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8 Signs of Bad Work Culture to
Look Out for During an Interview

Eric Ciechanowski
By Eric Ciechanowski
Last Updated: September 08, 2020
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With the pressure of trying to impress prospective employers at a job interview, it can be easy to forget that an interview is also a chance to see if the company is a good fit for you. Not all companies are created equal. A job may seem like a perfect fit on paper, but in reality it may be very far from perfect. And a big part of that has to do with company culture.

Company culture is a tough thing to measure, but here are eight signs to look out for to help you spot bad corporate culture during your interview. If you notice these things, it may be time to reevaluate whether you really want to work for the company.

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1. The Receptionist is Rude

From your first interactions with the company, pay attention to how you are treated. Is the receptionist rude and curt? Are you getting the run-around when it comes to setting dates and times? A bad culture creates unhappy employees.

From the way you were greeted to the interactions you witness between employees, you should look for people that seem happy, energetic, friendly and comfortable,” says Michelle D. Roccia, Executive Vice President at WinterWyman.

2. The Interviewer Is Late or Underprepared

A sure sign of a poor company culture is a lack of respect for job candidates. If your interviewer leaves you waiting or seems uninterested in what you have to say, it may be time to look elsewhere.

3. The Interviewer Is Too Interested

On the other hand, if the hiring personnel are over-eager to get you on board, it could be a sign that they are desperate to hire anyone

According to David Bakke, a career expert at Money Crashers, if “you really aren’t asked that many questions about your qualifications and experience, that’s an indicator that the organization is desperate for anyone to come on board, which logically points to not a very good company culture.”

Ask how many other people they are considering for the position, and what exactly they are looking for in a new hire to see if you really are such a great fit.

4. Quiet Cubicles

As you are walked through to the interview room, take a look around and gather what information you can. Many empty desks could be a sign of a failing company, and a bunch of heads down without interaction indicates a stressful work environment.

5. Not Getting to See the Offices At All

If you are escorted directly into the interview room without a chance to see the workspaces, you’re missing out on a chance to get real insight into company culture. This could just be an oversight, so ask at the end of the interview if you could get a tour of the workspaces and maybe meet some employees.

They should be happy to do this, says Christian De Pape, head of Marketing and Content at Recruiting Social, because “when a company is proud of their culture, they show it off to prospective candidates, to give them a glimpse of what they too could be part of.” If they refuse to show you around, it should raise a red flag.

6. No Mention of Teamwork

“When trying to get a feel for a company’s culture in an interview, pay attention to how often the interviewer brings up the team,” suggests CEO Simon Slade, “Is the interviewer mentioning your coworkers when he or she describes your responsibilities?”

A focus on the team – and on how you might fit into it if hired – is a sign of a healthy workplace.

7. Evasive Answers

There is usually an opportunity in an interview for you to ask questions. Use this as an opportunity to get a better feel for the company’s culture.

Dr. Heather Rothbauer-Wanish, founder of Feather Communications, suggests questions like: “What is the average tenure of an employee here?” and “What is your favorite part of working here?”

The answers to these questions will tell you a lot about the turnover rate and the culture of the company. Negative answers, or worse, evasive answers, are a sure sign that something is not right.

“Nonverbal cues like avoidance or overly generalized answers may be a warning sign that this is a poor culture,” warns Sabrina N. Balmick, Marketing Manager at ACA Talent.

8. Unclear Values

Before going into your interview, look up what the company’s stated mission and values are. These are the backbone of a company culture, and can give you a lot of insight into what to expect. At the interview, frame some questions around these values, such as: “How do the company’s values impact the work you do on a daily basis?”

If the interviewer is not sure what the values are or says something different than what you found in your research, it’s a warning sign that those values are not as important as they should be.

“Values that no one knows are not being lived and cannot be infused into a culture,” says Dani Robbins, Founder of Non Profit Evolution.

The culture of a workplace is incredibly important when it comes to job happiness and success. Signs of a toxic work environment will be apparent during the interview process, if you know where to look and ask the right questions. As you are getting assessed at your interview, don’t forget to take the time to see if the company is a place you would really like to work.

Whether you’re new to the workforce or an experienced professional, JobHero is here to help you make the most of your career. Come to us for thousands of resume samples, job-specific cover letter samples and many more helpful career resources.