Ways to Uncover Company Culture BEFORE Accepting a Job

Culture and office

Company culture is a million little things. It’s work-life balance, happy hours, and team dynamics. It’s unspoken things that matter like being heard, recognized, and able to share new ideas.

For job seekers, a culture match is near the top of “must-haves.” In interviews, candidates try to decipher culture but always wonder what it’s really like. What did it mean when the interviewer said, “we work hard, play hard?”

Just what can candidates do to uncover a company’s culture before accepting a new position?

To Uncover Culture, Ask the Right Questions in Your Interview

 Interviewees should come prepared with questions to ask about company culture.  In fact, even before an interview begins, candidates can take mental notes on culture.  Observe how an office is set up—is it partitioned off or open?  How is it decorated? Are employees formally dressed or casual?  Is it loud or quiet?

If an interview is online, candidates can take note of how interviewers act around each another, what they wear (even from the waist up), and what is in the background.

Questions to consider asking during an interview include:

  • How many of your current employees are here because of referrals from existing employees? This can be telling because people recruit their own contacts to jobs they love.
  • How do you define work/life balance? Listen for key words like flexibility or social opportunity.
  • How does the company invest in its employees (professional development, teamwork retreats, etc.)?
  • Can you give an example of a team dynamic?
  • How do you describe your company culture? Has it changed over the years?
  • What makes this a unique place to work?
  • What does the company value?
  • What are some ways the company celebrates success?

To Dig into Company Culture, Use the Internet

There are many ways job seekers can find information about a company on the internet.  The first place to look is a company’s website.  Get a feel for the tone of the site: does it use formal language with more conservative pictures or is it laid-back?  Is there an “About Us” page or employee profile page?  Do employee profiles mention anything personal or fun? Is it diverse? Is a charity or social cause mentioned on the site?  Read the website “between the lines” to get a feel for company culture.

Secondly, use google to search for news about the company.  This could give you insight into the company’s past or future position.

LinkedIn can also provide a plethora of information.  You can consider adding someone who works at the company to your network to message or you can look at their profile. But beware that your search could get back to a hiring manager or put another employee in an awkward position.  Use this tool to ask about culture only if there is close relationship.

Glassdoor is another good site to visit to see what others have said about a company.  But remember that these are anonymous write ups usually written by individuals with an extreme experience- both good and bad.  However, the way the company responds to a review can give insight to its culture.

Dig into What Kind of Culture You Prefer

Look inward: do you know what kind of culture you are seeking?  Do you prefer a large or small company? Culture in a smaller, tight-knit, company is desirable because coworkers become almost like family.  In fact, for some, a smaller company’s culture is powerful enough to level the playing field when a lower salary is offered.

A larger company like Google may have things like fitness centers, gourmet food, tuition reimbursement and even paid time off for volunteering.

Once you know what you want, investigate as thoroughly as you can.  “It’s all too easy to get caught up in the buzz of finding a new job and rush to accept an offer with only a partial view of how the company really operates,” says Andy Sellers of LinkedIn. “The consequence could be that you’re unhappy and ultimately that you quit before you’ve had a chance to achieve much or learn all you hoped.”

At Artemis Consultants, we know company culture matters.  Turn to our recruiters for expert advice on choosing a culture where you will thrive.

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