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How to Spot Signs of Bad Company Culture During the Interview

Posted January 23, 2019

We all want to work somewhere with a great culture, and almost every business will claim to have one! How do you know if they actually do?

The interview is the perfect time to find out. Here’s how to spot signs of a bad company culture during the interview process so you don’t accept any offers and commit to an ill-fitted team.


There’s Tension in the Air

If your interview is at noon, show up at 11:30. Some might say this is extremely early, but your motivation isn’t to be prompt and show off, it’s to covertly observe. When you check in, say you know you’re early and don’t mind waiting— you have some things you have to take care of before the meeting.

Grab a book or notepad and silently “work,” but listen. As people walk by or others flow in, watch their interactions. If employees are stiff or staff is rigid with customers, it’ll be obvious they aren’t happy with their job.

Tense signals can occur in the interview itself as well, such as when you inquire about benefits, perks, morale or outwardly ask about culture. Take note of moments of hesitation, especially. Read through this list of interview questions to ask to decode company culture to prepare.


When Asked About Turnover, You Get the Runaround

One important question you can ask to assess a company’s culture is, “How long was the person before me in the role?” or “What’s your turnover rate been like for this position?” The more direct but polite you are, the better read you’ll get from the interviewer.

If the answer is less than six months or the interviewer is quick to make excuses or blame previous employees, you might have a problem on your hands. Even if the employee was at fault, you have to question the judgement of the interviewer, who hired them in the first place.


Routine is the Company’s Middle Name

“This is the way it’s been done for the past 10 years!” the person showing you around the office exclaims. Yikes. If you start to get the notion that the business has a very specific or outdated way of doing things, that’s a red flag.

Most people seek a company culture that’s focused on growth, making constant improvements as processes, technology and perspectives change.


Employee Feedback is Bad or Vague

During your interviews, make a point to chit-chat with actual employees. While getting a tour of the space, strike up small talk with the staff. Ask them how they like working here, even if it’s in front of the interviewer. You’ll be able to pick up on uncomfortable body language or unauthentic, dodgy answers.

If they jokingly say, “Well, it pays the bills!,” that’s not a good sign. They view this is a job, not a career. A job is something you do to earn money, while a career often fulfills a passion or purpose. If an employee at a dental office says, “There’s nothing like giving people a reason to smile,” you know they see reward in their work and have a positive attitude.

Don’t be afraid to ask for employees’ emails to reach out directly. Over the privacy of phone, they may be more willing to spill the beans on what the culture is really like.


There Are Cubicles

Often (though not always) cubicles are a sign of a ridgid, closed off culture. Surrounded by isolated boxes, communication amongst workers can become less natural. Away from the natural sunlight of windows, productivity drops too, according to NBC News.

Look for a company who embraces an open floor plan, in bright, stimulating spaces. This makes collaborating and connecting easier, uplifts the mood and opens accessibility to quick contact. Look for collective, communal spaces too, like large tables and seating areas, where groups can gather. If you see a dart board or a bean bag chair, you’re likely stepping into a creative environment!


The Company Has No or Empty Core Values

When asked what the company’s core values are and you get “I’m not sure on that, I’d have to check” or “Not sure we have any, actually,” this business has not put valuable time into their brand and company culture.

If they have to dig up some sort of brand guide to find their values, that’s just as bad, as you know they’re not actively striving towards reaching them. Look for a company that has powerful mission and vision and vision statements, or a strong sense of “why” they do what they do.


Do Your Personalities Click?

The problem with conventional job portals is that they only account for experience. They don’t judge a company or candidate based on their personality or consider culture.

That’s where GoGig differs from ZipRecruiter or Indeed. With GoGig, both candidates and employers fill out personality profiles and are matched based on their mutual compatibility.

Curious to see for yourself? Sign up for your free profile, today!

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