During the course of last year (at university), reality eventually set in and I realised that I had to start looking for work opportunities for this year.

Even though I had one particular goal in mind, I was well aware that I couldn’t put all of my eggs in one basket. 

So, I got caught up in the frenzy (like most students do), and found myself applying everywhere.

I applied to graduate programmes, internships and jobs at a bunch of big JSE-listed corporates (like every other sheep in the UCT Business Science class does). And to my relief, I managed to get a bunch of interviews at a few places.

During the course of this process, I learnt that interviews are a big indicator of a business’ culture.

One final-round interview, in particular, will always stand out:

  • Upon walking into the big boardroom, 90% of the panel were male (first red flag).
  • Racially, the panel was also the furthest thing from diverse (second red flag).

And would you believe it, the first question I got asked by the Chairman was:

“so tell us, which high school did you go to?”

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m really proud of the high school I went to (I attended a prominent private boys’ boarding school), and there was probably also a time in my life when I would’ve answered that question without flinching, but this time I felt mildly offended. 

I remember thinking:

How can they ask me that as a first question?

Surely there’s a whole lot more to me than the high school I went to? 

I’ve been out of high school for almost 4 years now!

Unfortunately, this kind of corporate culture is really prominent in South Africa: many corporates are glorified “old boys’ clubs” and the high school you attended often determines whether or not you get a job at the end of the day. 

Imagine if you had the ability, but you were being judged in an interview on the fact that you didn’t attend a private/model-C school?!

To cut a long story short, the first question in the interview was my third and final red flag.

It took about one minute into the interview and the business’ culture was clear to see: it was backward and toxic. 

Surprise, surprise, I got offered the job there, but no, I could never.

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