Today’s job seekers want more than a paycheck — they want a company culture reflective of their values. In response, more companies are strengthening their employer branding and actively promoting their cultures to attract talent.
A company’s culture can be difficult to accurately assess during the hiring process, yet it’s a critical component to consider before accepting a new role. A toxic company culture can turn even a dream job into a nightmare scenario.
Here’s how to spot the red flags of a toxic culture before you accept an enticing offer.
1. Use your interview as an opportunity to ask tough questions
An interview isn’t just a time for you to answer questions about yourself and your work experience — it’s also an opportunity for you to “interview” the company. Don’t back down from asking difficult questions about the company’s culture and values when you’re face to face with the hiring manager. When you’re interviewing with a company that truly wants their employees to reach their full potential, they’ll take it as a positive sign that you’re proactive enough to ask these questions, and they’ll be prepared with specific, direct answers.
2. Pay attention to the speed of the recruiting process
Being rushed through the hiring process isn’t necessarily a sign that a company thinks you’re perfect for the job — they might just be desperate for a new hire to fill an unexpectedly vacated role, or they may have neglected to plan for rapid growth, and now they’re scrambling to get more hands on deck. On the other hand, a company that drags out the hiring process might be revealing that they don’t respect your time. Wait for the company that is both thorough and efficient—it’s a sign that they can afford to take their time to find the right fit for each position.
3. Don’t be afraid to “snoop”
If you land an in-person interview, take advantage of your time at the office to scope out what really goes on during a typical workday. Take notice of the pace of life, the way employees interact with each other, and the tone of voice people use in conversation. Do they seem relaxed, energetic, or stressed out? Don’t neglect little clues that could indicate problems: if you happen to see a number of employees eating lunch at their desks, it could mean that people are consistently feeling harried and overworked.
4. Don’t confuse fancy perks for true company culture
Unfortunately, convenient perks are not synonymous with an engaging and supportive company culture, and hiring managers who strongly emphasize such perks could be using them as shiny distractions. Remember, enjoying free catered lunches, beer fridges, and ping pong tables might be fun, but they won’t provide valuable mentorship, teach you new skills, or help show you the ropes and answer your burning questions during training. Keep the big picture in mind, and seek out a company that will encourage you to contribute your unique individual talents to a greater goal and help you take the next big step in your career.
Read more insights from Fast Company about toxic work cultures.
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