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I've been interviewing with a large HR company, valued at more than 10 billion USD. I use their product, I really like it, and I think working for such a big player could look good on my resume.

I passed all their tech interviews with good feedback, and moved to the last cultural fit interview.

Everything was going well. Nice perks, plenty of PTO, good salary, interesting project, etc. Until I asked about working schedules.

The manager couldn't give me a straight answer, and finally told me that he usually works 10-12 hours. Also, since his team is so client-facing and critical, all devs are expected to be with their PCs close by all day. "If I need you at 9pm, I will call you, I won't be shy about it, and I expect you to answer". When I asked if such a situation would grant me a reduced working day the next morning or extra pay, he told me "no" to both.

I told him that I was very sorry, but that I value work-life balance way too much to work under those conditions. He mumbled something about his team not being for everyone, and that was the end of the call.

I forgot about it, and was just expecting the generic "We chose to move forward with another candidate" email, but I actually got an email from their HR person saying that their priorities shifted, and that they would like me to re-take the cultural fit interview with a manager from a different team.

It seems pretty weird, I was just expecting to be crossed out by the interviewer's feedback.

My plan is to attend the meeting, let it run normally, and by the end of it mention what the previous interviewer told me, and clarify once again that I'm not willing to work on such a schedule.

Is it really worth it though? I never worked for such a big company, so I don't know if schedules and pressure can change drastically between teams.

My gut feeling is that the work culture may be toxic overall. Unless the first manager I interviewed with and his team get paid much more?

Even if this other manager tells me otherwise, the previous interview seems like a huge red flag.


Edit: Thank you very much for all the insightful replies!

I had the interview, and was surprised when the first thing the interviewer asked me to do was to pull up an editor and resolve a code challenge. I mentioned I had no problem doing so, but just wanted to clarify that I already passed the technical interviews.

Later I understood that this new callenge was more akin to the usual work on his team.

After that, I asked all questions I could, and didn't mention what the previous interviewer told me. Some of my questions were

What's the PTO policy?

What's the schedule?

Are there people from different timezones I need to overlap with?

Do you implement an on-call rotation? If not, how do you deal with a P1 during off hours?

If there's something I really need to do during the day (I mentioned I'm currently on physical therapy after surgery) can I accomodate my working hours?

This time the answers were much more reasonable.

It's a 9-5 job, with people from as far west as California, and as far east as India. So no need to rush in during after hours. Plenty of PTO, and I can accomodate my working hours as long as I attend my meetings and my output is not diminished.

I contacted some people on LinkedIn and verified this.

The general consensus is that they work hard, but the company doesn't burn you out. One of the people I wrote to told me that his interviewing experience was similar to mine. He also got told that he'd be called at 9pm if something happened. He took the job anyway, and 1 year in, that has never happened. In fact he said he's never been this happy with work/life balance.

Maybe it's some stupid interviewing tactic to check how far you are willing to go?

Glassdoor also shows that other developers are mostly happy working there.

I'll wait for a formal offer and check with me bed if I get one.


Final edit:

I rejected the offer.

I got a call from their hr person. She asked how I felt about the interviewing process, and I mentioned again how I didn't feel like I was a good fit for the first team, but felt I was a good fit for the second one. The salary wasn't quite what I expected, so I asked if they could up the offer by a little bit. She scheduled a new call for the following day.

When we jumped to the second call, she told me that there was a misunderstanding on my side, and that the work culture on Team A was exactly the same as in Team B. 10-12 hours a day, and I was expected to be on-call pretty much 24/7. I rejected it right there. I'm 100% sure of what I heard, I asked enough questions to be sure that Team B didn't have the same work culture. One of them lied, and I won't even bother figuring out who it was.

She told me it's just that I'm not used to start-up culture, and that my expectations are not realistic. I was not intending to pick up a fight there, but I felt a little attacked, so I just said "I've been at a start-up for almost three years now. I'm not expected to work more than 8 hours a day, and nobody has ever called me outside working hours. I'm sorry, but I don't feel like either part is going to feel fulfilled if I work under your conditions".

I just wanted to hang at that point, and I had nothing to gain, so I kept to myself that if your company is valued at 10 billion USD, and you have more than 3k employees, I think you are well past being a start-up.

They were inept at best. All shady as hell.

Bullet dodged.

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    Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on The Workplace Meta, or in The Workplace Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed.
    – Kilisi
    Nov 26, 2023 at 3:30
  • How did this end? Dec 9, 2023 at 12:33
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    @ThorbjørnRavnAndersen I had edited the question with the outcome, but it was removed. There it is again.
    – ThMad
    Dec 10, 2023 at 20:37

10 Answers 10

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Large companies have many teams that function in different ways and have different cultures. The function of a team influences the culture. You yourself explained the culture of the team you interviewed with as "since his team is so client-facing and critical".

The most likely scenario is that you are going to be interviewed for a team that is much less "client-facing and critical", and so you won’t have the same requirement for an instant response. Alternatively, the new team might be managed by a competent manager who understands that teams burn out when they are placed under too much stress.

The other thing you can ask to do is speak to an ordinary member of the team you will be working on, without a manager present. That may give you a better indication of what working life is really like.

If you like the company otherwise, what have you got to lose? They already think your skills are adequate, and that you are good fit for the company in general, or they would not be inviting you back. And you don't have to accept any offer they make.

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    i definitely have been in such companies where managers and departments vary greatly 👍 keep holding your ground while staying positive (as in other answers) and make your best decision on whether you trust them. The first person could have lied and said what you wanted to hear then made you work 60 hours -- you always have to do your best and that's all you can do
    – Mike M
    Nov 24, 2023 at 14:52
  • Yes. In a large company, each manager effectively becomes its own self-managing entity so your experience can vary GREATLY. Some are straight up toxic while others are healthy and productive. The manager would actively also steer the group away from the toxic groups and would eventually let you in on the details. Which projects to avoid, who are frauds, who are nice but will stab you in the back, etc.
    – Nelson
    Nov 27, 2023 at 0:49
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My plan is to attend the meeting, let it run normally, and by the end of it mention what the previous interviewer told me, and clarify once again that I'm not willing to work on such a schedule

They probably think you are a good candidate regardless of the interview outcome, and may want you for another team/position (and given you already passed the technical parts no need to redo that).

Yes, what you say sounds like a good idea, however, I would let it run normally and period.

No need to preemptively refer to the past interview. Just let things go with the flow, and at the end make your questions. If schedules and work-life balanced was not discussed or is still not clear to you, you can then ask if needed.

Good luck, hope you get a good offer and with terms that work for both parts.

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    I wouldn't necessarily say that you shouldn't mention what the other manager said. I wouldn't be accusatory, but I would use it as a starting point to ask whether the other manager's culture was prevalent at the company or not. Even if the one team looks good, if > 90% of the other teams burn out their members, it may pose difficulties in the medium/long term: employees are regularly expected to be mobile, a team may be split, a manager from another team may take the lead, etc... Nov 24, 2023 at 13:32
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    Doubling down on the "don't mention the other manager or what he said" This manager may not even know of the other manager's presence. Let this "new" manager thrive or die on their own merits.
    – Edwin Buck
    Nov 25, 2023 at 5:10
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Is it really worth it though?

Yes.

You could try to get an interview with the second manager to see how their team works, especially when "their HR person says that their priorities shifted".

It could be that this second team may have a standard work hour (8 hours per day). Each team in the company may have a different work priority, customers, and schedule.

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I think the cultural fit interview went well: for you, and possibly for the manager. You both determined that the team wasn't a fit, and so avoided a lot of needless conflict between an employee keeping a steady pace of work, and a boss expecting an intense work commitment from everyone, including themselves.

The reason I say it only possibly went well for the manager, is that he might be desperate for staff, and having problems hiring into that team, and need to think about why a bit harder.

As other people have answered, large organisations can have many teams, with different cultures and demands upon them. If you know anyone in the company, separate to the hiring process, it would definitely be worth asking them for some more detail on the work culture across teams, especially the ones working for the second manager.

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    "need to think about why a bit harder" - or maybe they already know, but need more tangible evidence than their own common sense to make whoever is responsible for the workload to understand the issue. Nov 25, 2023 at 12:14
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Yes.

Reading between the lines, I would assume that the company as a whole did not approve of that initial managers team culture. That they recognise that and are willing to offer potential solutions is (sadly) very rare.

I think the question to ask yourself is: would you rather work for a company that identified and tried to solve such situations, or work for a company that has never faced them?

Personally, I had a similar situation recently. The first interview (after recruiter) was with the hiring manager, and they sucked - disinterested, very mechanical questions, unable to describe the companies product or the position in detail. Talking with the recruiter afterwards, turns out the hiring manager was leaving the company because they were promoted into management and he was bad at it. That hiring manager was then cut out of the rest of the recruitment process, for me and (I assume) other candidates too.

Companies are run by humans, and humans make mistakes. I'd rather work for an organisation who has demonstrated that they can learn from mistakes and fix them, than an organisation for whom mistakes are an mystery (or worse, ignored).

Worst case, that team also has an incompatible work/life balance and you've got more interview experience. Best case, you get a good job without having to do more rounds of interviews.

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    +1 for "I would assume that the company as a whole did not approve of that initial managers team culture." Big companies often have a few managers who are well-known for being difficult to work for. It doesn't necessarily mean that the company as a whole is like that.
    – mhwombat
    Nov 24, 2023 at 20:23
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My plan is to attend the meeting, let it run normally, and by the end of it mention what the previous interviewer told me, and clarify once again that I'm not willing to work on such a schedule.

Don't do that. Just ask about working schedules, just like you did with the previous manager.

If you're still unsure, ask to interview your future colleagues separately. Ask them what vacation time they've actually taken (the first year they joined). Ask them what schedule they're actually working.

A manager could lie to you, but getting everyone to lie to you, that's much more difficult, especially if you keep your questioning on very specific past examples.

Also, if you get an offer, another thing you could do is see if you know anyone in your second degree LinkedIn network who currently works for that company, or who used to work for that company, tell them that you've received an offer, and ask to speak to them informally about it.

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My gut feeling is that the work culture may be toxic overall. Unless the first manager I interviewed with and his team get paid much more?

It may be the other way round. Their team may be under severe stress and for some reasons (pay, some undisclosed freedom, nature of the project, ...) they like it (or at least tolerate it).

And the company knows that.

And the manager is a good manager who stated in his feedback "ThMad is a very good fit for the company (possibly team XYZ but not for mine). I recommend following up with them".

And HR is competent and reassigns the ticket.

These are many "ands" but one cannot rule out that this is actually a company that functions correctly.

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  • What is "RH"? Nov 25, 2023 at 13:56
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    @PeterMortensen, sorry, my French leaked in :) I meant Human Resources (HR) (=*Ressources Humaines*, RH in French). Corrected.
    – WoJ
    Nov 25, 2023 at 14:25
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No.

Employee exploitation is a whole-company culture issue, not a single team culture one. So if one team within that company is expected to work obviously illegal hours with no compensation, why would you think that other teams would be any different?

Far too many billion-dollar companies are billion-dollar companies solely because they steal their employees' time to become so. Walk away and be happy that you dodged a bullet.

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    "obviously illegal hours" = very much a function of country, so it's definitely not obvious
    – Ben Voigt
    Nov 24, 2023 at 15:25
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    Yes in the US, this would be perfectly legal. Unfortunately, software engineers and many IT positions are classified as exempt. Nov 24, 2023 at 23:45
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I really understand you, because I was working in some big company and I have experienced similar issues. The things you have experienced means that some (many ?) big companies has non-integral culture politics. This seems as a bonus point at first, but finally if for some reason you will have to change between good & bad teams in a loop, or work on cross-team project terms, then you will feel as in an interrogation of good and bad policeman, which the only point is to f*ck your brains out and make you more "slave like" and more effective employee for the company in the end.

So no, I would not recommend you to participate in the interview for the other team in same company. I would suggest better to wait for the company which will have integral culture and which will like & accept you without any burden.

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    Perhaps you could clarify what you mean by integral culture?
    – Charles
    Nov 24, 2023 at 17:11
  • As it’s currently written, your answer is unclear. Please edit to add additional details that will help others understand how this addresses the question asked. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Nov 24, 2023 at 19:38
  • @Charles Same cultural values across all teams in the company. Nov 24, 2023 at 22:33
  • @AgniusVasiliauskas Perhaps it would be more understandable to write “heterogeneous” and “homogeneous”?
    – Charles
    Nov 24, 2023 at 23:18
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    Please edit (change) the answer instead of in comments. Comments may be deleted at any time for any reason. Nov 25, 2023 at 13:51
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It depends. I had a friend who worked at what might be described as a 100B$+ ERP software company.

Their tech pipeline, at least back then, was atrocious. In the sense that all the teams pumped their unit tests into the same server. You broke something in the tests? You did that for the 250 odd developers in your division, holding everyone up.

A Friday 6pm call telling you to have your crap fixed by Monday morning, no ifs or buts was common for this guy. 50-60 hr weeks, year long.

Their model was: lots of juniors in. Whoever doesn't quit gets a promotion to the next level. Rinse and repeat. All VPs were ex-devs with micro-managing tendencies and a history of having put up with these hours to get to their position.

I don't think a "different team with a different priority" would have helped, at least in this instance.

Make sure that your guy was a one-off, not just more candid than the others. Look for testimonials elsewhere, like Glassdoor. Should be easy with a big company.

There are some pretty good answers on this Q, won't disagree. You don't have to bail just now. Just keep your eyes wide open about things.

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  • Why would you commit anything on a Friday? Scrum sprints for some weird reason aligned to week boundaries? Nov 25, 2023 at 13:55
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    @PeterMortensen why wouldn't you? Just stop producing code because it's Friday? (Of course the setup there is a bit broken, but normally there shouldn't be a reason not to commit at certain times. And if you commit on Monday, you might be asked to fix it until Tuesday morning. Nov 26, 2023 at 1:57

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