Most of us would agree that before starting a relationship with someone, we’d want to get to know their personality. It should be the same when we’re about to make a (possibly) long-term commitment to a company by accepting a job. Understanding the company’s “personality”, that is, its corporate culture, is just as important as knowing the job benefits, responsibilities, location, and pay.
We all know what type of work environment we thrive in and aligns with our beliefs. Working for an organization whose culture matches our style and priorities boosts our motivation and productivity. This is why understanding the company’s culture is a must before accepting a job and here’s how you can do it:
1. Research online: Start with the company’s website. Check how the company describes its own culture and mission to see if they align with your beliefs and priorities. While the company will most likely present its corporate culture in the best light possible, you can still find useful information and get an idea of what it’s like to work there. You should also check the overall tone and style of the website, which could be indicative of the work environment you can expect.
Besides the official website, research the company’s presence on social media and review websites (e.g., Glassdoor). When reading reviews though, gauge them carefully: within large companies, there may be different subcultures, and a review written by, say, a dissatisfied accountant may not be representative of what it’s like to work as a salesperson, for instance. So, take them with a grain of salt.
2. Ask relevant questions: Talk to people who work (or have recently worked) in the company. If you don’t know any, make connections via social media. Ask them to share thoughts on the company’s culture and their work experience within the organization. Make sure to ask questions based on your cultural and professional priorities, and ask different people the same questions: comparing answers will help you draw a clearer picture. Also, during your job interview, don’t waste the chance to directly question the hiring manager(s). Ask them questions that show your dedication to be a productive team member and, at the same time, allow you to gather a deeper understanding of the corporate culture.
3. Peek into the work environment: This may be easier if you have the opportunity of an in-person interview, but you can still do it remotely to some extent. Observe how employees dress, behave, and interact with each other. Pay attention to the office layout and soundscape: Are there cubicles or is it an open space? Can you hear a pin drop or is there a lively chattering? If your interview is after traditional working hours, check whether most of the staff is still there or not. While there is no right or wrong dress code, office layout, or work schedule, there sure is an environment that is right for you.
4. Consider your overall treatment: While it may not be 100% indicative of a company’s culture, your treatment throughout the entire process, from the application to the job offer, can give you a good idea of how the company functions. Ask yourself if communications were carried out effectively, if your time was taken into consideration, and if any interaction made you feel uncomfortable or disrespected. If your experience in all (or any) of these aspects was negative, it’s something you may want to consider when faced with a job offer.
While surprises are often considered “the spice of life”, being unpleasantly surprised by the company’s culture once you’ve already accepted the job is a risk to avoid. Do your research ahead of time: it’ll save you time, energy, and disappointment!