Signs of a Toxic Company Culture While Interviewing

signs of a toxic workplace culture

Here’s a scenario that’s happened to many of us. You start a new job and you’re excited about what’s ahead. You may be making more money, gaining a higher position, or working for the company of your dreams.

But then, the “honeymoon” period ends, and you realize that things aren’t as good as you thought they’d be. You may see that the company culture is downright toxic and soon, you’re looking for a new job. In fact, 40% of employees consider leaving their companies due to their workplace being toxic.

The importance of a strong corporate culture cannot be overstated. Was there a way this situation could be avoided? We want you to be aware of these 9 signs that you may be interviewing for a job at a company with a toxic company culture.

9 Warning Signs to Watch for in Interviews 

1. Communication is unclear.

Good communication is at the core of any well-functioning workplace. Pay attention to the communications you receive from the employer regarding your interview. Are you confused about where to show up on the day of your interview? Did they tell you whom to ask for when you arrive? Do you know how long the interview will last?

These details should all be crystal clear. If a company can’t get its communications about an interview right, then communication will likely remain poor if you’re an employee.

2. The interviewer is a gossip.  

Your interviewer should not be “spilling tea” about current or former employees. It’s completely unprofessional and not relevant to your interview. You don’t need to know if the person before you left hastily.  Nor do you need to know how your interviewer “really feels” about their boss or their peers.

3. The interview feels rushed or too short.

signs of a toxic workplace culture

When you’re interviewing with a company for the first time, you are bombarded with new details to take in. You’re in a new office, meeting new people, and trying all the while to make your best first impression.

A good interviewer will understand that you are a guest at the office and feeling nervous. They should try to create a relaxed environment for you to connect and have a meaningful discussion about the role. An interviewer who looks frazzled and treats you like another task on his or her to-do list is a clear sign of a toxic company culture.

4. Interruptions are tolerated.

Take notice if your interviewer answers the phone, emails, or calls out “come in” when someone knocks on their closed door during the interview. This demonstrates that a) your interviewer allows him or herself to get easily distracted at best, and b) boundaries and privacy are not respected at the company.

5. You get gaslighted.

Gaslighting is a manipulation technique used by one person to make another person second-guess themselves or doubt something they know to be true. How would this look in an interview setting?  

Maybe the interviewer downplays your experience. For example, let’s say that you’re a data analyst with six years working on high-level projects. An interviewer who is gaslighting you will say something like “You may be better suited for a more junior role with us based on your limited experience.”

In an instant, the interviewer has diminished your career and accomplishments. Nobody knows more about your career and experience than you do. If the interviewer can’t see what you can bring to the company then you should look elsewhere for work.

After all, if they can’t recognize your past achievements, then they’ll have an even harder time appreciating the work you’ll do as their employee.

6. HR is a hot mess.

signs of a toxic workplace culture

When you go through an interview process with any company, you’ll typically communicate with the human resources department first. Pay attention to that experience and keep these questions in mind:                           

  • Is HR limited to one overworked person who can’t keep names straight?
  • Does their HR department seem to be more focused on paperwork and administration than connecting with people?
  • Do you have one consistent HR contact, or do you keep getting shifted from one person to the next?

How HR interacts with you during the interview process should give you plenty of insight into what the company culture is like.

7. The interviewer asks irrelevant, illegal, or personal questions.

There’s some rapport that’s perfectly fine in an interview setting. Maybe you and the interviewer went to the same college. That may lead to a conversation about the school’s football team, which professors you had, or which dorm you were in. Rapport like this helps you stand out in the interviewer’s mind and sets both of you at ease.

However, innocent rapport can sometimes cross the line and get into illegal territory. For example, if your interviewer starts asking you questions about your religion, marital status, ethnicity, plans to start a family, then that’s a major red flag.

Be aware that answering a simple question like “Did you do anything over the weekend?” could reveal to your interviewer whether you are married, have kids, attend church, what kind of neighborhood you live in, and more. Be aware of the illegal interview questions.

8. The interviewer doesn’t answer your questions.

signs of a toxic workplace culture

Did you come to the interview prepared with your own list of questions? Good for you. That shows you’re interested in the position and engaged in the discussion.

However, if your interviewer isn’t answering your questions about workplace culture, day-to-day responsibilities, reporting structure, or larger goals, then that could signal a problem.

Remember, an interview isn’t a one-way street. You need to understand certain aspects about the job so you can make an informed decision. If you can’t get straight answers, then that might be a sign of an overall toxic workplace.

9. Your gut tells you something is wrong.

When you’re in an interview situation that doesn’t seem right, you can kind of feel it in your gut. But it can be tough to trust your instincts—especially if you’ve been looking for a job for a while.

Before you go into an interview, get a clear understanding of what you want and need from a job. Then, while in the interview, be aware of red flags that could indicate a toxic workplace environment. Ultimately, you should trust yourself to make the decision that’s right for you.

If you’re working for a company with a toxic culture and are considering leaving, you’ll need a professional resume that clearly showcases your skills, experience, and value that you bring. Contact us today for more information.

Maria Gold is a Content Manager/Writer for Empire Resume. She is dedicated to helping educate and motivate people with the latest career articles and job search advice. Her interests range from writing to programming and design. She is also passionate about innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology.

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