5 Ways to Spot Bad Company Culture During a Job Interview

Posted September 13, 2011

Spotting bad company culture during an interview You got the call. They want you to come in for an interview!

Finally, you think, the job search may be coming to an end. You may soon have an answer to that perennial question: “So, where do you work.” And, best of all … a regular paycheck.

While all those things are important, they fail to address fully a crucial question: Will you be happy working there?

The answer has a lot to do with the company’s culture.

Cultures vary from organization to organization. And positive, productive cultures come in a variety of forms. While they may look different – formal vs. casual, for instance – good company cultures share some basic traits: communication, cooperation and trust, to name a few.

Some company cultures, on the other hand, are negative – characterized by fear, foreboding, secrecy. Often, these are the product of malevolent or lazy managers, said Robert A. Giacalone, a human resources professor at Temple University in Philadelphia.

“It develops because people in power have allowed it to happen,” he said. “Or they just don’t care enough to make it not happen.”

When it comes to company culture, it’s a value judgment. You may be used to a more casual workplace but decide you can handle a more formal environment because the job looks promising and, overall, the culture appears to be positive.

But a bad company culture is just plain bad, and chances are it’s not going to change any time soon. If you want to enjoy work, rather than just endure it, do a little research and then be on the lookout for the following signs when you head in for an interview.

1. Nasty Interview

If an interviewer is rude to you – gives you verbal jabs, criticizes, interrogates rather than interviews – consider moving on, Giacalone said, you’re getting an inside look at how people treat each other at the company. “If it starts there,” he said, “it’s downhill after they hire you.”

2. Unanswered questions

Interviewing is a two-way street: They ask questions; you ask questions. If you avoid answering questions and give guarded answers, chances are the interviewer isn’t going to trust you. Prospective employers should be held to the same standard, Giacalone said. An interviewer refusing to answer legitimate questions should be a red flag. “Negative environments tend to try to hide,” he said.

3. Sad Faces

If you have a chance to walk through the office, take a visual survey of the employees. Do they look happy? Are people talking to each other? Does it feel like an upbeat place? Or are the people cowering at their desks, hoping to put in their eight hours and flee home? “Faces tell a thousand things without knowing it,” Giacalone said. If you don’t enjoy the walk through the office, it’s doubtful you’ll enjoy working there.

4. Bad Reviews

What do customers and clients think of your prospective employer? These days, it’s not too tough to figure out. Do a little Internet investigating and see what people have to say about the company, Giacalone said. If people consistently have had a negative experience with it – there will always be a couple of gripes – then chances are you will, too. “If they are treating their customers poorly,” Giacalone said, “you won’t fare any better.”

5. Bad Reputation

One of the quickest ways to find out if a company is a desirable place to work, Giacalone said, is to see if the employees of a competitor would want to work there. If they say no, ask them why. Also, research online company reviews and see what current and past employees have to say.

photo of The CareerBliss Team

The CareerBliss Team

CareerBliss cares about your career happiness. That's why we offer a variety of great tools and resources to help you make better-informed career decisions. We believe that if you're happier at work, you'll be happier in life! Check out company reviews, salary information, career advice and, of course, millions of jobs on CareerBliss and choose happy today!

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