5 Ways To Spot A Toxic Company Culture Before You Accept The Job

There’s no way to know if a company is right for you until you start, right? Wrong. You don’t have to wait until you accept a job offer to find out if you’re stepping into a nightmare. Your career doesn’t have to be a constant game of hit or miss.

There are ways to spot a toxic workplace, before you accept the job offer.

There are ways to spot a toxic workplace, before you accept the job offer.


There are certain ways to discover if a company you’re thinking about joining has a toxic culture before you take the job. You just have to be willing to do your due diligence. Here are five ways to discover if a workplace is toxic before you start your first day.  

Read Between the Lines

Does this sound like you? You see a job description for a role you’re interested in, you skim the job description and say, “I can make this work!” Next thing you know, you apply for the job, get an interview and have to double back to learn about the role and company.

If I just described your life, you need a change today. Before you apply for a job, you need to read between the lines to make sure the role and company align with what you’re looking for next. Analyze the job description, review their website and do your research to get a better understanding of what they’re looking for, and the type of people they hire at their company. All the while, you should be asking yourself, “Does this match my values and career goals?” 

Ask the Right Type of Questions

An interview is not the time to just please and prove. Your goal should be to gracefully interview the interviewer, while confidently showing them that you’re the right person for the job, too. The best way to do that is to avoid leading questions. Leading questions are questions that hint at the desired answer. When you ask leading questions that subtly suggest what you’re looking for in your next role, it can be very tempting for the interviewer to answer the question in a way that pleases you, even if their answer is not 100% true.

It might sound good to ask, “How often do employees leave the office at 5 p.m.?” But, the person who asks this question is more likely to get a honest response: “Is work-life balance embraced here? If so, how? Could you give me an example?” The second option allows the interviewer to answer freely and gives you, the job candidate, the information you need to decide for yourself if the company culture aligns with what you’re looking for next.

Connect with Employees

Don’t just hit the “connect” button on LinkedIn. Genuinely reach out to someone who works at the company and ask for a quick chat. Having an informal conversation with an internal employee who isn’t a decision-maker in the hiring process can give you the unfiltered information you need to decide for yourself if a company is right for you before you accept an offer. You’ll get to learn about their candid experience, and if the company does seem like a fit, you’ll gain a great internal contact should you decide to start working there. If reaching out to current employees feels weird, you can also reach out to former employees. They, too, can offer an open and authentic perspective. 

Pay Attention to Actions and Words

Throughout the hiring process, your aim should always be to listen, observe and pay attention. Recently one of my clients had an interview at a well-known company. During the interview, the recruiter told her that someone in a similar role quit due to the number of constant changes and mentioned the need to be honest about that. My client wisely took that as a red flag and decided to remove herself out of the hiring process. A few weeks later, she read some unpleasant news about the company and was glad she chose to turn the opportunity down.

My client got lucky, but sometimes recruiters and hiring managers aren’t as transparent. Instead of falling over every word you hear, observe people’s body language and actions, especially during interviews and networking conversations. This can also give you the insight you need to determine if you’re walking into a toxic work environment.

Be Patient, Not Desperate

When you’re looking for a new job, it can be tempting to want to entertain every company that’s interested in you, particularly when there aren’t that many opportunities sliding into your inbox. But, when you’re desperate to land a new job, you’re much more likely to miss or ignore warnings, and you’re less likely to take your time deciding if an opportunity is truly the best fit for you. When both you and the company are desperate to see you join the team, that’s a good sign you’re probably heading into a less than pleasant environment. Take the scenic approach when navigating your job search, you’ll be much better off for it and less likely to be repeating your job search anytime soon.

Add these five things to your job search strategy and you’ll boost your chances of accepting a job at a company you’ll be proud to say you joined.

Adunola Adeshola coaches high-achievers on how to take their careers to the next level and secure the positions they’ve been chasing. Grab her free guide.

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