by Sarah K. White

5 tips to uncover a company’s culture before accepting a job

May 10, 2017
CareersIT JobsIT Skills

Company culture varies among employers, so it's important to have a good sense of what you want in a working environment before you accept a job offer.

You might think the perfect job is one that fits your skills, comes with the right salary and offers you the best benefits, but the evaluation doesn’t end there. There’s one more thing to consider, and that’s whether or not you’ll fit in with the company culture, which can differ greatly among companies.

But you don’t have to wait until you’ve gone through onboarding to parse out the company culture, according to Tom Gimbel, founder and CEO of LaSalle Network, a professional staffing and recruitment firm. If you ask the right questionas during the interview process and keep an eye out for certain signs, you’ll be able to tell if you’re a good cultural fit before you sign the offer. Here are a few things to consider if you’re trying to determine company culture during the interview process.

Know what you want

If you’re concerned about finding the right cultural fit in your next job, it’s important to know what you want out of a work environment. Consider managers and colleagues who you liked working with in the past, or if you prefer a more structured or casual office environment.

“Think about the types of environments you thrive in, the types of people you work well with, what your values are, and be honest with yourself. Every company culture is different. What is perfect for one person may not work for the next, so understand what you need first,” says Gimbel.

Vivian Maza, chief people officer at Ultimate Software, an HR software solutions company, recommends looking past perks like free food or swag, since those aren’t the things that make you successful at work. Instead, culture is found in the “core value and principles that guide the company,” she says.

“Is it a positive, supportive workplace that fosters collaboration and productivity? Are people recognized and rewarded for their work and accomplishments? Consider what you’re looking for in a workplace, and whether the culture can provide that,” she says.

[ Related story: Top IT hiring trends for recent grads ]

Ask different people the same questions

Throughout the interview process, you’ll likely meet with multiple team members. Gimbel suggests asking each employee the same set of questions to gauge how they respond. You can likely learn a lot about the company culture through their answers, especially if each employee answers differently.

And if you aren’t sure what questions to ask, Maza suggests heading to sites like Glassdoor, where you can read reviews about the company and first-hand accounts of the interview experience.

“In today’s world of social media and corporate transparency, you can learn so much about a company and its culture well before you arrive for an interview,” she says.

You can learn a lot about a company with just a little investigative work, and while it’s important to keep a critical eye out for any overly negative or positive reviews, it’s still valuable information. In your research, if something stands out to you, make a note of it to gain more insight in the interview.

[ Related story: 6 soft skills employers should be looking for in tech talent ]

Ask the right questions

The questions you ask during the interview process can reveal more about the company culture, while also revealing more about you as an employee. Maza says asking a question like, “how does your company invest in developing leaders,” can show that you’re interested in a long-term position with the company, while also exposing more about the inner workings of the business.

Similarly, she suggests asking questions about successful employees, performance review processes, the career tenure of current employees and what employees like best about the company. These questions show that you’re dedicated to being a productive team member, while also painting a stronger image of the corporate culture.

Look around the office

Once you’re brought in for an interview, if someone doesn’t offer you a tour of the building, be sure to ask for one before you leave. You can pick up on plenty of clues about the company culture during a quick walkthrough, says Gimbel.

“Look at how employees are interacting with one another. Look at the office layout. Are there cubicles or is it an open floor plan? Are people collaborating and meeting with one another or can you hear a pin drop? Again, there is no wrong culture, but be sure to consider what environment you excel in and if this is the right one for you,” he says.

Try out a ‘working interview’

What better way to see if a company is a cultural fit than to try out a full workday in your potential role? Gimbel says that a working interview is one of the best ways to get a deeper understanding of company culture on a departmental-level.

“Many groups and organizations develop subcultures, the unique characteristics each team has within the overall company culture. These subcultures may be unique to specific business units or even office locations, but it’s important to understand what they are and if you’ll enjoy working in that type of environment,” he says.

A working interview can give more insight into the sub-culture of your potential department, while also revealing any potential red flags.

During a working interview, you can get a feel for what the interoffice dynamics are like, how employees communicate with each other and what the daily atmosphere is like. If you aren’t sure what constitutes a red flag, Maza says the biggest one is high turnover. “If employees aren’t staying, there’s usually a valid reason why,” she says.

“By joining a company that doesn’t fit your cultural needs, you risk being unhappy, and that can have a major impact on your motivation, productivity and theoverall quality of work. However, if you do your research up front and ask the right questions during your interview, you can find the company and culture that’s right for you and position yourself for long-term success,” says Maza.

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