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I recently completed the interview process at a local company and I have received a reasonable offer. I have an appointment tomorrow to inform them of my decision in person.

In South Africa there are no laws regarding annual increases; almost all employers tell you that your salary will be reviewed on an annual basis, but hardly any are willing to guarantee it. Further, experience has taught me that all is not what it seems when you look at a prospective employer from outside. There are no real indicators of how management handle requests such a a day off for personal matters, etc.

Would it be frowned upon if I request to speak privately to some current employees to get a feel of the company culture, etc., before accepting/declining their offer? I would aim to speak to people who would be my peers and ask questions that management would typically not like to hear you ask. One example would be: "How does management react when unreasonable requests are questioned?"

In South Africa, it is not customary to introduce you to other staff before your employment has been confirmed.

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During the interview process, nothing is private and everything is on the record.

That's perhaps a slight exaggeration, especially when it comes to personal information, which may even be illegal to share beyond a certain point. And a "chat" you specifically asked for may be less on the record than an official interview (but still not private). Although it's still a good rule to live by.

Assume any question you ask will get back to management and will affect your chances of getting an offer. Assume any answer you get will be filtered through the lens of this being an interview process and the person you're speaking to being an official representative of the company (so don't expect any answer which paints the company in an objectively bad light).

If you have a question you feel you may be judged for, you could always just embrace it and ask it during an interview. Another option, which could also work well when the answer to your original question might be "bad", would be to try to think of a less direct way to ask and read between the lines to get your answer. Related: Is it appropriate to ask about the negative aspects of a company in an interview? and Should I ask a potential employer about their negative Glassdoor reviews?

Although you can also ask to have a informal chat with someone (I wouldn't call it "private") if you want to ask your questions in a bit less official setting, you have more questions (you don't want to ask over email) or you want to speak to someone you haven't spoken to before (e.g. perhaps you've only spoken to management and not peers). This is a bit of an unusual request, but many companies would be more than willing to grant this without having it affect your offer, assuming you ask after getting an offer (I wouldn't really ask much earlier than that point).

Other options include checking reviews of working at the company (e.g. on Glassdoor) or whether there's a former employee in your professional network whom you can arrange a chat with.

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    I think this answer is spot on. +1 – JustSaying Jun 24 at 20:36
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Go for it! It’s not unusual to request a number of phone calls with potential colleagues or to visit a new workplace before accepting an offer.

Talking to potential peers and managers is a very prudent step in your job search. Ask the recruiter or hiring manager to help you organize some phone calls with potential peers. Or, if you’re not relocating for the new opportunity, see if the manager will let you stop by for an hour to meet some folks.

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    As the OP has made it clear that this is not customary, will even asking upset the future manager(s)? – Solar Mike Jun 24 at 13:22
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    @SolarMike, at most the manager will decline the request - which is an indication of company culture itself. Asking for informal conversations with potential peers will create helpful information for the OP in his/her decision regardless of whether or not the request is honored. – Jay Jun 24 at 13:28
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In some places, part of the "interview process" is to meet the team you will be working with.

This gives them chance to see you and you them. They can ask better technical questions and, when I had one like that, it had less "pressure" but they felt it was more effective than the structured interview with the managers...

  • In South Africa It is not customary to introduce you to other staff before your employment has been confirmed. – JustSaying Jun 24 at 12:15
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    @JustSaying That is why I stated clearly "in some places, so as to provide a bit of insight - that way others can absorb and appropriate different methods, techniques etc. It was not customary at all in the UK, now some places do it "as normal"... – Solar Mike Jun 24 at 12:20
  • This is true, but what should the OP do having already completed interviewing? – Jay Jun 24 at 13:18
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The time to do that was really kind of before you're faced with accepting or declining an offer. I'm not sure how one would go about making that request. I'd worry that they'd let you speak to their handpicked people, for one. It's really hard to know you'd get an honest answer.

I'd suggest that if you have some questions regarding policy, just come out and ask when you go to accept the offer. I'll be honest, I've worked in some places that were great, and I've worked some places that were bad. It's hard to tell which is which before you are working there.

  • Which is exactly why I have some questions I would to ask while no member of management is around to hear the responses. – JustSaying Jun 24 at 11:59
  • People tend to give the "right" answers when any superior is around. – JustSaying Jun 24 at 12:01

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