The number one reason Americans are quitting their jobs isn’t money, according to a recent FlexJobs survey of 2,202 people. Instead 62% of respondents who left their positions named a “toxic company culture,” as their main reason for resigning. Low salary was a close runner-up with 59% of respondents pinning that as a reason for quitting, while 56% pointed to poor management.
“A stifled, oppressive atmosphere is possibly the most powerful signal of a toxic culture, as well as the presence of aggressive behavior and negativity,” according to an article by the National Business Research Institute.
If you’ve ever worked for a company that has little respect for work-life balance or where management seems hostile and inflexible, you might have been in a toxic environment.
There are ways to sniff out whether a potential employer has a subpar workplace culture during the interview, experts say. You just have to ask the right questions and pay attention to the right details.
A job interview should feel like a “two-way street” in that you are also participating, says Amanda Augustine, career expert for TopResume.
“Be prepared to ask questions throughout the interview process that will help you determine whether or not the role will be a good fit,” she says. “If an interviewer, especially the hiring manager to whom you’d report, is evading your questions, consider it a bad sign.”
Other experts agree. “If the interview feels more like an interrogation, I certainly think that would be a red flag,” says Kathy Fanning, a career coach at the New York Public Library. Some questions Fanning believes you should ask include:
Why is this position open? This answer might offer insight as to whether there is opportunity for growth at the company, Fanning says. “Was it that the person was fired or promoted?,” she says.
What is the typical day like here? If they cannot give a direct answer such as “We like to be done with work by 5 p.m.” and instead say things like “We go home when the work is done,” that might indicate longer hours.
You can also “be blunt,” Fanning says, and ask more direct questions like, “What does work-life balance look like at this company?”
Augustine agrees that you can address the issue head-on. She recommends asking the following questions during interviews as well:
What changes would you make to the current work environment if you had your way? Why?
What three words would you use to describe the company culture?
What kinds of people are successful — and unsuccessful — here?
If these answers don’t align with the type of environment you are looking for, or if the interviewer can’t answer them, that’s a bad sign.
Be sure to volley the same questions to everyone you interview with. If the answers vary greatly from person to person, that inconsistency is also a red flag.
Pay attention to how the interviewer is interacting with you. “Consider how you were treated during the interview process, as it is often an indication of what you will face if you decide to work at that company,” Augustine says.
Some red flags while you are interviewing include:
Your interview is rescheduled multiple times.
Your interviewers are not prepared.
Your interviewer does not seem concerned with whether or not you will be a good cultural fit.
“If people are rude or dismissive during the interview process when they’re supposed to be wooing you to come work for them, imagine how they’ll act once you are hired,” she says.
If you visit an office, observe the current employees, she adds. Do people seem to be taking lunch breaks? Is there a kitchen or break room that looks like it is being utilized?
If your gut feeling is bad when you enter an office, she says, it rarely improves after you’ve taken the position.
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