Now back to Sahara's question. Sahara says, this time I want to ask you another question. You always talk about how employers should take the time when they're selecting the candidates to get the job done and fit with the team and the culture of the company. Now would it be a bad idea if I as a potential candidate for an advertised role ask the company to spend a day or two with them with their team before accepting a job offer? In other words, can I ask for a short trial period with the company offering me a job? Thanks again, Sahara. Sahara, my gut answer to this question is that absolutely you should ask to see if that company would be willing to do a short trial period. It's quite possible that they will say, sure, they may even applaud you for asking and appreciate your concern and care for the company and your own future. And this is especially true if you're only asking for a day or two. But I want to talk a little bit more in depth about this subject because first of all, I think you need longer than just a day or two if you're going to do a proper trial period. So I think a trial period really should be something more like two or three weeks. And that gives you some time to go through the cycle of work and get a little bit more comfortable with the people around you and people kind of let their guard down after that period of time. And they can actually be themselves and you can start to feel what it's going to be like for you to work at that company. So I want to answer this question more from that perspective. And there are some more things to consider when you think about it that way. I'm going to give you some specific things to consider what to ask the potential employer, for example, right after this quick sponsor break. I didn't mention it in the roll-in, but we are being sponsored by Linode. This is a consistent sponsor on Developer Tea. And I'm going to go a little bit off script. Of course, there's things that I've told you in past episodes. Hopefully you've been listening long enough to know that Linode has eight data centers, for example, that they're on SSD servers, you know, all of those things that make Linode great. But I want you to think about this for a second with me. I want you to think about the exchange of money that you're giving Linode in turn for what you are getting back. Linode is charging you $10 a month. And if you use the code Developer Tea 20, you get $20 extra for free. So that's $100 a year. Now think about $100 per year. What other things do you spend $100 on in a year? Your cable bill is probably more than $100. But what you get out of Linode is the flexibility to deploy stuff, right? To deploy awesome projects that you're working on at a moment's notice. You can spin up a Linode server very quickly for only $10 a month. It's one of the best things that you can do for your career to have the flexibility to launch a new project in a few minutes. So go and check it out. Linode.com slash Developer Tea 20. I can't imagine that anyone listening to this podcast has zero need for a Linode server. And what I'm saying is most of you use a Linux box for something, right? And to get two gigabytes of RAM and to get these servers on SSDs and to get it for what ends up being less than $10 a month when Linode gives you the $20 credit and a seven day money back guarantee seems like a no-brainer to me. So go and check it out. Linode.com slash Developer Tea 20. So we're talking about so hard as email email me at developertea@gmail.com. You can do the same if you have questions about your career or about the code that you're writing. I try to answer as many questions as I possibly can either directly in email. Some people have probably heard from me either in our slack community, which you can join us. Spec.fm slash slack. Of course, that's totally free. Or directly in email. I've answered a couple of quite a few emails actually over the course of this podcast. So I try to answer every email and try to feature as many of these emails that I think will be helpful to other people on the show. So he's asking me about whether or not it's a good idea to ask for a trial period from a company you are planning to work with from a company that you are interviewing at. And while I think it's a fantastic idea for any company and developer to engage in a trial period, unfortunately that may not be the case with every company out there. Right. There's plenty of situations where that isn't what they would prefer to do. So here's what I want you to consider so hard. First of all, number one is the company attempting to make you sign a contract that commits you to a certain number of years of work or a certain time period of work. Now, maybe this time period is short enough and that makes this point unnecessary to care about, right? But are they making you commit to, let's say, a three year commitment? If the company is locking you into a time into a job with some kind of negative consequences for you, if you quit early, you need to think about why they might be doing that. Think about their motivations. They may simply want security and buy in from you. They may want you to be truly bought into the company so that your attitude is in the right place, for example. There's a lot of people who use that commitment metric as a indicator of attitude. This is to weed out people who are only using that job as a stepping stone, for example. Maybe they want you to stay on long term and they're only looking for candidates who are looking to stay on long term. But it's possible in some scenarios that they have more malicious intentions for your future. That's hard to think about, but maybe they plan to have you do work that you didn't really sign up to do, for example, that no one really wants to do. I would ask them about this kind of restriction if you find it in a potential employment contract. I would be very suspicious if they want you to sign a contract that was strict, that was that strict, without giving you a trial period to try out what that working environment would be like before you make that long of a commitment. If there is some kind of contract like this, make sure you go and try to figure out the reason why. With that said, if the company has some sensitive information such as proprietary software, some kind of algorithmic information or sensitive data, that is a competitive advantage to them and they ask you to sign a non-compete. This is a reasonable request because it covers them in the case that you decide to part ways. Don't be scared off by this unless you intend to start a competing company in the near future, but at that point, you ethically shouldn't be going to work for your competition to learn about their business methods anyway. Don't be scared off by non-compete and don't go work for your competition if you plan on starting a company in that same business and you're going to use that information to your advantage in the future. This is an opinion of mine. There are plenty of people who are listening to this episode that you disagree with that opinion, but I consider this a bad faith move. If I ever encountered somebody who had done this in a business scenario, I probably would not trust them. If the company does not want to engage you in a trial period, it's likely that they are motivated to secure your commitment. Think about that for a second. If they don't want to give you a period of trial, if they don't want you to have the option or they don't want the option of opting out after two weeks, if they want for that not to happen, then the opposite side of that is that they are motivated for you to commit earlier for you to commit upfront. This is very likely a good thing. It means that that company wants to sign you on as soon as possible. This also means that they have some kind of motivation for you to make the commitment sooner rather than later. It's not just about motivating to get you to make the commitment period. It's about a timeline as well, most likely. This could be an internal motivation that has nothing to do with you specifically. For example, they might need to make a hire by a particular date to meet some kind of employment goal that they've set internally or for some kind of tax purpose that I'm not really familiar with. This could be simply a factor of the employer wanting to stop investing resources in the hiring process itself. It could also mean that they see the offer they are providing to you as beneficial to them if you accept it today. That's important to understand. It's difficult to know what the motivation is on its face. You can't ask them, are you trying to get me to commit because you're trying to meet an employment minimum? That's a little bit of a strange conversation to have as a potential employee. That brings up kind of the big yellow flag, not a red flag because I don't think it's a big problem, but at least a warning that ultimately any diversion that you create from a deal could end up calling that deal off. This is highly unlikely, but it's possible that if you ask for a trial period, they may infer that you're not excited about the job or maybe that you're waffling back and forth and they don't want to spend resources with someone who isn't 100% committed. I'm not saying that is necessarily the case. I'm saying that is a possibility. Certainly, you have to be aware of that going in, but again, very unlikely that that is the case. With all of this said, number one, being is the company attempting to make you sign a contract committing to a certain timeline. Number two, understanding that if the company does not want you to get engaged in a trial period, it's likely that they are motivated to secure your commitment sooner rather than later. Number three, you need to recognize the actual benefits of a trial scenario for you as the employee. I recommend this for companies because the trial provides both sides of the equation, the option to part ways at the end of the trial without consequence. This is primarily a protection for the company as they won't be obligated to compensate you as the employee for unemployment or unemployment rather if they choose not to move forward with your consent. It benefits you as the employee, mostly in the sense that you did not leave under a bad circumstance that the company didn't invest a bunch of money to onboard you and then suddenly you're gone and they get frustrated and anybody who calls them about your previous employment there, they may give you a bad mark on your reputation. They may call you a quitter, for example. These are extreme scenarios because a lot of people do end up quitting in the earliest days of their jobs. The benefit of a trial ends up being the ability for either side to part ways from the other side with little to no consequence. It was always a potential option and a potential kind of like an expected potential option for either side to call it off. Right? So unless you have signed a contract, you can leave a company without major negative drawbacks, for example, like financial drawbacks for you other than you no longer have a job and you might have a potential mark on your reputation. Right? Even if you do sign a contract, you can sever that contract and deal with the consequences if that's the most appropriate course of action for you. You may also be interested in negotiating the contract itself. If you are in that scenario where somebody is asking you to commit to three years worth of work, perhaps you negotiate into the contract, the nature of that work. But in general, it is very likely that you can ask for a trial period and your potential employer will most likely respect that request. Ultimately, I don't think you will do much harm in asking for a trial period. However, it is important to recognize that any negotiation in a hiring process could be misread. Any step you take could be misread by the opposing side of the negotiation. So it's incredibly important that you communicate very clearly and effectively and explain that the trial period you are asking for is intended to benefit and protect both sides of the relationship, not just to provide you and out. Be certain that you only pursue employment with someone you intend to move forward with and communicate that the trial period is simply to confirm what you already expect. You confirm that you want to work with this company. You confirm that the fit is correct and you give the company an option to confirm that you are fit as well. Thank you so much again, Sahar, for your fantastic question. And for staying engaged with the show for as long as you have been engaged, it's so great to hear people coming back and listening to Developer Teaon a regular basis. We deliver three episodes a week. And if you would like to make sure you don't miss out on future episodes, go and subscribe and whatever podcasting app you are using right now. It's the easiest way so you don't have to put it on your to-do list to go and click a button and just do it now. It's so much easier, right? Go and subscribe. And of course, if you've also been putting off going and getting a linode server, you can head over to linode.com slash Developer Tea 20 or you can just go to the show notes at spec.fm and click on the link there. Spec.fm, all the show notes for every episode of Developer Tea and every other episode of Developer Tea is on spec.fm. Spec is built for designers and developers. We are here to help you level up in your career. Go and check out the other shows on spec.fm. Thank you so much for listening and until next time, enjoy your tea.