Given that no hiring manager in the history of the world has announced, "This is a terrible job where we'll work you to the bone and suck all the joy from your life," interviewing for a new gig always involves some degree of detective work.

Does the boss's reference to his "dedicated team," indicate everyone is full of passion, or that you'll rarely get home before 10pm? Are the free snacks a sign of respect or an attempt to keep employees chained to their desks? Was that wisecrack a preview of workplace fun or a warning sign of oafish behavior to come?

We all make these sort of calculations continuously when interviewing. But according to a fascinating recent article on Quartz from Leah Fessler, many job seekers are actually missing out on valuable signals that can offer a revealing glimpse of what they'll really get once they sign on with a potential employer.

It's all about the office, she argues after speaking to a number of design experts, who insist that most work spaces are full of tells as to what a company's culture is really like and how happy employees are working there. All you need is to know what to look for. Here are a few of the many ideas uncovered by Fessler.

1. The reception area

While you're waiting for your interview, notice how people interact with the receptionist. "If employees greet or casually chat with the receptionist, that's evidence of a warm environment where all workers are treated as deserving of equal respect," explains Fessler

2. The kitchen

Check the fridge for passive aggressive (or even downright aggressive) notes like, "If you're hungry, there's a food pantry on 28th St. Hands off!" "They suggest that office rules have to be set rather than arising informally through communal employee motivation," cautions Dan Connolly of behavioral design firm ideas42.

3. Private workspaces

Do people have personal mementos or pictures of their families on their desks? "Desk or workplace personalization evidences a real sense of engagement, and also shows that people are encouraged to bring their whole selves to work, including their personality and feelings," organizational psychologist Liane Davey tells Fessler.

4. Communal workspaces

Just like you can guess the previous subject taught in a classroom by looking at the blackboard, you can get a sense of the company's approach to innovation by sneaking a peek at their white boards. "If they're full of fresh ink and new ideas, you've got proof of an environment that values collaboration. The opposite may be true if it's clear the boards haven't been erased in months," Fessler explains.

5. The restroom

Wondering if a potential employer is truly friendly to female employees? One clue might be in the bathroom. "Check for company-provided tampons--when companies provide this unfairly taxed necessity, they demonstrate their respect for women's health," and attention to women's perspectives, suggests Fessler.

These are just a handful of the suggestions Fessler unearths, so check out the complete article for a lot more on how to effective sleuth out a company's culture based on their office design.

Published on: Mar 21, 2017