How to figure out a company’s culture during an interview

Gregory Waldorf, the CEO of, has a great idea for how to judge a company’s culture during an interview. In order to judge whether they’ll be good people to work he recommends asking:

"What happened to the people that had this job before me?"

If they know, if they can tell you where they are working now, what they are up to, etc, then that means they had a good relationship. If they don’t have a clue, well, it might mean that they won’t have a clue about you when you leave.

6 Replies to “How to figure out a company’s culture during an interview”

  1. On the other hand, it’s probably not a good question to ask if you’re applying for a job with the CIA.
    Or the job as SCO’s community representative, for that matter.
    “Well, er…we only ever found his right sock.”

  2. Errrr… why would they care? Why do you care – once you leave, do you try to closely follow the fortunes of your old company?

  3. That sounds like a good question to ask in an interview, but I don’t know how well it would work with a big company. If an applicant asked that of anyone from my team they could almost certainly tell them what former collegues are up to, however I doubt the HR people in the interview would know.

  4. I care a lot who I work with – it makes a big difference in how happy I am. (Studies have shown that having friends at work is strongly correlated with work satisfaction.)
    And I agree,it depends on who you interview with – the question is really only relevant of the team you’d be working with. And it’s also a two way street – the previous person may not have fit with the company culture so they didn’t keep in touch. It might not be that the team didn’t care.

  5. In my experience people track where their ex-coworkers go but that doesn’t really mean they liked the person. What does it mean if they complain about the guy?
    At my most recent job some people complain about me but other people remember me fondly. The vocal complainers complain about insane stuff and I don’t know what they’re smoking. Generally I think places would hire me back.
    The guy I replaced at my first real job had to quit because he got carpal tunnel. I never met him but he wrote pretty good code.
    The Linux world is so small so you always see your old coworkers at Intel Developer Conference etc.

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