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I've read the question "How can I tell in an interview if a programmer is passionate about programming?". Now I'm struggling with the reverse: I'll have an interview at a company. How can I figure out that my (probably) future colleagues are passionate or not?

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Ask them about the process they use (day-to-day and release-to-release). It should get them talking (otherwise ask further questions) about what they consider important in development and how they ensure that these things get done. That should give you a fair idea whether there is a match with how you would want to work and what you find important. –  Marjan Venema Jun 29 '13 at 9:18
    
During the dreaded "Do you have any question for us?" part, ask whether they're prepared to tell you their annual retention rate among programmers. No metric tells you as much about whether people like their jobs as their willingness to stay in them, but it sounds objective and formal enough that interviewers usually aren't offended. –  Kilian Foth Jun 29 '13 at 9:20
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@KillianFoth - s/annual retention/annual turnover/g –  Deer Hunter Jun 29 '13 at 9:38

4 Answers 4

I am currently interviewing as looking to move companies and have had the same question in my head recently. Although, I am maybe more interested if the developers at companies are passionate and competant.

A great example is an interview I had just yesterday, the lead developer/architect was very passionate about the main application, but when I delved a littled deeper it was pretty awful. Mixture of VB & C# in same project, no design patterns or even seperation. it used lots of T-SQL strings all through the code for data access etc.

The questions I asked to get the details were

  • What one key skill does the succesful candidate have and why is that skill important?

This revealed the need for strong db skills due to the monsterous db design and also lead to the discussions revealing the horrible db practices

  • Where is the application going next, what further development is coming in the future?

This revealed a sort of contentment with what they had and a lack of ambition to pull it out of hell.

  • how much time is dedicated to bug fixing on the application and how much is developing it further?

This revealed they recieve emails every day with a few hours worth of work for bug fixes to be done urgently. It also led to discussions revealing a lack of unit tests or infact any tests. If it compiled, it was good to go.

The questions are maybe specific and were chosen due to the individual interview but I think the idea is delve as deep as you need to until you have are satisfied either way.

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Short answer: You can't, at least not until you're hired and have been working with them for a while. You'll often get to meet the team before you're hired, but at best you get to make a judgement based on knowing them for a few minutes.

It's not until you get down in the trenches with your coworkers that you can see how passionate they actually are about their work.

My suggestion would be to not worry about it as a primary factor in your job search. If you're passionate about what you do, it doesn't matter a bit what your coworkers do. If you're a hard worker and they're not, you'll just get promoted that much quicker than them. If they're hard workers, you'll enjoy working with them. It's a win-win. :)

Yeah, search for jobs based on whether or not you'll enjoy the work. If you do, it doesn't really matter too much how passionate your coworkers are.

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I just switched jobs and have been through the same situation. This is a very difficult subject, because it has a lot to do with psychology. People don't just lay out their entire personality in their first conversation, especially when it concerns a potential (employment) relationship.

With passionate, I immediately think of programming for the benefit of the users and a clean, smooth running program. Your views may differentiate, especially with companies. Companies want to make money and creating beautiful code (/ proper UX) costs time => money.

The best you can hope for -what I enforced- is to have a natural conversation, rather than an interview. This enables you to peek into the personality of the person(s) on the opposite side of the table. Try not to be too casual, and stay on-topic.

In a formal interview, this is all a lot more complex. The company will try to sell itself and will make false promises, in most cases.

In the end, as I pointed out, this has to do with psychology. Some people are very good at theatrics, others tend to show their true selves and others stay in between the two. The best advice I can give is to stay true to yourself.

For myself. I'm not quite sure where my colleagues stand. They're definitely in the camp [when it works, don't fix it], but they also like proper code. You'll (have to) find out eventually. And you could always switch employers...

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Walk through the answers here:

and here:

And you should have a wealth of methods to gauge where your peers stand.

For that matter, if you haven't already run through , I would highly recommend reading through some of the top voted questions.

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