What are you getting yourself into? Gauging company culture

A lot of companies seem to be talking about their culture lately, and what it means for employees to be “engaged” in that culture. It’s pretty widely recognized that the environment you work in can be just as important as the work you do, so understanding what company is really like is a key part of the job search.

Who does the company think they are?culture gauge 1

Company culture is deeper than the taglines on a website or poster – but those taglines will tell you a lot about what the company *wants* to think is important. Knowing “who you want other to think you are” is an important part of the culture puzzle. Look at the official website, social media sites, and other media published by the company. What is their self-image? Are the company’s actions consistent with their stated values?

Internal expectations are a big deal. The way that employees dress, for instance, can send a lot of messages about what’s expected. How do people communicate – it is OK to drop into the boss’s office for a brainstorming session, or do you need to schedule a meeting in advance? Norms like this can help you understand more about your day-to-day environment so you can decide if it’s a fit.

Be an online detective.

Tap into your network of contacts. Thanks to the power of social media, it’s easier than ever to tap into friends of friends with a direct line to the company. Check your Facebook and LinkedIn contacts; do you know someone who works (or worked) at the company? If not, do you have 2nd or 3rd degree connections that could provide some insight.

Look at sites like Glassdoor, Jobitorial, Indeed,  or similar to see what people who work at the company have to say. Is it a match for the “official” culture? If a company’s site talks about work/life balance and employees are talking about their 60-hour work weeks, you need to dig deeper.

If you have specific requirements such as flexibility or telecommuting options, niche sites like FlexJobs.com can provide a starting point. If you’re using a large national job board to look for leads, use “telecommuting” or “work at home” as part of your search terms. Concerned about balancing work and family commitments? Check out the list of 100 Best Companies for Working Mothers from Working Mother.  Want to stay local? Use the Michigan Business and Professional Association’s list of Michigan’s 101 Best & Brightest Companies to Work to identify local companies with values and priorities that align with yours.

Ask great questions in the interview.

One of the hardest things to remember as a job seeker is that this is a two-way process. You should be evaluating the company just as much as they’re evaluating you; after all, you’re about to spend a lot of time with these people, and you want to make sure the setting is one that lets you be the best possible version of yourself.

Check out these links for some suggestions about great interview questions that get to the heart of culture:

11 Ways to Gauge Your Next Employer’s Culture

7 Interview Questions Uncover Corporate Culture

4 Sneaky Ways to Determine Company Culture in an Interview

How to Find Out if a Company is a Cultural Fit for You

Why should you care?culture gauge 2

Having some knowledge of the company culture will help you talk more confidently in your interview about the reasons you’d be a great fit for the job. It shows your sincere interest and helps your interviewer picture how you’ll fit in and do the job. Aside from the boost it can give your interview, there are some very practical considerations: recent research and articles show that people are happier, more productive, and stay longer at companies where they feel comfortable.


One thought on “What are you getting yourself into? Gauging company culture

  1. Great post. It’s important to find a company that you like. As you mentioned, you will be happier, more productive, and stay with them longer!

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