Beyond the interview: the toilet test


People attend interviews for jobs. I tend to exit interviews with friends. (Which really makes me question my career choice as a technologist. Perhaps being a match maker may have been offered better prospects). That being said I think one of the key criteria has been to visit the toilet of the organizations to gauge the culture.

Toilets are generally a very private place. I have heard that female toilets are the drops for exchange of intelligence regarding other colleagues but in general it is the point of contact for excrement and release of unwanted bodily exhaust. From the design of the space and ensuring dignity via partitions for urinals to the choice/ presence of hand soap, hand towels, it does help to determine the company and their mindset towards employees.

Granted some companies have moved out to co-working spaces or spaces with building management, but the cleaners (being humans) tend to gravitate towards nicer office clients and spend the extra effort to keep the space clean beyond the desired standard operating procedures.

The industrial conglomerate

For the first, this is a conglomerate. I worked for their plastics arm in a extruder factory. The general notion would be factories would be disgusting and gross. Interestingly, this was the cleanest. Especially the factory floor toilet. The office was decent but nothing fantastic. I recall speaking to the plant manager about this, what left me very impressed was the fact that they paid a hefty sum to ensure the factory toilet for the technicians was well ventilated. There was absolutely no smell despite servicing 150 men over 3 shifts. The shower facilities were always dry during peak shift change. Enough cubicles were built by design to ensure hygiene was looked after. As you can tell even after close to a decade, this has left a positive impression. They taught a young aspiring engineering intern a lot.

The technology company

Moving onto a unique technology company the office was in some backwater area in Singapore (it’s a small country so imagine it takes an hour to get there from anywhere with residence). The building was around 20 years when I entered. This was also the first employer on the first day that made diversity an important factor explicitly mentioning to all of us that the general handicap toilet would also serve those who may feel uncomfortable with binary identification. The state of the toilets for a twenty year old building was very decent. Colleagues looked after the facilities. The floors were generally dry and the faucets had minimal water residue. The factory toilets were more impressive (equally old building, kinda makes me wonder if factory teams are more disciplined). Interestingly enough it was the newest office building in the swanky central district that had the worst toilet maintenance. Heard stories from my female colleagues that there were pee stains on toilet seat covers, for here female toilets😨 (I discussed this especially anatomically it seemed improbable, but after some very awkward demonstrations I let the issue rest)

The accounting firm

Bean counters will be bean counters. This is the first and only big brand company that failed to provide hand towels and decent soap (frankly I was surprised I didn’t need to bring banana leaves to wipe my ass). There was a male toilet that was notoriously tiny. To paint a mental picture I would imagine this to be part of astronaut training. But interestingly, the toilets were clean (and yes the accountants are a very friendly bunch to work with)

So what’s the point of talking about toilets?

Interviews, people will present the best they have to offer. Only in a situation when you have your pants down do you show your true self.

Companies who have a caring culture will design with the toilet first. The team that you will work with may be amazing during the interview, but the hygiene of the toilet shows their true nature (think back to the technology company. My better team mates were from the old office, not the swanky outfit)

Let me know if you have a similar quirk and if I missed out any behavioural observations.


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Garden variety technologist

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