How to Avoid Accepting an Offer With a Company That Has a Toxic Culture

We all know of companies that are rumored to have terrible cultures. Cultures with the type of negativity that ends up spilling over into your personal life and has you with a dreaded feeling in the pit of your stomach on Sunday night. A toxic culture can ruin what might otherwise be considered a dream opportunity. In fact, a few years back fortune published an article stating the detrimental impact a bad work culture could have on your health ( Fortune article on how work culture can impact health).

So, in some respects, when you take a new job, you are not just gambling with your career, you could be gambling with your health. Given those ramifications, what can you do to make sure you don’t accept a position and find yourself working for a company with an awful culture? You could ask them, or perhaps you could look on Glassdoor. Both of these options are better than nothing, but they can also fall short of giving you a complete picture.

One of the things my current company does (Check out our website –Titus Talent Strategies) in our interview process is we assign every candidate a writing assignment. They are required to reach out to 2 to 3 random people in our organization and have a conversation about our company values and then write a brief summary regarding that conversation.

I remember when I did this assignment. I knew that Titus had a great company culture if they were willing to let me reach out to anyone and ask them about the organization. To me, it demonstrated great confidence how the employees felt about the company. It also gave me a chance to ask questions about the organization and probe current employees to get an understanding of what I might be walking into.

What if I told you that you could also do this type of reconnaissance on a company that you are considering accepting a role with. You can! In fact, it is pretty easy. Find their company page on LinkedIn and see if you are connected with anyone who works there. If you aren’t, then send a few people connection requests.

Once they accept (or if you are already connected) send them a message like this:

“Hi, Bill. Recently someone from your organization reached out to me regarding a position within your organization. While I am happy at my current company, I have to admit I am a bit curious. I would really appreciate if you would have 5-10 minutes for the two of us to have a confidential chat about your organization and your thoughts on company culture.”

If you are uncomfortable with saying it is you who are considering a role you could always say that a former colleague was interested in applying for a role and asked you if you had any thoughts on the company. I personally prefer the straightforward approach but I understand the desire to keep your interests private.

Having this conversation with giving you a great glimpse into the culture and how this person feels about the company. Are they an advocate? Are they just going through the motions? Are they only talking with you because they are hopeful it could lead to a way out? The tone of the conversation should reveal a lot of you ask the right questions. Everyone has a different outlook, so it could also be worth doing this with a few people to make sure you are confident in moving forward.

So, while it’s aggressive, that is my suggestion on how you can avoid accepting an offer with a company that has a toxic culture. If you have ever been in an environment that is toxic, you understand that it is worth the effort to try and avoid.
Thanks for reading. If you have a few minutes, check out one of my popular recent posts on interviewing,  How to answer the interview question “What is your biggest weakness?”.


What Most Companies Mess Up About The Interview Process

When I receive an email from a candidate following an interview when I wasn’t expecting an email, I don’t even need to open it. I already know what it says. Well I mean, I don’t know every word but I know what the main takeaway is going to be. My candidate it regretfully informing me that they are dropping out of the process or that they have accepted another offer. You see, when things are going great, people usually aren’t calling me. If the interview went amazing, I am going to have to make the calls if I want to get that information. As someone who has been recruiting non-stop for the last seven years I have received a ton of those emails.

Usually they are pretty much the same. They are polite, they are thoughtful and there is a visible effort to try and let me down easy. Do you want to know a secret? I’m rarely ever upset at the candidate. The only way I am ever upset at the candidate is if they misrepresented something along the way or the timing is painfully bad. But, if they realized the opportunity wasn’t a great fit for them or they had a bad experience interviewing, what reasonable person could be mad about that. Not me.

In fact, I am more likely to be irritated with the people who had been doing the interviewing. When a candidate tells me that they had a bad experience interviewing or that perhaps that didn’t quite get the “vibe” they were hoping for, I am disappointed for all involved. Because usually that means the hiring company didn’t make the interview enough about the candidate. It usually means they were so laser focused on figuring out if this was the right person or not that they didn’t take the time to show the candidate why the company was right for them.

People who are involved in hiring typically operate under the belief that there are two types of candidate markets. They think that when there aren’t a lot of jobs and perhaps the economy isn’t doing so hot, it’s a company driven market. Meaning that there are many people looking for jobs and few jobs available. Or the other end of that, when the economy is doing great and there are a lot of available jobs, it is a candidate driven market. Now for many years I also believed that but I was wrong. The fact of the matter is, a scarcity will always exist when it comes to the talent that is capable of making an impact that is extraordinary. No matter what is going on in the market, the top 25% of the talent in the workforce will be gainfully employed as long as it is their desire to do so.

So what does that mean for those of us who are trying to find and hire these transformative individuals? It means if you ever stop selling the opportunity, you are failing to put yourself in the best possible position to succeed as an organization. So, to answer the question I posed in the title, most companies misdiagnose the dynamic created when you are trying to make a hire. They are under the impression that the only party that needs to be sold is them. That couldn’t be further from the truth. If you really want to be able to hire the type of people who will transform your fortunes as an organization, you need to interview with the mindset that selling what you have to offer is absolutely as critical as making sure they are the right person.

Now, I will get into that in a minute, I am going to take you on a small diversion to give you a little bit of information on my personal recruitment. If you haven’t been to the About Me section of my page, I work for a company called Titus Talent. I could go on and on about how we are not your typical recruitment firm. For our clients, what really matters is we are much more so partners than you typical staffing firm and that we save them 70% on traditional recruiting firms. In fact, recently I filled a Project Leader role for a client and when it was all said and done it cost them less than five thousand dollars. If they had worked with me while I was at Manpower it would have cost them just under twenty-eight thousand dollars. So besides the fact that we provide comprehensive activity reports, massive amount of savings and a database of all the candidates we reached out to that they can pull from in the future, every single candidate we submit is a passive candidate (by the way, if you have ever worked with a third party recruiter before, the past couple of sentences should be earth shattering. If you want to learn more about our process and how we might help your company find the best talent at a fraction of the cost, email me at and I will be happy to tell you all about it and answer your questions).

So, when I say that every candidate is passive, this is what I mean. Every single candidate we submit is someone we reached out to, virtually none of our candidates every apply to a posting of ours. That is of course because these postings don’t exist. My company never posts a job. When I was at Manpower, a client would give us a role and I would then post it online to a plethora of job boards and sometimes, one of those candidates would be the ones who got the job. So my client would pay us 20% of the candidates first year salary for a candidate who applied to a posting. Not here, every candidate we present is someone who we went out and found. Truly passive, transformational talent.

Now let’s circle back. Imagine you did all the work to engage top 15% in the market talent and even though they were happy with their current role and not looking to interview, you got them interested and they decided to interview for an opportunity. Now imagine the client is super interested as well, they decide to have this person onsite for an interview. Now finally imagine the candidate says she found the interview process to be intimidating and isn’t interested and wants to stay where she is because after all, she wasn’t looking and is happy where she is at. Now also imagine the client calls you and says, “Ben, that candidate is Great! She has all the technical skills and would fit in great here!” It is now your job to tell them the candidate has removed herself from the process and has no interest in moving forward.

Guess what, that can happen if companies fail to do their part in selling the opportunity. Last week I wrote a post on panel interviews, The Truth About Panel Interviews – And how you can beat them! Intimidating panel interviews are a component of why a candidate might get pushed away but they are by no means the only reason. My advice to companies is make sure you remember that selling the opportunity is just as important as figuring out if the candidate is the right one. The fact of the matter is you will be able to determine if the candidate is the right one or not when you interview them whether or not you sell the opportunity or not. If you believe that, then why wouldn’t you sell what you have to offer. Tell them why people like working here, show them around and remember that they are people too who like to be treated kindly. If you can find a way to turn your interview experience into an experience where you are truly able to sell this opportunity you will be putting yourself at a significant competitive advantage. Remember, there will always be a shortage of the best people, regardless of the market.

Well there you have it! What most companies mess up about the interview process is they remember to find out if you are right for them but they forget to demonstrate why they are right for you. If you liked this post, share it! I love seeing when people share my posts in their LinkedIn groups or on Facebook. Also, please feel free to share your thoughts below, I always try and comment back. What I would love to hear is examples of when companies did an awesome job of selling you on their opportunity. You can also share horror stories of interviews you have been on; those could be really fun to share as well. Thanks for reading and remember, there is never a bad time to hear about an amazing opportunity!