8dc65d13af711_10No one wants to accept a job offer and then discover that the position is something completely different (and much worse) than what they expected. Unfortunately, this happens all the time. It can be very challenging to know what it will be like to work for a company until you take the job. However, there are steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of getting a nasty surprise after you accept a position.

A word of caution: there is a lot of advice on this topic, some of which is downright awful. One social media post I read from a resume writing company suggested that candidates visit the company’s bathroom before or after the job interview. The post explains that if there’s an empty toilet paper roll that no one replaced, it’s a sign of a company whose staff doesn’t know how to work together. I didn’t make this up!

Now, here are 6 real strategies for spotting a toxic job before you take it – none of which mention toilet paper:

#1: Read online reviews. Glassdoor and other company review websites sometimes have a bad reputation. However, they still can be used a part of your comprehensive company research strategy. Look for reviews from people who worked in the same department where you will be working. Company cultures can vary quite a bit, even from one department to another. Try to find reviews about the actual job or department you’re interviewing for, in order to get the most accurate assessment.

#2. Pay close attention to how the company treats you during the interview process. This is relevant whether it's an in-person, virtual, or phone interview. Consider how friendly and polite they are, including how courteous they are when scheduling or rescheduling the interview. Also think about the format of the interview: did it feel comfortable and casual, or was it strict and one-sided? That can tell you a lot about a company. Personally, I've always been partial to more conversational job interviews, which I consider to be a sign of a more relaxed company culture.

#3. Ask better questions. Asking your own questions is a very important part of the job interview. Most people will ask the employer broad questions such as, “Can you tell me about your company culture?” or “What is it like to work here?”  It’s easy for the employer to give you canned talking points for answers. Instead, ask questions that require specific examples, such as: “Could you tell me about a recent time when an employee demonstrated the company’s values?” Or,  “Please give me an example of a recent internal promotion. What does the company do to promote its employees internally?” Employers are always asking for examples from your work history, so you should ask them for specific examples. The quality of the questions you ask, and how you phrase them, can determine what type of answers you get.

#4. Check out the company’s employees on LinkedIn. Before an interview, or at least before you accept the job, take a look at the LinkedIn profiles of employees who work for the company. Ideally, focus on people who work in your future department or have held a similar position. Look to see whether there are a lot of new employees or people who have short job tenures. If you see that a lot of employees have worked there for a short period of time, that could mean that the company is growing. But it also could mean that the company’s staff is not very experienced, and there could be some growing pains.

If you have LinkedIn Premium, you can do an advanced search and find people who used to work at that company. Then you can find out if a large number of employees worked there for short periods of time and then left. That's definitely a bad sign. Run some LinkedIn searches to see what you can infer from the profiles of current or former employees. Like online company reviews, I suggest you take this information with a grain of salt, because it won’t give you the whole picture. Each one of these strategies is part of a comprehensive research strategy.

#5 Ask your network. As I always say, networking should be a core strategy in your job search. Ask people you know if they ever worked for this company or know anyone who has. If you can land even one conversation with someone who has inside knowledge about the company, that’s a resource goldmine. It's always best to get company information directly from somebody who worked there and has firsthand experience. They can provide insight into what it's like to work for the company, and what to expect in the interview process.

#6. Never ignore your intuition. I have done this myself, and that's how I landed in a toxic job where I only lasted three months. There are nearly always signs, but sometimes they are very subtle. Did you end a job interview with only a vague idea of what your responsibilities would be? That's not a good sign. Did you feel uneasy about the interviewer’s personality or feel a lack of connection? That's not a good sign. Trust in yourself that you will make the right decision – and that if it doesn't work out, then it's not meant to be.

You should be excited to take a new job; it should feel good. If you feel hesitant or conflicted, it might not be the right opportunity. By taking some steps to do due diligence before accepting a position, it can help determine if it's a worthwhile move for you.

For more information on this topic, listen to Episode 138 of the Career UpRising podcast, How To Spot A Toxic Job Before You Take It, on iTunes or at www.careeruprising.com/podcast.  The podcast archive is available on Apple Podcast and my website at www.careeruprising.com.
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