6 Ways to Discover What a Company’s Culture is REALLY About



Who is genuine and who is just painting a pretty picture?

Every company culture is different, and everyone seems to be shouting about how great their cultural dynamics are.  Job seekers know that you never really know what’s going on in a company until you start working for them.

There’s got to be a better way to figure this out first before you accept a new job.

There is!

With these key points, you can sniff out the real side of a company’s culture to discover who is telling the truth and who is just painting a pretty picture…

Read between the lines in the recruiting process

As a lifetime recruitment professional, this is always a dead giveaway, but it can slip past others.

While all recruiting processes are different, there are some tell-tale signs that can key you into a “cultural cover up.”

First, consider how many conversations or interviews you are required to have and how quickly (or slowly) the process seems to move.  If it may be moving too quickly, are they just looking for a butt in a seat or do they genuinely seem interested in you, specifically?  If its moving more slowly, consider the conversations you have had.  Did you feel the person interviewing you was really getting to the root of the role or why you may (or may not) be a fit for the role?  Or was it more high-level and generalized?

Also consider how much (or little) they discuss their company culture with you.  How do their employees describe their culture?  Does it seem genuine or more like insincere support?

You’re not just there to be interviewed; you are interviewing them too

When you visit a company, make sure to keenly observe the office.

How clean is it?  Do the employees (those just doing their job, not interviewing you) look happy with what they are doing?  What is the energy like?  If there is a whiteboard on the wall, what’s written on it?  Does it seem to portray a lot of activity going on, is there a fun contest listed or does it seem to be a lot of instructions for employees to follow?

Consider these factors as a whole.  No one thing necessarily equals a positive or negative culture, but when considered all together, they can tell you some things about the culture.

How important are the additional ‘perks’ to you?

Some companies will tout that they offer free lunch everyday or incentives to win tickets to the next baseball game.  Think about how much this truly means to you or motivates you.

Lots of companies out there want to be trendy and offer perks similar to this because they think it will help create a more positive culture.  This ‘stuff’ can be helpful to temporarily improve cultural dynamics but after a while, they generally lose their luster.

Its important to consider just how important you feel this ‘stuff’ will be to you in the first year and after 5 years.

Always trust your gut

If at the end of the day, you truly feel that the wool is being pulled over your eyes, don’t move forward with them.  Trust that feeling.

However, if you feel there is a genuine effort to create and maintain a positive and pleasant company culture, trust that feeling too.

Sometimes job seekers can get so excited about an opportunity that they can become ‘blind’ to what may be right in front of them.  If you get a gut feeling either way, trust it.

Ask some strategic questions to get to the root of the issue

Its completely acceptable (and frankly, I’d encourage you) if you’re feeling unsure about a company’s culture or politics to ask poignant and well-thought out questions during your interviews which could give you some indication of what’s really going on.

Here are some suggestions:

What was the last big achievement that was celebrated?

What activities or incentives does the company offer to employees?

Does the company give back to the community? (If so) in what ways?

If you could describe your corporate culture in just a few words, how would you describe it?


Still feeling like you’re not sure?

Do your own (thorough) research

We all research the job and look at the company’s website, but its important job seekers go deeper.

There are many websites out there that offer genuine reviews by current and past employees sometimes with details on salary expectations and those ‘perks’ we mentioned earlier.

Its important to note that not all negative reviews mean 100% accuracy.  After all, there are two sides to every story.  What is important however, is to focus on the content of the reviews and where do you find consistency.  A good rule to go by is if one review makes a claim, take it with a grain of salt.  If two or more reviews seem to say the same thing, you might want to give some consideration to that and ask about it in your next interview.


Not any single one of these points alone will likely tell you if a company culture is being faked or not.  You need to consider them all together.

If all together it doesn’t feel right, don’t move forward with it.