Protect Your Next Job from Company Culture Shock – Ask the Right Questions

All too often, employees quit jobs within the first year because they didn’t do their research or ask the right questions in their interviews. Don’t let your next job die from culture shock.

Culture Shock: The stats and the reasons for the stats

According to researchers, nearly one third of employees quit their jobs within the first 90 days. So, what are the stats for the first six months to a year? According to a recent article in, forty percent of employees who voluntarily quit jobs in 2013, left in the first six months, with an additional 16 percent gone within one year. That’s more than half of all new hires quitting during their first year on the job.

The reasons? Pretty much what you’d expect:

  • Their understanding of the job didn’t match the job itself.
  • They conflicted with management.
  • Their values were out of sync with the company culture.

And on and on and on.

Avoid culture shock by researching the company

No one wants to go through all the work and stress of landing a job only to find they’re miserable. As a prospective employee, you need to do everything you reasonably can to learn as much about the company as possible. This takes time and creative thinking. One method for getting at least some answers about a company is to look at its website. Is its approach bold or more on the genteel side? What does the overall message say? Do they seem to value diversity?

Next, expand your search. Read everything you can online. Has the company made the news and if so, how? If it’s by funding a school hot lunch program, that’s great. If it’s because the CEO got indicted, then, not so much.

Dig deeper to probe for compatibility

Some job-searchers have been known to go as far as parking in a company’s parking lot to watch employees come and go. If you do this, don’t draw attention to yourself by looking like a stalker or by staying too long. Try the start of the workday, the end of the workday, or lunchtime. Do employees look miserable going in and thrilled to come out?

Better yet, are they thrilled when they leave and thrilled going in? Consider chatting with one of them. Ask how they feel about their jobs and if they’re glad they work there. Ask about management styles, incentives and benefits. For more on researching companies and assessing organizational culture, click here.

Any online search of candidate interview questions can give you a laundry list of things to ask, so we won’t burden you with that. What we will do is share a few questions it’s good to ask of current employees or during an interview to help you avoid jumping ship the first year. Obviously, some of these questions are for interviews only.

How often does the company promote from within?

Why did this position become available?

How are performance reviews conducted and how often?

What would a typical day look like for someone in this job?

How is information disseminated within the company?

Would I be replacing someone who held this position, and if so, what is that employee’s new role?

What expectations would you have of me and within what time frame?

How are employees incentivized?

How would you describe your management style?

May I see where I’d be working?

Asking these questions can tip you off to possible red flags such as the firing of your predecessor, micromanagement, and lack of promotion opportunities.

Related: Candidate Questions to Ask the Interviewer

Tying it all together with some important caveats

Your priorities and values might prompt you to ask other questions, such as:

  • what the organization’s charitable involvements are,
  • whether telecommuting is an option
  • if the company has a wellness program

Avoid asking about child care benefits until a firm offer is on the table. Unfortunately, some employers see an employee having small children as a red flag due to potential work absence issues. By law an employer cannot ask if you have children unless it directly relates to the job, which isn’t likely, so don’t offer that kind of information too soon.

It boils down to is this: If you expect to be happily employed, you have to do some homework. Good luck, and we are here for you!

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