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I'm a very junior developer fresh out of college, and in my first programming job. I'm pretty unhappy with my current company-the software engineering standards here are pretty shoddy-the code base is full of uncommented, undocumented source code, with whoppers like 664 line methods (with about 40 lines of commented out code) in our production code. I mentioned it to the boss and he doesn't care, and honestly at this point I don't either-I'm looking for a new job.

When I interview next, how much should I mention this to a prospective employer? That my former (current?) company has shoddy engineering standards, coded by people who seemingly got their CS degrees mail order (well, I'd be a bit more diplomatic about it). I don't think that maintaining code with 10,000+ lines of zero comments or documentation is a good way to start a career and develop good habits. The question is, how do I tell this to future prospective employers?

EDIT: I should mention that I have other, totally innocent reasons I can mentioned why I left/am looking for a new job, but don't know how much of the shoddy engineering I should mention.

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closed as off topic by gnat, MichaelT, Joris Timmermans, maple_shaft Feb 8 '13 at 15:21

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"in my first programming job [...] whoppers like 664 line methods" - I warn you now that this isn't the worst code you will ever see in your career. Not by a loooooong chalk. –  AakashM Feb 8 '13 at 14:56
Might be more appropriate on if you want to ask the moderators to migrate. –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Feb 8 '13 at 15:00
Career advice if off topic per the FAQ. If you do happen to have a general answerable question about navigating the workplace then you can always check out The Workplace. –  maple_shaft Feb 8 '13 at 15:23
1… This is likely to help, its a very similar question –  RhysW Feb 8 '13 at 15:26
@Amanda_Panda You are young and idealistic which is a good thing, but if you maintain this attitude then you will have a really hard time in professional software development. Only once you have had a truly terrible SD job will you understand what I mean. –  maple_shaft Feb 8 '13 at 15:31

6 Answers 6

If you will publicly diss your current employer, then the interviewer will know that you will do the same to them when you leave. That usually makes you a no hire.

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This is true, and I hate it. When I interview, if someone speaks in professional objective analytical terms of their previous employer as being bad or can claim anecdotal evidence, I would absolutely not put points against them for it. The tone is important, but in reality any ill-speak of previous employers will make you a no-hire. I once worked for a company where a colleague would yell (literally angrily shouting at people) a lot and tended to give me the silent treatment; completely childish and HR did nothing. So I left, but couldn't give that reason or else I become a no-hire. –  Jimmy Hoffa Feb 8 '13 at 18:59

Never say something bad about your previous employer. That will only turn out bad for you. Much like in "letters of references", you can tell the truth without saying something negative at all (at least in the European culture).

Say something like:

"I am looking for a professional work environment with new challenges."

That should suffice. It's basically clear to every HR expert then, that your former work place could not be considered professional in your eyes and they won't give you minus points for this.

If they retort this answer with a question like: "Do you consider your current workplace professional?", you can answer something like "Mostly".

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+1 for a good suggestion of what they should say. –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Feb 8 '13 at 15:01

Most employers don't care that much about your previous employer -- happy employees don't generally leave without a reason.

Simply say you are looking for more challenging work.

Your prospective future employers are more concerned with how you can help them.

Another problem with bringing this up is you have no idea if your interviewer shares your concerns. Since, as others have noted, this is not an uncommon scenario, you might want to ask about coding standards and specific practices in your interview.

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Try and avoid ripping into previous companies, it can leave a negative tone throughout the interview. If you get asked why you're leaving explain the reasons, and also say you were unhappy with the quality of the code you were working on, but don't turn it into essentially a flame of your previous company.

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Every company has crappy code, so bringing that up isn't necessarily beneficial. I'd emphasise the fact that they knew their code was crap, didn't care and wouldn't fix it (and then I'd only bring it up if I was explicitly asked about it and couldn't dodge with anything more vague). The interviewer's reaction to that might offer some insight as to his own approach to fixing bad code. –  Ant Feb 8 '13 at 14:56


Nagging about your previous employer is a red flag for most managers.

You will give the impression of someone who immediately gets frustrated when things aren't perfect and that you will quit this job too when something is not to your liking.

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You make a good point. There are other ways I can vent my frustration outside of job interviews, much more anonymously. –  Amanda_Panda Feb 8 '13 at 14:56

Criticizing former employers in an interview is not a good idea. In fact, saying anything negative at all in an interview is not a good idea. Even though you are unhappy with your job, there are still probably some positives you can take out of it. On the off-chance that you are asked about your current job in an interview, think on the positives and say something like, "Well, my company is [insert something positive here], but I'm looking for a change, etc.". It's more professional and doesn't leave a negative vibe in the room.

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