Not Sure About a Company’s Culture? Trust Your Gut

Casually dressed professionals working in an office

You’re familiar with the feeling: “Why didn’t I trust my gut?”

Whether it’s in relationships, business opportunities or deciding what to eat for dinner, everybody’s suffered through a bad experience that, in retrospect, had some warning signs.

Accepting a job where the culture feels “off” can definitely become one of those experiences. Being stuck in a job you end up disliking can take a toll on your happiness.

To help keep you from walking down that road, we asked experienced Aerotek recruiters for their perspectives on how to connect with your natural intuition of a company’s culture before taking a new job.

Get in touch with your own wants and needs

Remember: This is your gut you’re listening to, and it’s a part of who you are. Aerotek Senior Professional Recruiting Manager Kate Keller says, “Know yourself well enough to understand which environment you will do the best in and enjoy the most.

When looking to match candidates with culture, Aerotek’s Sam Yeomans says a key for him is “gauging the candidate’s personality and asking about their preferences.” Yeomans adds, “For example, not everyone wants a position where they have to be social all the time; some places have a more subdued culture, valuing a head-down work ethic. That’s ok, too.”

Before you start looking for warning signs about a company’s culture, you should get in touch with what you actually want or need out of your workplace. Try writing down a checklist.

Research and ask

Do your homework to learn about a company’s mission before going in for an interview. Use the opportunity to gauge their culture as well. As you scan websites, marketing materials and social accounts, keep track of the tone of their communications along with the information they contain. A Carleton University study suggests that people form opinions about a website (and the company behind it) within 1/20th of a second of first seeing it. And more often than not, our first impressions are right.

Keller urges, “Gather as much information as you can about the culture and environment you may be working in.” Yeomans says, “I like to do the LinkedIn test. Can you easily find people on LinkedIn who have been with the company for three years or longer? If there are a bunch of people leaving the company after one year that is a pretty big red flag.”

Don’t forget: job interviews are a two-way street. During your interview, ask questions related to the company’s culture that can help complete the picture. Aerotek Senior Professional Account Recruiting Manager Morgan McCormick suggests asking, “What is your preferred management style?” and “How do you determine promotions?” Kaitlin Morkel recommends asking, “What do you like most about working for this company?”

Asking questions like these serve a dual purpose — you’ll appear informed, and you’ll get info you need to guide your decision — but be careful. Yeomans cautions, “Avoid asking questions that can easily be found on the company’s website or mission statement.”

Judge based on what you see, hear, and feel

Companies can’t really tell you how their culture would affect you specifically. So you have to pay attention to what you see, hear and feel about a company based on the information available, no matter how limited. That’s what your “gut” is doing when it tells you something.

McCormick has some signs she likes to look for, for example, “Is it loud in the office or quiet? Are there a lot of shut doors or open doors? Are people acknowledging you in the office or just walking right by?” Aerotek Senior Professional Recruiter Lead Matt Wiehe adds, “Interactions with the interviewer and anyone else you meet are usually the best way to tell how things really are.”

Company culture is the personality of an organization. And that personality can vary as much as the individual personalities that work there. Before agreeing to a match, check in with your gut, make sure you take what you know about a company’s culture into account.

What has your gut been telling you? Did you listen? Share your stories about company culture with us on Facebook or Twitter. We’d love to hear from you. If you’re looking for a job, visit our job board to find your next great opportunity or create a free career account today to customize your search.

Aerotek’s Kate Keller, Sam Yeomans, Morgan McCormick, Kaitlin Morkel, and Matt Wiehe contributed to this report.