Here are some ways to discover what it’s like to work at a company without ever visiting.

Share story

A few years ago, I had considered a job at a company that seemed to have it all. It was a growing firm that offered interesting work in a field for which I was highly qualified. The salary and benefits were competitive. I had a pleasant phone interview with the hiring manager and went in for an in-person interview.

But I ended up not taking the offer. After visiting the office, I realized that the commute was a killer, the hours were more rigid than I had expected, the office was a giant, monotonous cubicle farm, and the people I saw seemed tired, working silently by themselves. I tend to thrive in a less rigid and more collaborative environment, so it was a simple case of a good fit for my skills but a terrible fit for “culture.”

In my case, I was lucky enough to have had an interview, so I had the opportunity to see how things worked and ask a lot of questions. But here are some ways to discover what it’s like to work at a company without ever visiting.

Look closely at the job description. Is it an endless bullet list of responsibilities and desired qualifications? Is the job title a new one? Does it describe the office environment and list some of the perks of working there? Does it mention some of the activities the employees engage in together? If so, see whether some of those interests match your own.

Pay attention to its communication. If you’ve applied for the job, what kind of response did you get? Was it an auto-reply robo-email, or a personal email or call from the hiring manager? Did anyone ask about your working style, or were the questions mainly about quantitative performance?

Research the company. Read the company’s website. Does it have blog posts and participation from employees? Is there a section describing the corporate culture, or is it mostly marketing text with little mention of personnel? Also, look at its LinkedIn profile. Are there many longtime employees receiving promotions from within, or do you see a lot of new hires and staff turnover?

Talk to current and/or former employees. Use LinkedIn to see how many people in your network are currently or formerly with the company. Try to set up brief informational interviews. Ask about stress levels, camaraderie, morale, management style, recognition of accomplishments and other work-life balance issues. The answers you get may go a long way toward making (or breaking) your decision.

Randy Woods is a writer and editor in the Puget Sound business publishing arena and a veteran of the local job-search scene. Email him at randywoods67@gmail.com.