Interviews, job offers and toxic cultures

I just read a great Fast Company article titled “How to identify a toxic culture before accepting a job offer!”

I couldn’t help but relate to the content.

How often have you heard recruiters, HR or interviewers wax lyrical about how great the company culture is, only to find it never lives up to the hype? In this article, Jared Lindzon comes up with some strategies to help job candidates bust through the deception.

Why does this matter?

It matters because research continues to show that many candidates, the especially recent graduates would take less money to work in an organisation with a great culture. So telling candidates you have a great culture as a ‘recruitment strategy is not only unethical, but it also means the candidate is making their decision based on flawed data. What’s more, they are likely to have moved on within 3 to 6 months resulting in increased cost and lost productivity for the company.

It can be tough, to be honest. Maybe your culture is toxic, maybe you are going through a major change, maybe you want it to be a great culture but are struggling to get it there. Why not simply be honest so that the candidate can make an appropriately informed decision? Interestingly, the candidate is likely to consider you and your organisation more highly for being honest that sugar coating the reality. After all, they will find out the truth if they join the company.

So what do I think is the best advice offered in the Fast Company article?

They suggest that candidates should:

  1. Snoop around a bit during the interview – what does it look like? smell like? how are people interacting? what chat is going on in the tea room?
  2. Check the bathroom! Yes, the bathroom. Apparently, restaurant inspectors and reviewers often use the condition of the bathroom as a likely indicator of the cleanliness of the kitchen. Whilst candidates won’t be worried too much about the kitchen, the state of the bathrooms can tell you a lot about the attitudes of the staff. Are they clean? have the toilet rolls been replaced?
  3. Consider the pace of the recruitment process – a fast recruitment process could be a sign of a chaotic work environment or that they are just wanting a ‘body’ to fill the role. Of course, if they are dithering with their decisions or the recruitment is taking way too long, that too could be a bad sign.

The final piece of advice is to ask some tough questions such as:

  • How much of your business is concentrated in a few major accounts or clients?
  • Can you describe the last time you pursued a bold new idea as an organization?
  • When was the last time something detrimental happened–like losing a major client or a round of layoffs–and how did management handle it?
  • Is mental health an open topic at this company?

Finally, when you do make the decision whether to take the job or not – trust your gut! 

“Your second brain is in your gut. If you walk in and you don’t have a good feeling, it’s probably not going to get better.” 

The full article is worth a read, so why not check it out here.


Gabby Button is a Co-Founder of The Wisdom Playground and Director of the Australian Institute of Leaders and Entrepreneurs. She is an award winning trainer, facilitator and coach. You can connect with her on LinkedIn or Facebook and if you are a coach why not jump into our private facebook group to stay up to date and gain access to ongoing tips, networking opportunities and other learning resources.

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