You have been looking for a new job for months and you feel like you are finally getting close to making a decision. You have the offer in hand and now you are just weighing the pros and cons. But wait… Have you thought about the actual work environment or culture? Will you fit in? This is something that sometimes falls by the wayside for jobseekers. I have seen it happen many times when a candidate doesn’t realize that they are not a “culture” fit until after they have started and it’s too late.
Majority of today’s workforce spends roughly 40-50 hours a week at work. For some positions it can be even more. So what does that mean? It means that understanding a company’s culture is vital to your well being and also your success. Since we work all week we tend to see our coworkers more then our own family! Crazy, right?! With that being said, you need to do your best to learn about a potential employer’s culture to ensure it’s the right fit for you.
If you are unfamiliar with company “culture” and what it exactly means be sure to take a look at our piece What exactly is company culture?
Before Your Interview
One of the easiest and best ways to find out about a potential employer’s culture is to simply do some research. I recommend doing your homework on an organization before you even think about submitting an application.
The first place to start is the company’s website. Most organizations have a specific page that is dedicated to their core values and/or company’s mission. They should also have an “about us” page which will provide details on the history of the company and upper level leadership. Spend some time on the site and click around to get a feel for what they do and who they are.
Social media is another good place to find out about a company’s culture in today’s digital age. Key up their Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. and take a look at their recent posts. You may see past events and/or pictures of employees. You can also do a quick LinkedIn search to get a feel for the backgrounds of current employees.
Not every organization has a social media presence, but if they do it can be very enlightening when it comes to researching their culture. It will give you a good idea of what the company is doing right now and some of their current activities.
Check Out Reviews
You can look at sites like Glassdoor.com, indeed.com, Salary.com, etc. These sites provide a ton of beneficial insight on everything from general company information to salary. Some of these sites also provide user based reviews where past employees rate their experience with the company. You do have to approach this information with caution since it is user driven.
Talk to a Current Employee
Finally, check your network and see if you know anyone that currently works there. This could be a past colleague, a friend, or anyone who can give you an honest opinion about the work environment. This can be a great resource to tap into if you have it available to you. If you know someone who works for the company or has worked there in the past you can ask them any specific questions that you may have.
During Your Interview
Another great place to dig into company culture is during your interview. Since majority of interviews happen on site, you can really get a good sense of the everyday working environment. It is important to take in your surroundings and picture yourself working there.
Ask Questions About Culture
At some point during your interview the employer will ask you if you have any questions for them. This is a great time to see what you can find out. Start off by simply asking them to describe the company’s environment/culture. You can then follow up with additional questions depending on what you want to know. Here are some examples:
What do you like most about working for this organization?
What is your least favorite thing about your position?
How is your work life balance?
Do you have social events throughout the year?
Do coworkers tend to hang out after hours or just complete their work then head home?
What type of person does well in this position?
If you are interviewed by multiple individuals be sure to ask them some of the same questions. Take note of their responses and when you review them later see how they line up with the other folks that you met with.
When you arrive for your interview it is important to take a look around and get a feel for the general environment. Remember that if you end up landing the position, this is where you will be spending a lot of your time! Take note of the office itself and gauge if you think it will be a comfortable work space for you. Are you more of an “open space” type of a worker or do you prefer a closed door office? Do you like more of an entrepreneurial, start up, “cool” feel? Or would you prefer an established organization where you can punch in and punch out? Sometimes employers will give you a tour of the building which can be a big help!
It is also important to assess the organization’s communication style to see if you mesh. This can actually start before you even arrive for your interview. Pay attention to how the company corresponds in setting up your meeting. Is it a friendly exchange? Are they quick to respond? Or is it just an automated message?
During your interview take note of how employees communicate. Is this company buttoned up and extremely professional? Or do they take more of a casual approach? Is it a team based environment or is it more of an individual work space?
I also recommend keeping an eye on how others communicate in the office. Are the employees smiling and happy when they are talking with each other? Does it seem like they enjoy working there? Or does everyone look like they are dying to leave?! Try to interact with anyone you can including the receptionist and passing employees. By simply smiling and saying hi you can get a feel for the vibe in the office.
After Your Interview
Once your are finished with your interview it is time to look back and review your thoughts. Think about your experience and make a list of what you liked/didn’t like about the company’s culture. Every person is different so you will have to decide if you feel that you are a fit.
Here are some good questions to ask yourself:
Do you see yourself working in that environment?
Did your personality mesh with your potential boss and co-workers?
Are you ok with the environment? Too professional vs. too casual?
Do you prefer a team driven environment or more of a solo working environment?
Does this organization focus on social activities and building a sense of team? Does that matter to you?
When job searching, thinking about company culture is very important. It can be a difference maker in how successful you are with an organization. If you like where you work, the people you work with, and the environment you will have a higher probability of being successful!
Dan Metz is the Director of Executive Search and Employee Development at the Resilience Group, LLC, and Co-Founder and Contributing Author for Need a New Gig. Follow his blog for more great tips like this!