Relationships matter — especially when starting a new job with a new company and a new boss.
“Making the wrong decision can play havoc with your career prospects,” said London-based Julia Meighan, chief executive officer of VMA Group, a global recruitment and training firm for corporate and marketing communications, in an email. “A good cultural fit is absolutely crucial to your future productivity, prospects and emotional wellbeing.”
So how can you tell in advance of saying “yes” to a job offer if you and your new manager, team and company will go together like strawberries and cream?
No harm in asking
When Kimberley Kasper, chief marketing officer for Highfive Technologies Inc, a video-collaboration company based in Redwood City, California in the US, was interviewing for her current position, she got lucky: she was invited to attend an all-hands company meeting and a company game night — before she accepted the job.
“Sitting in on a staff meeting gives you a glimpse of the team in action, personalities, and how your potential manager manages the team,” she said in an email.
Not every applicant gets this type of opportunity — but there is little harm in asking to attend a staff meeting, Kasper said. However, avoid asking human resources, she suggests, as the request might give the wrong impression that you have reservations about taking the job. Instead, bring it up your potential new manager.
A good cultural fit is absolutely crucial to your future.
“I would request this as the final step before the offer is extended just to confirm that what you think/know about the role, the team and your manager are correct,” Kasper said. “If they ask ‘Why?’ the answer is straightforward. One, you might not have met with everyone on the team and, two, you want to see how the team operates in real life.”
A smart manager will tailor the meeting in a way that the team gets an opportunity to interact with you as “the final sanity check”, Kasper said. “Of course, an employer wouldn’t offer this up to anyone — it would need to be someone they really want to join.”
Take advantage of the Internet
With the proliferation of websites like LinkedIn, Glassdoor and Viadeo, there is no excuse not to research companies and individuals in advance of in-person interviews. But, don’t just do a cursory search on LinkedIn, said Ian Casey, cofounder of San Francisco executive search firm CV Partners. Dig deeper. For example, on LinkedIn, you can see how many people have previously held the same role.
“Depending on the organisation, this can serve as a red flag if several individuals have held the single position, indicating a high turnover rate over a short period of time,” Casey said in an email.
On Glassdoor, candidates who have interviewed at an organisation often share their experience online, and current and former employees comment on what it is like to work for that company. Look through those comments carefully, but don’t take everything you see at face value.
“The frequency of comments from those who have not been successful can skew rather high, so job-seekers must do their homework to get a baseline understanding and then judge the accuracy for themselves,” Casey said. Also note the location where the commenter worked, as work environment and team cultures can vary by office.
Job candidates often do a quick Google search for a potential manager’s name. But, the mistake that many people make is to stop reading at the end of the first page of results, according to Donna Svei, a Los Angeles-based executive resume writer and retained search consultant.
“Keep reading as long as you find hits,” she said in an email. “The scary stuff is often buried.” Some of the red flags you might find (Svei said she has seen all of these): multiple resume/CV versions that don't line up, lawsuits with ex-spouses or business partners, financial problems, and criminal convictions.
Stalking? Maybe, but this is your future quality of life we’re talking about.
Facebook is another way to see a potential manager’s other side. “This is a place where people let their hair down, voice their opinions, show you what they do in their spare time, share what inspires them,” Svei said. If you can’t see their account, find out if a mutual friend has access.
“Stalking? Maybe, but this is your future quality of life we’re talking about,” she said. And chances are good that your personal pages are also being reviewed by the hiring manager or someone in HR.
Trust your instinct
Often after an interview, job candidates have a feeling one way or the other. It is important to listen to those feelings and to trust your instinct, said VMA Group’s Meighan.
“Facts and logic are important, but you will have a feeling if a role, boss or business culture is right for you,” she said. “Don’t ignore it.”
Career Coach is a twice-monthly column on BBC Capital in which we consider the career turning points and questions many professionals face. We welcome questions from readers at firstname.lastname@example.org