5 Different Ways to Get the Real Scoop on a Company's Culture

It goes without saying that there are plenty of organizations known wide and far for how amazing they are to work for, but what do you do if you’re in the running for a job at a company you know little about?

How do you get the low-down on culture before you even walk into your first interview? It’s not always super easy, but it sure is worth trying. Poor employee morale or a company vibe that flies in the face of your values can turn a seemingly great opportunity into a true dud in no time at all. And the last thing you want to do is leave a company you’re not happy at to start a job at another company you’re not happy at.

So, here’s how you can sleuth out the situation before you get too deep into the process:

1. Ask Current Employees

It’s pretty much always wise to hunt down a friend, former colleague, friend of a friend, neighbor or relative who currently works at a company of interest. (Or, if you don’t know anyone, initiate a conversation via LinkedIn using these templates.)

Ask well-thought-out, specific questions, not just, “Hey, what’s XYZ Company like?” Instead, go with something like, “I saw that the company is moving its Detroit plant to South Carolina. What’s the impact of this on your team?” Just remember to keep your conversation positive and professional—especially if you don’t know this person well (or really at all). He or she could end up being a great internal reference for you, or your downfall.

2. Ask Former Employees

Now, here’s another important thing to consider: you could also talk to a former employee. If you don’t know someone off the top of your head, you can certainly find a couple to approach via a LinkedIn people search (just don’t check the search box indicating “current employees”) using the same templates as above.

People who no longer work there are sometimes more willing to be candid and give you the straight skinny on the good, the bad and the ugly than a current team member will be.

3. See if There’s Online Buzz

The most obvious instinct to have when researching companies of interest is to go right to the organization’s website or LinkedIn page. This is certainly a sound move, but keep in mind that the company’s marketing team and executives likely control the messaging on these sites (deliberately and strategically).

You may find stronger hints related to company culture if you dig around on the firm’s Facebook page, Twitter feed, and other message boards and forums (including Glassdoor). I’ve even been known to google “Company Name sucks” from time to time.

If employees are up in arms about that organization, you’ll surely find some fodder in no time at all. (Just be sure and review this information with a critical eye and an open mind—some of the gripes will be coming from people who are just professional complainers.)