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How to Uncover a Company’s Culture Before You Work There

16 Apr 2016 by

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Most people understand that a good culture fit will make you a happier and more successful employee, but how do you figure out what a company’s culture is really like and if it’s a good match before you take the job? Most companies have a web page about their cultures, but it can be hard to get an accurate feel for what it’s really like to work there amidst all of the vague, fancy words and ideals. Don’t be someone that gets lured in just because of foosball tables and free soda—take the time to learn more and make an informed decision when the time comes to accept a job offer. Here are some ways to do just that.

Ask specific questions in the interview

When you interview at a company, go prepared with questions to ask that will give you greater insight into the culture. Go beyond the generic, “What is your culture like?” and ask more detailed questions about the aspects of culture that are most important to you. Here are some ideas of questions to ask:

  • What makes you proud to work at this company?
  • How does the organization support employees’ growth and professional development?
  • What are the most common causes of conflict, and how is conflict resolved in this company?
  • When and how do people give and receive feedback?
  • What are some of the ways the company celebrates success?
  • How does the leadership motivate their employees?
  • What social responsibility efforts is this company involved in?
  • What’s the best part about working in this environment that I won’t be able to see from just one visit?
  • What are the most common complaints employees make about your company culture?

 

Instead of asking theoretical questions about what the job would be like for you, try asking for examples about people who have worked in this position in the past. For example, instead of asking, “What would I have to accomplish to be promoted, and how soon would that be possible?” try asking something like, “Can you give me an example of the internal career path for someone who worked in this position in the recent past?” This kind of specific questioning gives you a better feel for if what they tell you is actually reality in the job experience.

Pay attention before and after your interview

The day of your interview(s), go a few minutes early to observe what you can about the company. Pay attention to how employees are dressed, how they interact with each other, if they seem stressed or relaxed, formal or informal. Are most people working together in groups or independently? If you ask someone for directions, are they friendly? Do people act professionally and courteously? Ask yourself if this is a kind of environment you enjoy and if it seems like a place where you fit in. Don’t judge the whole company based on an interaction with one random person you talk to, but do try to get a sense of the place as a whole in the time you are there.

Do some online research

The internet has made learning about company culture easier than ever. Now, with sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Glassdoor, you don’t even have to know someone that works at a company to get an idea of what the employee experience is like.

Look up your company of interest on Glassdoor, Indeed, and Salary.com and read reviews written by current or past employees for an inside look into a company. It’s best not to believe everything you read, but look for patterns and themes in what people say.

Check out social media sites to see what the companies promote and how they interact with their followers; you can usually get a good idea of what the company values. Looking up the company on LinkedIn will reveal employees that work there, giving you insight into their backgrounds, what kinds of projects the company is working on, etc. Look through the company website and culture page as well. See how closely that information lines up with everything you learn from other sources.

Talk to employees

Talk to a few current employees about the company’s culture. Use any connections you might have to get in touch with people that work there, or when you are far along in the interview process and the company seems to be seriously considering hiring you, ask to speak with potential coworkers in your department or team to learn more. When talking to employees about culture, pay attention to their response time. Usually, the faster they respond the better. Here are a few examples of questions you could ask.

  • How effective is the communication from the company to its employees?
  • What is your average day like?
  • Do you feel valued here? If so, what makes you feel valued?
  • What skills and attributes does this company value the most?
  • What does it take to get a promotion?
  • What behaviors are rewarded at this company?

 

Before you do all of this research, make sure you do a little introspection and evaluate yourself. Determine what motivates you, what helps you do your best work, and what kind of environment you need to succeed. Then, look for those things when finding out more about the cultures at the companies you are considering. You might not find everything you’ve ever dreamed of in one company, but know what your priorities are when it comes to culture and find a good match. A good culture fit will go far in setting yourself up for success.

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