How to Get the Inside Scoop on a Company Before Accepting a New Job

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By Alison Green

When you're interviewing for a job, it can be tough to know what working there day to day would really be like. Good companies will try to help you get a strong sense of their culture, but plenty of employers try so hard to present themselves in a good light that they obscure important information about working there. And even when companies try to be transparent, candidates are often so eager to get a job offer that they overlook warning signs about the culture.

It's crucial to find ways to dig into what's it's really like to work somewhere before you accept an offer. Otherwise, you risk finding yourself in a new job that makes you miserable.

Here are seven ways to get the inside scoop on a company before you accept a job offer.1. Ask smart questions. Too often, candidates don't ask many questions of their own during job interviews, instead relying on their interviewers to tell them what they need to know. Don't squander your opportunity to hear directly from your interviewer about the company culture! These questions can get you useful information:
  • "What kind of person does especially well here, and what type of person isn't as strong of a fit?"
  • "What time do you normally come in to work and leave for the day?"
  • "Can you tell me about a time there was a disagreement on the team and how it was handled?"
  • "How long was the previous person in the role, and how many people have held the role in the last five years?" (Unusually high turnover in the role can be a sign of problems; you often see it when the workload is unmanageable, the boss is difficult to work with or the expectations are unrealistic.)
  • "How have you seen the company change since you've been here?" (This question assumes your interviewer has been with the company at least a few years.)
  • "If you could change one thing about the culture here, what would it be?"
  • "What do you wish you knew before starting work here?"
2. Ask to talk to other people on the team that you would be joining before accepting a job offer. Good employers will be willing to connect you with the people you'd be working closely with and give you a chance to talk informally with them. If they don't, consider that a red flag from a company that may have something to hide.

3. Check review sites like Glassdoor.com. Glassdoor can contain a wealth of information about what it's like to work for a company, because it posts reviews from current and past employees. Be wary of reviews that are either glowingly positive or horrifyingly bad, which can often be from people with an agenda; instead, pay attention to the reviews that are somewhere in the middle, which are most likely to give you the real story.

4. Work your network. Talking to people who have actually worked at the company will be your best source of insider information. LinkedIn is a great way to see if anyone in your network has connections to current or former employees, and see if they'll connect you for an off-the-record conversation.

You can also look at your prospective manager's background and see if anyone in your network is connected to people who worked with her at her previous jobs. They might be an additional useful source of information about what she will be like to work with.

5. Talk to recruiters. In many fields, recruiters can be a great source of information about what a company is really like to work with. They often hear the inside scoop from employers and employees alike and might be willing to give you their candid take, or at least tell you whether the company has a reputation for being a great place to work – or the opposite.

6. Pay attention to what you see during the interview process. Do the employees you pass on the way to the office where your interview is held seem happy? Frazzled? Miserable? Is the hiring process well thought out and organized, or is it chaotic and inefficient? Do your interviewers seem to care about making sure the job is the right fit? Do they give you a chance to ask your own questions, and do they give you thoughtful and genuine-seeming answers? Do you feel like you're being sold a product rather than being given a real look at what the work is like? Do your interviewers meet their commitments to you, like following up with you by the date they tell you they will? Or are you left hanging for weeks past when you were told they'd be in touch?

7. Don't let your desire for the job blind you to signs that it won't be the right fit. One of the biggest ways that people end up in jobs where they're unhappy is by not paying enough attention to warning signs during the hiring process. It's easy to get so caught up in wanting the job that you overlook or minimize important signals that the workplace culture won't be for you. Resolve to keep your eyes open during the hiring process, and when you see red flags, explore them further.
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