can you ask to meet future coworkers before accepting a new job?

A reader writes:

Is it appropriate to ask to get to know future coworkers before accepting a new job?

I have a second interview coming up shortly with the president of the company. During my initial interview, the panel of nine interviewers w­­ere all very nice and welcoming, except for one person … the person who I would be directly working with. She never once smiled and even gave an answer to one of my questions that I interpreted as a “back-door” comment in regards to my lack of experience (I am younger than this person with a higher degree).

I currently work part-time for a similar company where my coworkers and I work wonderfully together. Although the financial gain of being employed full-time would be highly beneficial, I am scared to leave a great and collaborative working environment for a possibly hostile one. If I am offered the position, is it out of line to ask if I could have lunch/coffee with my future coworkers in the department before accepting the position to see if my initial impression was correct? I understand that people rarely get to pick their coworkers, but the monetary gain of working full-time is not worth me giving up my current collaborate working environment for a hostile one.

It’s actually surprising to me how uncommon of a request this is. Considering how much of an impact your coworkers will have on your quality of life, you’d think more people would want to do this.

That said, it is a fairly unusual request, particularly outside of senior level positions. That doesn’t mean you can’t ask it, though — you can. But because it’s unusual, you want to pay attention to how you word it. I’d say something like, “I’m really excited about this position. Before I formally accept, would it be possible to talk with others in the department to get a sense of how everyone works together? I’d love to have coffee with the people I’d be working closest with, or even just come in to talk with them, if possible.”

I wouldn’t necessarily ask for lunch — that’s more of an imposition than some people would be happy about. (My own personal biases are creeping in here, but I’m not the only one who has them.)

Keep in mind, though, that even the most collegial lunch in the world won’t offer any guarantees against bad coworkers. You could love them, and then they could all leave over the next year and be replaced by horrible, incompetent people. Or they could be lovely to everyone in the beginning and horrid after that. There’s no way to guard against that — other than by making sure that you’re ending up somewhere that manages well, hires well, and fires when they need to. (Which maybe gives us the answer to why more people don’t ask to meet the coworkers — ultimately what matters is the quality of management.)

It’s also worth noting that a coworker who didn’t smile in your interview isn’t necessarily going to be a bad coworker. Some people are more serious than others, but are still great coworkers (defined not by warmness but by doing their jobs well, being helpful when needed, and otherwise staying out of your way). Yes, if she made a comment about your lack of experience, she might be indicating some skepticism about you, but that’s also the kind of thing that makes sense to bring up in an interview — you’re there to talk about fit and experience, after all.

Anyway, I do think it’s okay to ask for the meeting if it’s important to you … but keep in mind all the caveats above.

{ 74 comments… read them below }

  1. Just a Reader*

    I like this. It shows a very thoughtful approach to job hunting and overall happiness.

    I do think it’s important for interviewers to make sure that potential employees meet the team early in the process, to gauge the fit from both sides.

  2. Jamie*

    I’m about to get nitpicky but what difference does it make that the OP is younger with a higher degree?

    It reads as if the OP is assuming that has something to do with the comment about inexperience. Not everyone older or with a lesser degree should have concerns dismissed out of hand as if based in jealousy or something.

    Not everyone of a certain age is jealous of younger co-workers and some of us who have been in the workforce for a while do weight experience much higher than degrees…without resenting the degree holder.

    Maybe I’m reading not this what wasn’t there – but my initial reaction was like when a mom tells their kid “they’re just jealous” as a response to everything. Not everyone who doesn’t love you is jealous.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yeah, I wondered about that, unless the coworker said something snarky about her age or degree (but it doesn’t sound like that). I’ve noticed a few comments lately from degree-holders assuming that their degrees might be an issue for others, but it’s a pretty big assumption.

      1. Just a Reader*

        I don’t think this is a new mentality–it tends to come from younger people with higher degrees (right out of the gate) vs. more experienced workers who went back to school.

        It makes me wonder what is being sold to them about the value of the degree without work experience.

        1. K*

          I think that might be some of it, but I do think there’s a phenomenon where younger people with degrees that you view as ones held by older and experienced people get a bit of . . . hmmm . . . pushback? I remember when I was a new law school graduate I got a lot of “You’re really a lawyer? Really?” type of comments, sometimes with some uncomfortable “You must be smart” snide side remarks.

          Which is just because, well, you’re young and inexperienced and nobody in their right mind would trust you with a serious legal issue. But when you first enter the working world after being in school where most people are your age, it’s disconcerting to start getting those comments. Once you have some experience and project more confidence in your role (and you look a bit physically older), they taper off.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Ah, it might be linked to how young everyone looks after you’re a certain age. I saw a TSA agent recently who I would have sworn was 12, no exaggeration. So it’s not “I’m so intimidated by your TSA standing” (or graduate degree or whatever), but “what?! how can that be, when you are clearly prepubescent.”

            1. Not So NewReader*

              It kind of explains why people reacted to me when I was younger- they were not good at guessing age either!

              Recently an individual guessed that I was about his age. His jaw dropped when I said I was 15 years older than him. Guessing a person’s age is more difficult that it appears at first glance.

              I now realize that when I was 20 something those people that I thought were 60-70 years old were actually in their late 40s. Clearly, not being able to judge age is not unique to any certain group of people- no one has the corner on that market!

              1. Andrew*

                My high school drama teacher, whom I remember as being incredibly ancient, just retired. Working backwards from her current age (as mentioned in the article about her) she was all of 35 when I took her class.

        2. Portia DeBelmont*

          I can’t speak to other fields, but in mine (law) people are being severely mislead about the value of an advanced degree. My acid test is read the job postings; if they all require 3 -5 years experience, you should think long and hard before committing the time and money to a program that doesn’t also have an extensive practical componant that can count as job experience. Experience is what’s important today.

      2. Jubilance*

        In some cases, like mine, its a warranted concern. In my first “real” job out of grad school, I was hated by a coworker who had been there for 30+yrs but had hit a ceiling because he was a technician & didn’t have a degree. He didn’t take too kindly to the new young woman fresh out of grad school, who happened to be me. I did nothing to this man & he decided to hate me anyway, over policies that I had nothing to do with.

        Sure there are some new grads who are worrying because of nothing, but there are disgruntled workers out there who can be difficult to work with solely because their new coworker (sometimes manager) is younger & with less experience.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          You did a good job of looking at that situation with a clear and level head. Which is more than your co-worker did. Congrats for your part in that.

        2. Rana*

          Yeah, if there’s a disjuncture between the job and your degree, you can get it too, as I found working entry-level office jobs with a Ph.D. To me, it was no big deal, as I understood it had very little to do with the job at hand, but some people were remarkably aggressive about it. (I think it’s a bit like being a nondrinker at a party with a lot of heavy drinkers; some people won’t care, but other people will feel judged and take it out on you.)

    2. Angelina Retta*

      A+ comment. It’s one thing to be proud of your achievements and quite another to assume someone’s comment (in the presence of eight of her colleagues??) was derogatory.

      Smiling is also something people make too many assumptions about. You never know, she could have just had terrible gas and couldn’t wait to get out of the room to release!

    3. OP*

      So I thought I’d take a moment to reply to your first sentence (I’m the OP). My apologies if my comment came across as me accusing the unfriendly interviewer of being jealous (although I LOVED your last statement!!). Some of my co-workers have worked with her from a distance and stated that they did not have a good impression of her.. which made me leery and possibly, as you stated, more sensitive to her replies. I agree that my statement about my age/education sounded naive… I almost didn’t include it, but the company is making changes to its requirements that may negatively impact her (It required a bachelors, she has an associates, and I have a masters…. although she does has 25+ years of experience over me). In addition, the department that I potentially would be hired into is a VERY small group of people who have worked together for 10+ years. So yes, I do have some hesitations. Regardless, thank you for your honestly and I’ll definitely be more careful in the future!

    4. kimberly*

      Some of us have this … concern (?) … drilled into our heads in school.

      I know, that sounds weird. And honestly, I’m in a profession (nursing) where this sort of thing happens fairly frequently; I’m not sure how often other professions encounter it.

      My initial education was RN, BSN. At the time, and in the area where I went to school, that wasn’t all that common. Most RNs started out either as a diploma grad or with an ADN and then went back later to get the BSN if they wished. BSN was the highest entry-level education you would find.

      We had it absolutely DRILLED into our heads how much resentment we would encounter because we were the “professional” ones, we were the ones with the “management degree” and we would be the ones in charge over our more-experienced but less-educated colleagues. And that’s the way it should be. Ugh.

      In reality, that all wasn’t quite true, especially 15 years ago. I’m sure it was partially done to make us feel better about spending the additional time and money getting the BSN vs. the ADN, especially when the general consensus of the area hospitals was that the ADN grads were better prepared (less time learning theory; more time learning how to take care of patients). To the Nursing School’s credit, though, there certainly were some instances where the new-grad RN would be the one supervising the much-more experienced nurse, and they were trying to teach us how to handle that.

      All that said, I’ve often wondered if other professional-type programs tell their students this type of thing. Do those teaching University accounting classes spend lecture time telling their students how much those “non-professional” accountants are going to resent them, their education, and future?

  3. Joey*

    Do it. I’d think more highly of you for being so concerned about fit. Come with some questions too.

    What do they like about working there?
    What’s a typical day like?
    What would they change?
    What’s the boss like?

    That kind of stuff

  4. Lanya*

    OP, my personal additional advice is: Trust Your Instincts. If you feel like you aren’t getting a friendly vibe from the person who would be your manager, your gut reaction is probably correct. Do not ignore it. I have ignored mine twice now in similar situations and it was a mistake both times!

      1. Stacey Kimbell*

        Yes, yes, YES! to this. Always insist on meeting both your manager and your reports. I once interviewed with a whole committee of people, none of whom I would actually be working with. I was told that the person who would be my boss and the person who would be my assistant were “unavailable” to talk to me. I should have run screaming at that point but I was young and out of work, so I took the job. Huge mistake – the boss and the assistant were married to each other, and they both wanted the assistant, not me, to get the job. The interview panelists were forbidden to tell me about their relationship. The boss and assistant made my life utter living hell from day one to day last. That was probably legal, but it was sure unethical.

          1. Stacey Kimbell*

            Beyond awful. In later years, several co-workers from there came up to me at industry functions and told me how sorry they were that they hadn’t been able to help me at the time. I feel like I aged a lifetime in that job.

    1. Andrew*

      On the other hand, your manager is not your personal friend, and should not become one unless and until you are no longer in that work relationship.

  5. Sydney*

    I think this is a great request and it would certainly be telling if they declined (assuming you ask in the way Alison suggests). I would be a little surprised, and would probably think highly of you for being concerned about fit because that is very important in certain workplaces.

    Also, there’s really no reason not to ask in this situation since you don’t need this particular job.

  6. Jennifer*

    I think it comes off a little presumptuous, especially when they brought out NINE people to interview the OP. If I were the hiring manager, I might think the OP doesn’t respect everyone’s time. Maybe it depends on the level of the role?

    I also picked up on the “I’m younger and I have a ‘higher’ degree” than the non-smiler thing. That’s a little off-putting, and makes me wonder if sensitivity to potentially “hostile” working environments comes from an over-sensitivity on the OP’s part. I kind of rolled my eyes at the OP just reading that part, and wonder if he/she gives off entitled or naive vibes or something.

    1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      Though I feel that, in a situation where she’s interviewing with nine people and ONE have an attitude, it’s more likely to be the potential future co-worker’s issue than OP’s.

    2. Anonymous*

      I agree… and Im the OP! I honestly didn’t mean for it to sound like that… I’ll be more careful in the future…

  7. Anonymous*

    Asking to have coffee/lunch is out of the ordinary – I wouldn’t use the phase “out of line” because that’s not really it. It’s that it is unusual and not common and therefore risky. Of course you can ask it but you can;t control how it will be seen. I would not even go the coffee route, I would keep it in an interview context. “It was great to get to speak with everyone during the panel interview, it seems like this position works most closely with Person X and person Y, I’d love to have the opportunity to talk with and get their perspective on this new role” (or some such blather). You get the idea.

    My concern for OP is that if it’s expressed as the OP wanting to see how everyone works together, since that is not a common request, it might be a red flag “uh oh, is she hard to get along with?”.

    I also agree that it is not possible to spot any potential problem people in these type of situations — the most friendly person you interview with may be someone you come to hate working with in 6 months and the person you thought was snotty in the interview may be delightful. Or the delightful person from the interview IS delightful but leaves a week after you start.

    While you want to avoid clearly toxic/crazy people, I think the big picture is as an employer, I want to feel you’ll have the confidence and interpersonal skills to get along with everyone within a range of reasonable – not like everyone, but work efficiently with them.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yeah, I think that’s a sensible take.

      (BTW, I didn’t mean “get a sense of how we’d all work together,” but more “get a sense of how the department works,” but you’re right to flag that the language could be misinterpreted.)

      1. jmkenrick*

        Would it be out of line to just ask for a walk-through of the department to just meet some of their coworkers?

        My company has peers participate in the interviews, and I think it can be very helpful.

    1. Jen*

      As a hiring manager, I would say no. Not because we are secretly hostile, but because my staff is really busy and if I brought out 9 people to meet you, that’s already kind of an introduction to the culture.
      The amount of time needed to really see if you click with the department is more time than they probably have to spare to satisfy curiosity. Anything the OP could pick up over a 15 minute coffee could probably have been inferred from the panel interview.

      1. Lora*

        No. I tell you the truth, panel interviews are NOT going to get you that info.

        Last time I had a panel interview and the last time I was on one (holy crap both were THE most useless exercises), it didn’t tell me a single thing about the company culture, department personalities, or the candidate’s personality.

        I can suss out a candidate’s technical ability in an hour one-on-one, although it’s usually fairly evident from their resume. I can ask about times they’ve had to deal with stress and difficult situations and how they handle that. I can ask their references about times the person has dealt with conflict and so forth.

        I can NOT get them to casually admit how badly they screwed up a past job, how they harassed their reports, or how they communicate on a personal level with their colleagues, in a panel interview.

        True story: in one on one interviews, with people who would be colleagues rather than reports, I got one lady to talk about The Time She Screwed Up A $10mil clinical trial, a guy to talk about how he thought all that “harassment stuff” was really just reverse racism and wimminz being sensitive, and another dude to insult the senior vice president’s and my credentials and background in a particularly dramatic and pretentious way. I did it by being personable and engaging and chatty and casual and making them feel as if they were talking to a confidante. That does not happen in a formal panel interview, and the companies I worked for at the time really dodged some bullets there.

        You’re busy? How busy do you reckon you’ll be when you’re spending two hours every morning listening to your reports piss and moan about That Jerk You Hired? That’s a real time sink, let me tell you. How busy do you think you’ll be sending Jerk to Attitude Camp and coaching him/her to be less of a butthole to everyone? That’s awfully time consuming too.

        It’s a 45 minute coffee break and a box of donuts. Invite whomever wants to come and can re-arrange their schedules. You won’t die or anything.

      2. anon-2*

        Jen – as a potential employee, who would like to meet with who he’s going to work with, if I asked this – and were told “no”…

        1) OK, they don’t want to hire me anyway. Fine. Have a nice life, good luck to you, all the best in your future endeavors, etc.


        2) They’re hiding something here (most likely). The only time, as a youngster, I didn’t ask to do this. They WERE hiding the fact that I was going into a hellhole of a job. The others that were there did not view me as the new guy in that group, but as either “another lamb being led to slaughter” or the “new fish” being brought into jail. I’d say the way I was treated by the others there, I’d state the latter.

        By the way, my saga at that place – 13 months – which was the longest tenure anyone had there, coming in from the outside – would make up a book of “Dinner Table Stories”. That was the place where, I was placed on probation and was probably about to be canned – and when I resigned, they actually counter-offered! Probably so they could fire me later — they were incensed that, like says “a better job awaits”. Angered everyone that I was going to a much better situation. They weren’t the chimps in the ad, refer to the one with the donkeys….

  8. Revanche*

    I do think it’s a good idea to. Even for entry level positions I always scheduled the candidate to meet at least one future colleague so they could get an in-the-trenches POV directly and so I could glean more insights about the candidate.
    A thought: I did pick and choose which staffer would be most representative because there have been times where certain staff were unhappy and definitely would have taken every opportunity to tank every candidate’s opportunities if they thought this person wasn’t going to be a good pawn for their games but those people were on their way out for a number of their own reasons (including performance) anyway. It wouldn’t have let us build a far better and happier team if I’d let the person who was relatively proficient but absolutely a drain on morale and the other teammates be an interviewer.
    Not that I’m assuming this is necessarily the case here but for a while, that was a situation I dealt with.

    1. Judy*

      Most interviews I’ve been on as an engineer have been nearly a full day, with a facilities tour, several interviews, etc. Usually the facilities tour and the lunch were with people of the same level that would be co-workers, to allow us to get some idea of the culture of the office. We would do a quick walk through of the office areas, see the labs, see the prototype areas, maybe some parts of the assembly line, talking casually about work processes and the job.

  9. Jamie*

    I think it’s a novel concept and can see the concern since co-workers matter a lot, but in reality if I’m one of the co-workers I’m going to resent what I’d feel was some kind of audition. And it may not be fair but I’d absolutely think you were high maintenance and wonder what else you’d want to micromanage.

    Being concerned about who is smiling at you and how much does give off a high maintenance vibe that would make me uncomfortable.

    Interesting concept, but risky IMO.

    1. anon o*

      I agree, I’m wondering if she wants all 9 to take time to do this – that’s a lot of time, especially if all 9 have been taking time to do interviews. I’d think the same thing, again perhaps unfairly. But on the other hand I’d be glad of the opportunity to get to know them too.

      I’m really really curious how this works out – OP please please send an update!

      1. Colette*

        In all fairness, she doesn’t say that she interviewed with 9 of her future colleagues – just that she interviewed with 9 people and one of them would be her future colleague.

        1. Anonymous*

          Yes, I think she’s talking about just the people she would directly be working with.

    2. K*

      I’ve had a couple of candidates do this, and don’t mind it. It does get weird when they clearly expect to meet everyone they could potentially be working with, but wanting to meet more than the handful of people they initially interview with (and more of their direct peers) has always seemed reasonable to me.

    3. Joey*

      Depends on how its structured, how the manager communicates it, and how closely the team will work.

  10. Meg*

    I think the OP probably meant that the “unfriendly” person showed her some sort of resentment for being younger and having a higher degree and thought to downgrade her qualifications by the experience comment because of that resentment (or at least the OP felt that way [IMO]).

    I’m not saying the interviewer was jealous or anything because the OP had a higher degree and was younger, and I’ve definitely been on the other end – being the older experienced person without the higher degree and up against a fresh new face with little work experience, and it’s still uncomfortable to think, “Wow… it took me years to get where I’m at, and here is it being handed on a silver platter to her and she’s younger!” This is definitely possible if she’s your peer and not your manager.

  11. KayDee*

    We do this routinely at my place of work. We call it a “job preview” and ask all finalists (usually one or two people) to come in and spend a couple of hours in the environment they will be working in. They get to meet their potential coworkers, get a feel for the climate on an average day, etc. It also helps us get a better feel for their candidate’s fit. I highly recommend it.

  12. Tax Nerd*

    You know how everyone says to call them with questions after a job interview? I’d pick someone that you felt you had the most rapport with and… call them. Just ask things like “How’s the office culture?”, “Do members of the group socialize together, even if it’s just going to lunch?”, “Would you characterize X as someone who is glad to take time to help someone, or more focused on getting her own work done?” (Well, the last I’d finesse a little better.) Or even just “I have a great bunch of coworkers, and we’re really collaborative, and I just want to be sure I’m the right fit before I give that up.”

    Assuming you didn’t ask this at the interview. When I interview, I ask a lot more about the culture than the job itself. (It’s doing taxes – I have an idea what that entails.) But good or bad coworkers, or your manager, can make all the difference in a job.

  13. Mimi*

    Strange, the same thing happened to me at an interview not too long ago: the person I’d be working closest with was the only one not smiling, giving off a strange, negative, I’d-rather-be-anywhere-but-here vibe. At the time, I noticed but brushed it aside, because I was focused on getting the job. After I didn’t get the job, I thought about it some more……maybe it was a blessing in disguise? Everyone else was super friendly; she was decidedly NOT.

    1. Sissa*

      It might have been nervousness. People show their feelings in different ways, after all.

      I had the same kind of an encounter with a colleague whom I’m now working with: she didn’t look me in the eye during the interview, rolled her eyes and chuckled at things a lot. It was unpleasant at that time and I thought she didn’t take me seriously at all, but I’m used to her way of dealing with things now. She avoids confrontations and high stress situations and tries to soften whatever she says by laughing a little and while annoying, it is just how she is as a person.

  14. Cath@VWXYNot?*

    This is actually pretty standard in academia – or, at least, in research labs in the sciences. In fact, most of the articles and blog posts I’ve ever read about how to choose a lab include “ask to meet the other members of the lab. If they say no, it’s a huge red flag”, and I was given the same advice by my professors at the undergrad and grad school level. I’ve also had informal chats with other members of the team as a standard part of the interview process at all but one of my post-lab jobs (academic admin and marketing in the biotech industry).

    Or, who knows, maybe it’s just standard in the UK and Canada but not in the US… although most of the aforementioned career advice articles I’ve read have been written by Americans.

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      I had the same experience in academia in the United States. I always considered the practice to be linked to tenure – departments really want to make sure the person is a good fit all around.

      1. Rana*

        Yep. If you’re facing the possibility of being stuck with this person as a colleague for the next thirty years, you want to be pretty confident that they’re not going to be a royal PITA.

  15. Steph*

    As someone who makes a request like this as part of my interview/job selection process, I want to comment. I have asked this in 2 different scenarios, and in both scenarios, I took the job. I’d personally prefer to ask for time instead of a coffee/lunch set-up. However, if an interviewee asked to meet with me during lunch or for coffee, I’d be fine with it. To give you an idea of my level, I’m a project manager – so I regularly interact with a lot of different people within an organization. Fit is hugely important to me!

    I approach this request on a late (2nd, 3rd) interview, where I suspect/expect that I’m going to be offered the position. I say to my theoretical new manager something like, “I am really excited about the position, and you’ve spent the last X days evaluating my fit for your company and team. I’ve been able to do that to some degree through my various interviews, but I would like the opportunity, if it fits within people’s schedules, to come back to speak informally (for X mins) with a few people with whom I would interact with regularly. I’d like to get their perspective about the company, your management style, teapots, etc.” Note: I ask for specific roles of contacts – someone who I’d be working with who also reports to Possible New Manager, someone who I would interact with regularly, and someone else who New Manager thinks would be a good person to speak to. A specific example – in my case, I was a Business Analyst, I want to meet IT and Business partners.

    All requests have been well-received, and appreciated for insightfulness.

    During the short sessions (usually I kept to 15-30 mins/person), I ask questions about the company culture, work environment, Potential New Manager, how the department is viewed and utilized within the organization, specific projects, etc.. I also explain why I asked to come back to meet with them. Usually something like, I really am quite intersted in this position, and it feels like a good fit, but colleagues make or break the deal. Without fail, people get that.

    I assume that I’m still being interviewed and that those people will provide feedback on my visit, but try to approach the colleague as I would a potential colleague that I never met before (friendly, warm, etc.) so it’s a more informal vibe.

    I’ve found them to be immensely helpful – but you’ve definitely got to keep an eye on making the conversation productive.

  16. Anonymous*

    What if one or more of your future colleagues with influence with the hiring manager dislike you for whatever personal or professional reason and argue for a revocation of your offer, while you on the other hand have fallen badly in love with them? I meet all of the new hires in my office and I can’t tell you how many times the Sales Manager asks me for a ‘thumbs up or thumbs down’ about candidates.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Trust the fates?

      Your question made me curious because I have been THAT person that tells the boss thumbs down. Because I so rarely did that, it seemed that it caused the boss to think carefully.
      I would like to hope, in cases such as what you are describing, there are professional/business reasons for the thumbs down review, as opposed to personal reasons. Perhaps there is an unforeseen that the job seeker was unaware of.

      One instance a person was a well-known gossip. Her gossip habit could derail an entire department and put it in to a downward spiral. I am sure that she had been spoken to about that at her previous job and nothing changed. Another time we desperately needed a person who could help with X and the boss had forgotten that detail. The job seeker did not have that background.

      But I have also been rejected for jobs that I thought I would love. Hopefully, that worked in my favor somehow. But, yeah, it’s tough.

  17. Michael Rochelle*

    In addition to the question of meeting coworkers before accepting the job, I’ve always wondered whether it was OK to see where you’d be working in terms of seating so you could assess the office and tools for your use, which play a big part in your happiness at an organization. It may seem petty, but I once worked in an organization where I worked in accounting but was seated in the middle of a loud call-center area which affected my ability to concentrate. Then, they only had one fax machine for the whole building that someone had used white out on so it got hung every 3rd page. When I asked the manager about a possible fax repair because I’d sometimes have to fax 40 pages or more, her response was to dial the number, send three pages, then dial the number again, send another three pages, and repeat until you’d sent the whole document. Then the phone on my desk didn’t work and I’d have to ask one of the call center people to use their phone to make any work related calls. It was insane.

    When I left that organization after a week, I was told that I was the 8th person who had filled that position in 6 months and I had lasted the longest. Obviously, the setting, the coworker, and the tools your provided play a major factor in a person’s success at a job. It is an unusual request, but if you’re going to be investing time there–especially if you’re leaving another job–it shouldn’t be looked at as a negative thing as long as you’re in the final stages before being given/accepting an offer.

    1. Jamie*

      This is a really good question. Environment is huge and if you’re used to having your own office (and like doors) an open plan could be a deal breaker or should at least be a factor to consider.

      So how do you gracefully ask about the seemingly trivial? The office, the parking space, if there is a private drawer in the bathroom…the chair.

      Sounds trivial but crucial that there are no deal breakers there.

      Gear is more important but I’d have no problem bringing that up organically…but harder for non-IT people maybe so how do they get their equipment?

  18. Cassie*

    We’ve never had any interviewees meet the staff before (I don’t know if any have asked, though I doubt it). Heck, half the time they don’t even introduce new staff in person!

    Just wanted to reiterate what others have said about not reading too much into the one person who didn’t smile in the interview. Some people are very outgoing and bubbly but can be PITA, while others are more reserved but respectful.

  19. EnnVeeEl*

    I don’t like the thought of someone sitting in on a panel mean-mugging the job applicant. You ask the tough questions, but you can do this in a friendly and professional manner. This would raise a red flag with me.

  20. Laura*

    I am in consulting and all candidates have a one on one lunch with a co worker during interview process, and after they get their offer, but before they accept, many choose to do a full dinner with the group of us (10 people). This is very common for consulting, and am sure it varies by industry.

  21. Limon*

    If your direct co-worker is unfriendly and hostile when you first meet her then run! Trust that instinctual feeling and go with it.

    I started a job last summer and when I met my ‘equals’ in co-workers they completely ignored me or where distracted when I spoke. They would not look at me, would take out their cell phones and start texting, etc. when I spoke. They did not acknowledge my comments or include me in the work we were doing. I found it really strange to watch them do this. Once I was in the job they did not give me supplies, help me with orientation or directions, did not share material that they had for themselves and in general did not interact with me.

    The longest they went without speaking to me was three weeks. I did well enough without them but it was very weird, to be honest. I ended up asking my ‘new person questions’ to everyone else, because they were nice and friendly to me. Then people started saying: why aren’t your department colleagues helping you with this?

    When I would ask them directly: why don’t you both ever help me or speak to me? they had no answer, or they would raise their voices to me and shout “we help you all the time !” One time, we all were doing the same assignment and they brought me my equipment which was old, broken and very limited supply. It was hard to do it but I did. At lunch when I went to their offices to see how they had done, they had new equipment, alot of it and extra supplies.

    I lasted about 9 weeks before I put my foot down with the supervisor and said you either help me or you can get someone else. I left and they still have not replaced anyone into the position permanently. A retired person from the company came out of retirement to fill in for in the meantime.

    So, consider that there is something you are picking up on and ask yourself if you are willing to undergo something that might be needlessly awful and weird.

  22. Trixie*

    I interviewed with a company a couple of months ago, and my now-manager set up a time for me to come in and sit down with a few of my prospective coworkers. That, plus his management style, is what sold me on the job. One of the employees even called me to ask if I had any off-the-record questions about the work environment before I tookthe job. I felt welcomed by my coworkers from the start, and it made my first day a lot easier since I had a few “familiar” faces. I wish more employers took this approach.

  23. BCW*

    One thing I’d like to bring up, is that her being fairly a fairly unpleasant person as far as disposition, doesn’t mean she’d be a bad co-worker. I’ve worked with some people who sucked at their job, but were the nicest people you could imagine. I’ve also worked with some people I would not ever want to say more than I had to to them, but they were great. I get how good it is when you have both, but you have to think are you looking for a friend or someone who can get the job done? I’d honestly rather work with a total jerk who kicks ass than a sweetheart who I have to hold their hand every step of the way.

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