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Vault’s Verdict

Ask an insider about life at Cognizant, and the chances are that, before too long, they'll broach the subject of the firm's culture. Or, to be more precise, how the culture is changing—something that became inevitable from the point where, a few years back, the firm made the decision to transition from being a large-scale outsourcing shop to a full-service provider of end-to-end consulting services. 

Has the culture changed completely? No: The comments we collected from insiders in our survey the last time the firm participatd (in 2015)—a selection of which are shown below—indicate that there is still some way to go to bridge the divide between where the company was and where it is trying to get to. But, crucially, the firm is trying to bridge that divide; there is a palpable sense that things are changing, but that it is a work in progress—hardly surprising given that it has enough employees to populate a small city dispersed across the globe. 

At present, the major benefits to life at Cognizant are three-fold: it has some of the better work-life balance on offer in the tech industry; it places a genuine focus on career development, and allowing employees to gain experience in different verticals; and its name is starting to add more appeal to resumes, meaning that exit opportunities are improving too. Add in the opportunities that could open up as the firm continues its transition, and a stint at Cognizant may be something that is worth considering. 

Firm Culture 

  • "You'll be very surprised. People club Cognizant with Indian system integrators often, and that's a big mistake. The consulting side is huge, and full of talent from tier 1 firms and top creative agencies. Leadership is outstanding, growth is limitless, everyone is very smart and work is a lot of fun as well as being challenging." 

  • "Need to be able to work successfully in an onshore/offshore model, need to be a self-starter and independent thinker, need to be a great communicator and good with clients, need to be willing to work really hard with long hours." 

  • "If you're self-motivated, can work in an unstructured environment with evolving processes and policies, it's a great place to be. If you need structured roles, responsibilities, and set expectations don't even consider Cognizant." 

  • "Be prepared to come into a very chaotic fast moving environment with a strong legacy of Indian IT staffing company but at the same time very aspirational to be a leader across many markets, industries, and consulting categories. Crazy ride ahead!" 

  • "Incredible place to work if you want to be in control of your own career path, you care about technology and strategy, and if you want to only work in a specific domain area. There is the option to either specify your path based on vertical (industry specific) or horizontal (functional) area." 

Quality of Life 

  • "The individual needs to manage the work-life balance equation. One needs to prioritize and learn it is okay to decline the Friday night or weekend conference call. There are times when they are necessary but it should be the exception and not the norm." 

  • "Cognizant does a wonderful job of providing flexibility to manage work-life balance. The use of technology and corporate policies allows you to be flexible in the location of your work and hours spent during the day. The culture here is very entrepreneurial even though there are over 200,000 employees. It allows for success at individual business units by managing their responsibilities and targets." 

  • "Work-life balance and quality of life vary greatly from project to project. If your project has an offshore team you will likely be working 18+ hours a day. Generally with a nightly call that can go from 10-1am and a morning call from 7am-8am and then the actual on-site work during the day. If you are unlucky enough to be put on a delivery project you will likely be asked to work seven days a week, and all nighters are common place. On the flip side if you get on a project with little offshore interaction and a management team that has the ability to set reasonable expectations for the client the work hours are generally pretty favorable 45-55/week including travel time." 

  • "As an employee, Cognizant offers a lot of flexibility and takes into consideration employee preference. There is no poor aspect that strikes out, sometimes we may have to go beyond our normal working hours to support various internal initiative, business development opportunities etc but that comes with the job." 

  • "Very high expectations that impact year end performance to contribute several hundreds of hours outside of client work to perform company activities such as writing white papers that are not used outside of vertical domain if anywhere within company, creating "neutralized case studies" on client projects that are not used anywhere." 

  • "Best: Less travels equals better work-life balance. Vacations are welcomed and the culture is great. The accessibility to senior leadership is very high. Worst: Since most practices are siloed, there aren't enough opportunities to interact with other practices/groups within the firm. Interactions within the practice also can be limited. There are issues with internal systems which cause unnecessary time spent on resolving them." 

Career Development 

  • "Extensive ability to move within the company especially to horizontal practices. The mentoring and informal training is the best I have experienced across several consulting companies including the Big Four. The Academy has terrific training, but a wider variety of courses and formats would further improve it." 

  • "I am part of Cognizant Strategic Services. Great mentorship model. Great support from senior management to support the growth opportunities of employees. Very approachable senior management." 

  • "Career development prospects vary depending on the group you work with e.g. if you work in a smaller team or a team such as Enterprise Transformation Group or any other operational team for the VP's etc., your chances of promotion are realistically every three years. However. if you work in financial services […] your chances of promotion are realistically every four to five years for a similar performer. That's a bit of a letdown: you watch everybody else move up while you are still stuck trying to show your worth." 

  • "Best part of Cognizant is they put the employee in charge of their own growth. You get to work with your manager to develop a plan on your own career development. Company has great mentors with amazing experience to provide realistic feedback." 

  • "Best: Very large, global presence; Wide variety of corporate clients; Fantastic and supportive colleagues within Program Management Consulting practice. Worst: Often clients pigeonhole you as a result of Cognizant's reputation as a relatively low level IT delivery organization, compared with other more established management consulting groups within other providers such as E&Y/Deloitte; Internal bureaucracy and politics can be tough to navigate outside of the practice." 


  • "Firm offers very good Medical coverage along with 401(k). The only aspect which needs to improve is the base salary structure and the salary overall for associates with niche skillsets." 

  • "Best: Good health benefit and matching 401k by 50% up to 6% Worst: Below market salary for premier school MBA students, especially those on work permits." 

  • "For consultants coming from India, it is the minimum salary which they can offer. In the Bay Area, it will not be possible to live with this salary. Salaries are suitable for cheaper or rural cities only." 

  • "The complexity in the formula for bonus compensation doesn't have the flexibility to award top performers if their geographic or global performance lagged." 

  • "Best: The 401(k) contributions are matched at $0.50 on the dollar. Worst: Cognizant offers no paternity leave for new fathers, no networking or social opportunities, and no gym/fitness perks." 

  • "Worst: Benefits are limited and 401(k) contribution limits are well below marketplace standards due significant portion of work force not investing in it. Best: historically, bonus payout has been strong; in 2014 it was weak." 


  • "We are focused on growth and have plans to achieve above market growth compared to the industry and competition. We focus on innovation, putting money back into solutions that deliver value to our clients. We do need more marketing/PR to enable a broader audience to better recognize the Cognizant brand and the capabilities we can bring to our clients." 

  • "Consulting is such a small portion of this company and is often times used as a means to sell delivery services. This often times limits the consultants' ability to be innovative or truly fix a problem because we are bound by the sales goals of the offshore delivery teams. Additionally the major growth strategy has been to undercut the market which often times leads to unnecessary stress on budgets." 

  • "Best: We will thrive because we provide augmentation with off-shore resources; highly profitable. Worst: We are growing fast and the quality of our delivery teams is not where I would like it to be if we want to be a Tier One firm; If we continue growing without a focus on delivery quality, we will always be another Indian outsourcing firm like Wipro, TCS or Infosys. Not that this is bad. However, if our goal is to open doors because of our brand, I think we are starting to miss the mark." 

  • "This is an IT service firm first, and consulting firm second or third. Business decisions and strategy are largely driven by the head of the industry vertical, and not the consulting head of the vertical. The industry vertical leaders only care about revenue and do not care about selling consulting engagements and do not understand the potential high value that a consulting arm can provide to clients over the long term. The firm states that they have an initiative to become a tier one consultancy, but I do not see a commitment from vertical heads to this initiative. They will staff well educated and experienced resources on low level IT service projects for $80/hr just to bring in revenue, as incremental it may be." 

  • "Best aspects: Strong leadership team with thought initiatives which gives confidence on company's good outlook seeing its track record. Worst aspects: Company is still perceived as a tech company rather than a consulting firm, needs to excel in consulting engagements, leadership team should focus on this area." 

Hiring Process 

  • "Our interview and callback process matches what many other firms follow, particularly through email and phone calls […] The candidates we seek have domain experience in a given field industry, demonstrate a passion for what they can bring to Cognizant and our clients, clearly position themselves as a leader through their actions and work, and desire to work in a very entrepreneurial environment where success is predicated on your ability to think on your feet and take action, not just follow a standard corporate program." 

  • "We have at least three interviews with senior consultants after the HR screening is done, always ending in a face to face with the practice leader. We seek people with a blend of hands on digital experience and consulting expertise, so they can craft very detailed and pragmatic digital strategy that out-performs those of any other firm. Applicants need a rare mix of client or agency-side digital with consulting and some technical knowledge, as well as the ability to grow a practice and develop thought leadership. Close to 90% of applicants are rejected, as criteria is very difficult and full mastery of digital is mandatory." 

  • "Candidates are screened by HR, then scheduled for in-person peer interviews. Feedback from the in-person interviews is collected and reviewed. Candidates who meet criteria are given a final interview with management who makes a hire/ no-hire decision. The ideal candidate is able to think on their feet, has strong technical skills, a solid educational foundation, and the ability to learn quickly." 

  • "Know what you are talking about. Be open and honest, don't be afraid to say if you don't know something, offer your insight and knowledge. Avoid clichés and conventional wisdom - you might find yourself having to explain something that is not defensible. False modesty is no virtue, but puffery might get you into trouble at this level."

  • "Sometimes, it takes several weeks after the interview to get callback and formal hiring documentation. The ideal candidate must have exceptional business communication skills, specific industry knowledge, can influence without authority, confident and smart in decisions." 

Interview Tips and Questions 

  • "We do not use 'ambiguous' case interviews which I think is fine. The case interview is only as good as the administrators. If they do not understand its purpose and how to use it, they are simply going through the motions. I do present basic scenarios that a candidate should be able to relate to and probe what he or she might do in that situation. Typically ask for examples where they have implemented solutions we provide and ask them to elaborate." 

  • "Describe for me a situation that put you in a difficult position with your client and how you responded?" 

  • "Rate your top five criteria for working in the consulting field and explain their priority." 

  • "Take 10 minutes and then describe for me in detail the career you see unfolding at Cognizant for yourself over the next 5 years?" 

  • "Typical case question: Walk me through the cost model for a health insurance company, and explain the points where there are opportunities to improve costs and profit." 

  • "A major media company has recently launched a new OTT platform and has been faced with growing piracy issues that is eating into the company's bottom line. They have approached Cognizant to propose a content protection strategy. How would you approach this effort?"  

Diversity and Social Responsibility 

  • "Dedicated programs exist to ensure we are a diverse company across the board, and they have driven very positive results." 

  • "The people I work with on a day to day basis are understanding and accommodating to work-life balance. However, the company itself is not family friendly. The policies (e.g. vacation days, maternity/paternity leave, assistance with child care etc.) are not even close to what other what consulting firms offer. They are way behind the curve on this." 

  • "Cognizant is very keen on giving back and has numerous programs like STEM and others that allow the consultants to participate in giving back." 

  • "Best: Very diverse company, ability is the key factor in management decisions, not race or gender. Worst: Some cultural bias exists, due to the multi-national nature of the company, but this is not supported or endorsed at the executive level." 

  • "Cognizant's diversity practices are similar to other IT outsourcing companies. The firm is mostly male, and the Indian culture is pervasive. There is a conscious effort to diversify, and more women of all levels are being hired. As a global company, there is significant diversity in cultures. From a US perspective, minorities are represented, although I am not aware of specific policies that seek to encourage deeper diversity." 

  • "Being an American makes me the minority –not that I have a problem with this, just an unusual situation for me. I have yet to see any out LGBT, disabled, or veterans in our workforce."


500 Frank West Burr Boulevard
Teaneck, NJ 07666
Phone: (201) 801-0233

Firm Stats

Employer Type: Public
Stock Symbol: CTSH
Stock Exchange: NASDAQ
CEO: Francisco D'Souza
2015 Employees (All Locations): 217,700

Major Office Locations

Teaneck, NJ (HQ)

Major Departments & Practices

Strategy Consulting

Business Model and Future of Work

Merger and Acquisition Strategy

Merger Integration and Divestiture Services

Digital Strategy and Innovation

Business and Technology Strategy Alignment

Business Consulting

Finance Transformation

HR Consulting

CMO and Marketing

Data and Analytics

Target Operating Model

Operations Consulting

Business Process Improvement and Reengineering

Operations Strategy

Global Sourcing Transformation

Supply Chain Management

Change Management

IT/Technology Consulting

IT Strategy and Transformation

IT Digital Strategy and Architecture

IT Cost Optimization

SMAC Advisory (Social, Mobile, Analytics, Cloud)

Enterprise Architecture Consulting

IT Process Quality Engineering and Transformation

Program Management

Program Advisory and Management Services

Program Audits

Risk Planning and Mitigation

Large-scale Portfolio Management and Prioritization Services

Solution Design


SMAC (social, mobile, analytics and consulting)

Technology Services

Application Development and Systems Integration

Application Testing

Outsourcing Services

Application Maintenance

IT Infrastructure Services

Business Process Services