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I have a friend who worked as a software developer in a company I would like to work for. I sent him an email asking for a feedback about the pros and cons of this company (culture, adopted technology, work life balance and so on) and he replied saying that it's rude to ask for this kind of feedback and that he's not the kind of person to speak ill about his previous company.

It's really rude or unprofessional to ask these kind of questions? I wasn't asking about salary, benefits,and other financial stuff so I really don't understand what's wrong with this request.

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    @Ema.jar I think you have your answer right there as to what your friend thinks of the previous company. – Jane S Sep 8 '16 at 8:45
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    I'd even go so far as to say that the way he phrased it means he's negative about the previous company to such a degree that he's not comfortable discussing it. Depending on how much you trust their judgement and objectivity, that could be a very strong red flag. – Cronax Sep 8 '16 at 9:47
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    it really depends on how you phrased your request. – RBarryYoung Sep 10 '16 at 14:55
  • On a side note, I would have preferred that this conversation happened either face to face or over phone. I would be reluctant to share any opinion in writing, even if it was not illegal (Consider NDA) – Abhishek Bhatia Sep 11 '16 at 15:04
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Short answer: Not normally, but they may be reluctant to answer if they would give a negative response.

I don't know what your friend is talking about, saying that it's rude. It's called "due diligence", to find out as much information as you can about a company before you end up somewhere that isn't a good match. Most friends would answer quite happily, at least I know I would if a friend asked me about a current or previous work place. Of course, that depends entirely on how close the friend is. I would be more guarded with someone I considered more of an acquaintance than I would be with a close friend.

I would just leave it with your friend, clearly he doesn't wish to discuss it. The best thing to do is to ask the questions of the interview panel if you ever have an opportunity to apply for a role and are short listed.

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    Thank you for your effort and for the really good answer. – Ema.jar Sep 8 '16 at 8:55
  • " The best thing to do is to ask the questions of the interview panel if you ever have an opportunity to apply for a role and are short listed." --- it is not clear what to ask. Can you be more specific? – BЈовић Sep 8 '16 at 13:15
  • @BЈовић " it is not clear what to ask" - Ask about whatever issues concern you personally. For example only you know if your idea of a good work-life balance means you never want to work weekends, or if you are quite happy to work 90 hours a week to meet a deadline, so long as the pay is good enough. – alephzero Sep 8 '16 at 13:41
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    Your employer sure as hell is going to find every scrap of info on you! It's only fair that you do the same to them. – corsiKa Sep 8 '16 at 14:51
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    I think the feedback was actually quite clear - it was not a good experience, otherwise he wouldn't have grievances that he didn't want to discuss! – C Bauer Sep 9 '16 at 13:13
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It's perfectly fine to ask someone about their experience with a company, whether or not they're still working there. People do this all the time and asking the question isn't rude, though the way you phrase it can of course be rude. You'll want to be considerate of the time of your friend and take into account how well you know them and what relationship you have. Sometimes you can send a mail like you did, asking what they thought of the culture, work life balance, technology level or management. But that's requiring an awful lot of work and doesn't give them an easy out, making it harder to say no. Some people may not have the time to answer you or be uncomfortable for a variety of reasons, like your friend in this example. Instead you may want to send an initial mail to ask if they mind answering a few of your questions about that company. You can suggest meeting up, calling them or continuing the conversation via mail. With close friend you can just IM them or call them up spontaneously.

Now, while asking this question is fine, it's also fine for someone to refuse to answer or, more likely, be very guarded with the feedback they give. But the "don't speak ill of a past employer" doesn't really apply in this situation. You wouldn't criticise your employer with acquaintances, colleagues or do it during an interview but it's fine to be honest in a conversation with friends outside work, especially if they asked you for your feedback.

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It's really rude or unprofessional to ask these kind of questions?

In my experience, it's neither rude nor unprofessional to talk about a company with a friend. My good friends and I talk about companies where we have worked all the time. I'm happy to give a completely honest opinion and advice about any company where I have worked - both the good and the bad points.

If your friend is reluctant, don't push it. Something there doesn't feel right to him, so don't make him uncomfortable by pressing.

It's not clear what is behind his feeling, perhaps it was the way you asked the question, or perhaps he has only good feelings for his former employer. Perhaps he is worried that his response won't be kept confidential. Perhaps he doesn't know you well enough to divulge this information. Either way, he is entitled to his feelings.

Perhaps another friend can provide the information you are seeking.

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If I want to get this kind of information, I will speak with the respective person either personally or on phone. I will never expect a person to communicate through email for this kind of topics/details.

Its very natural to be reluctant on writing such details in an e-mail. Because, at times I may use that mail in wrong way, which will spoil the image of that person.

I am suspecting this could be the issue. Expecting to send such things through mail, your friend felt it as rude. If I am that friend, I will ask you to meet or make a phone call.

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