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How to decode a recruitment agency’s true culture – before you’re in too deep

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You apply for what looks like the perfect job, sail through the interview and start full of enthusiasm...only to discover the workplace culture isn’t what you were promised.

Maybe your new office is allergic to flexible working. Maybe your new manager promised you the earth in your interview, but in reality couldn’t care less about your progression. Or maybe the culture just generally isn’t ‘a good fit’.

Whatever the reason, it’s a demoralising and disheartening situation to be in.

So how can you avoid it?

By getting under the skin of the agency’s true culture. And that means doing the right research, asking the right questions and knowing what signs to look for. Here are some key examples...

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Warning signs

Sometimes it can be hard to see through the sales pitches you get during interview, and the marketing façade plastered all over agency websites and social media. But there are a few warning signs you can look for when it comes to understanding the culture.


We’re all adults, and we all deserve to be treated as such. That means we deserve the freedom to manage our careers – and to achieve results in ways that work for us.<br><br> If there are signs of micromanagement – such as people breathing down your neck over targets – think carefully about whether that’s the kind of place where you want to work. After all, if they can’t trust you to get on with your job, they won’t trust you to take on more responsibility or progress in your career.

High turnover rates

The recruitment industry has high turnover rates compared to other industries. But, unusually high turnover is a serious red flag.

Take a look on LinkedIn. What’s the average tenure of current employees? Have lots of people left after a year or so? How many people have been there for more than 5 years? It’s easy to recruit newbies. It’s not easy to retain top talent. IDEX retain consultants on average for over 5+ years.

Positive signs

Just as there are key warning signs, there are also signs indicating a positive culture. Here are 2 to look for during your due diligence.

True teamwork

Recruitment can be a competitive industry – but that doesn’t mean you should be constantly watching your back or feeling like you’re on your own.<br><br> Go out for drinks with the team before accepting. Consider the vibe when you walk round the office. Look at Glassdoor. If a company emphasises working together, supporting colleagues and being open and honest about things, then it’s unlikely to have a back-stabbing culture.

Cutting-edge technology

Digital transformation has taken every industry by storm, and recruitment’s no exception. These days, the best recruiters are ones who make use of technology – whether it’s sophisticated cloud-based CRMs or analytics tools that allow you to fine tune you approach, to work more efficiently and increase earnings. Look out for signs of a data-led approach and digital innovation, because companies that invest in tools for employees will likely invest in their culture and careers, too.

Willingness to show you proof

If they tell you they support career progression, ask to see an example development plan or career blueprint. If they brag about giving you the freedom to work how you want, ask what metrics and targets they use. If they tell you how close-knit the team is, ask about social events, charity opportunities and collaborative projects – and what the participation levels are like.

Don’t just take an agency’s word that they do something – ask for proof it’s actually happening.

The bottom line

Sometimes we spend more time at work than we do with our families, so you need to be somewhere that supports and energises you. With a little due diligence up front, you can make sure the job you’re walking into is one where you’ll be happy to stay.

Want to grill us about IDEX’s culture? We’re rather proud of it, as it happens. Contact Richard on or 0333 700 4339 for a confidential chat about what it’s like working for IDEX in Birmingham, Manchester, London and Scotland.