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I am only interested in working in offices which fulfill all of the following requirements:

  1. No cubicle
  2. Lots of windows and natural light
  3. Walking distance to restaurants/coffeeshops.

I'm willing to lose tons of opportunities and career growth over this, don't worry. Recently I've been interviewing and only find out that the office won't fit my needs when I go for the in-person segment, several weeks and phone interviews into the process. This makes it pretty awkward since I usually tell them that I won't be doing the interview and leave immediately. It ends up being a big waste of everyone's time.

What would be an appropriate way/time during the interview pipeline to bring this up?

  • 34
    A tangential thought - have you considered applying for remote working positions? Then you can have complete control over your working environment. – fubar Jan 28 at 2:21
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    For #3 to be a thing, have you considered simply having a look on Google Maps? – rkeet Jan 28 at 10:29
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    It confused me for a while, but how does it look like for an office without lots of window but also has a natural light? Do you prefer to work on a dimmer environment? – threeFatCat Jan 28 at 12:30
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    @threeFatCat - it is parsed like this - he does not want an office without { lots of windows and natural light }, i.e., without lots of windows and without natural light. – user112980 Jan 28 at 12:48
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    @threeFatCat There are offices without lots of windows and without natural light. S/He does not want to work in those offices. S/He would rather work in an office with lots of windows and with natural light. S/He could, of course, move to Germany where that is actually a legal requirement for all buildings :P – user253751 Jan 28 at 14:08
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During any interview stages you go through, you should have the opportunities to ask questions. This would be the perfect time for you to ask, even if it may not be relevant to the current interview e.g. You're in a technical interview, but you're asking about the office.

This is basically your chance to ask about anything from office culture, to the best eating places to after hour activities the companies host.

Something as simple as:

  • What sort of office space do you have?
  • Can you tell me about the office culture?
  • What sort of table will I be working at if I was accepted?

The main part is asking a question and not making a demand e.g. I have to work in an open space with plenty of lighting.

If there is no explicit phase of questioning, you can simply add it on at the end of the interview when they are wrapping up.

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    I've often found a simple "can we go and see the space I'll be working in?" works, if you're a bit further in the process. You can see if the team seems relaxed, has control over their own space, etc.. – Roger Lipscombe Jan 28 at 10:19
  • @RogerLipscombe did exactly that when interviewing for my current position, just to feel the vibe of the space and the people. – Grimm The Opiner Jan 28 at 10:59
  • @RogerLipscombe That's a perfectly acceptable approach, yes. Especially during round 2, but I've done it often enough on round 1 as well. – Mast Jan 28 at 11:32
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    @RogerLipscombe That works if your first interview is in the office, but the OP seems to want to avoid getting "a bit further in the process" before finding out the office environment doesn't fit their requirements. – Anthony Grist Jan 28 at 11:56
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I'm not interested in working in:

  1. A cubicle
  2. An office without lots of windows and natural light.
  3. An office where I can't walk to restaurants/coffeeshops.

(...)

What would be an appropriate way/time during the interview pipeline to bring this up?

Early. If possible, do your own research early too.

A lot of job postings write about what their office is like. Some might present it in an overly rosy light. But you can already filter out some that are definite non-starters.

Find out the address of the office you'd be working in. Look on google maps etc to see what restaurants/coffeeshops are near. Use Streetview to take a look at the office building from the outside. Again, this is filtering you can do before even talking to them.

If you get contacted by a recruiter, just casually ask them what the offices are like. You don't have to immediately list your demands, just let them describe the place first. Again, filter down to reduce the number of awkward moments.

Recruiters will often ask what you're looking for in a company. Clearly, the quality of the office environment is one of the things you're looking for. So tell them. That can already filter out some places before you have to get over there for an onsite interview.

If it comes to an onsite interview, you've probably already had a phone screen,in which you could have asked for a bit of high-level description of "so what sort of office do you have?".

If after all this preemptive filtering you come to an onsite, make sure during the interview to ask for a tour of the office where you'd be working. If it still disappoints, you can walk away without going through more rounds of follow-up interviews.

TL;DR - always apply early filtering for anything that would be non-negotiable for you. Be proactive about your research.

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    I upvoted this because of the emphasis on pre-interview research. It should be pretty easy to screen companies based on these criteria. An employer with an office in a neighborhood you won't enjoy is really easy to spot on a map. It also may be worth doing a drive-by of the office (if you can't look at Google Street View) to get an idea of how many windows there are. – dwizum Jan 28 at 13:53
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One of my questions at an interview is "can I please see where I'll be working?"

It resolves a very large collection of issues; including ones that you may not ask explicitly; for example "is there an issue with the state of the building"; or "will I only be given a single small monitor to work with".

There are some places that may have reasons to say no; but I find the question reveals a lot about the company and working environment more often than not..

  • Exactly. I asked to see the office after receiving the job offer but before signing the letter. I think most places would be happy to show you, and if they aren't, that would be concerning to me. – ribs2spare Jan 28 at 13:07
  • I could see an organization saying that they can't show you the work environment if they are doing classified government work or if they have trade secrets that would be exposed by a walkthru. But if there's not some good reason like that, I'd be pretty concerned if a company told me that they refused to let me see the work environment. In general I figure that if someone refuses to answer a question, that's probably because they know I won't like the answer. – Jay Jan 28 at 21:01
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Checking on Glass Door, etc might give some indication of the working environment; sometimes.

Also, if applying through an external recruiter, they have probably visited the client's premises. If not, they probably already have someone who works/worked there, whom you/they could ask.

Don't worry about putting off an external recruiter by this - if you have a strong CV - they are motivated by placing you, in order to make money, and they too do not want to waste time.

A somewhat more drastic last resort option would be using a fake email address to ask a few current employees, if you can connect via LinkedIn (or pay for access), but I would advise you never to mention your requirements after you are accepted. You have what you want - and that is not to be known as the demanding guy.

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    GlassDoor is a good idea. I have already refused work because people mentioning the management is idiotic or the office was mixed with the factory side of the business and was too noisy. – Rui F Ribeiro Jan 28 at 11:39
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You have special requirements that are pretty unusual these days, so chances are that most opportunities that come up will not meet them.

Best you can do, is to bring it up early in the interview process, i.e during the first phone screen with either the recruiter or the hiring manager. Walking into an interview, taking a look around and then walking right out again is likely to put you on the "do not hire" list and dinging your reputation.

Prepare yourself for a long search: Many jobs these days won't fit your requirements. Even the ones that do, will be hard to get since asking for this type of accommodation and privilege will in many cases disqualify you as a "diva" or "unflexible and difficult to work with".

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    Whether these requests are unusual or hard to satisfy depends strongly on OPs qualification and jurisdiction. For example, if you are looking for jobs that require a natural science masters degree and are located in a city in western europe, you odds of an office like that are quite high. If you are looking for a phone hotline operator job in India, probably not so much. – quarague Jan 28 at 8:18
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Contrary to other answers, I'll tell you there isn't much you can do to find a lots of info on companies.

The interview is the best place to get all relevant information. You shouldn't look at it as it is only your test - you should look at it also as an opportunity to get as much details about the workplace as you can.

When I was looking to change a job, my strong requirement was not to work in an open space office, and would cut the interview short as soon as I found out that they do have open office.


As to when exactly to ask them, you should ask them when they ask you "Do you have some questions for us?". Or when they show you the office.

0

If you know in advance, with certainty, that these are absolute deal breakers for you, then you should bring it up at the earliest opportunity. Perhaps not in the application itself, but certainly in the initial phone interview.

There's no point spending time and effort going through an interview process only to find out later on that the company can't provide what you need, and a lot of companies would (rightfully) be annoyed that they spent all that time and effort on evaluating you when you could have found out, early in the process, that it wasn't going to work out.

If you work with a recruiter, make sure that they know these are red lines for you too.

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I think this depends on the job you are applying for, and with which employer. In my experience, much office work these days is done in cubicles or open-plan spaces with variable lighting conditions depending on where you are seated. Even mid-level management positions are no guarantee of your own office. When choosing which office building to rent (or where to build), many organisation choose somewhere that fits their budget, not the closeness of restaurants/coffeeshops.

In my view, the only way to be sure you get what you want, rather then what you are given, is to:

  • Work remotely (like one of the other answers suggested), and you can work where you want - for example a shared co-working space somewhere downtown, your favourite coffeeshop, just your spare bedroom, etc.

  • Apply for really senior positions: CEO/CTO/CFO etc. That way, you can be the one informing policy and the building's location; and you usually get your own office.

  • Get in early with a startup, just before it moves to a shiny new campus - I can't imagine the like of Jobs or Zuckerberg put up with poor office conditions once their startups got big enough.

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Perhaps you already realize this, but I think the trick here is: You want to ask soon enough to avoid wasting your time and the company's time pursuing an opportunity that you're going to reject, but on the other hand you don't want to give the impression that you are demanding, that you care more about office amenities than you do about producing for the company.

(Even if that is, in fact, entirely true. I was on some forum, maybe this one, maybe another one, where someone said that when applying for a job you don't want to give the impression that you put a high priority on how much they'll pay you. Well, duh, I certainly DO put a very high priority on salary. And I'd think that the interviewer cares a lot about how much his salary is, and if he doesn't realize that I care too, he's an idiot. But you're not allowed to say that. One of those bizarre social rules: we all know it's true, but you're a social pariah if you say it out loud.)

No one can give a definitive answer, like "bring this up 42 minutes and 15 seconds into the interview". But it's a matter of balance. I certainly would not make that the first thing I brought up. But if the company has a long interview process, I wouldn't wait until after we'd gone through days of interviews either. If this is really a deal-breaker for you, then it's something that is probably a rather straightforward question. I mean, there are things about a job that are very subjective, where you have to consider what they told you and think about how they might have slanted it, etc. A question like, "Would I have a cubicle or a private office?" is simple and straightforward.

So I'd first ask questions about the nature of the job, what kind of work I'd be doing, etc, and then after I'd asked a number of those sort of questions, ask to see the office space, or if for whatever reason that's not possible, ask questions about it.

By the way, just as a matter of politeness, I wouldn't say, "I won't take the job unless I have a private office with big windows." I'd make it a question. "Would I have a private office?" etc. That just sounds more polite.

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