4 Fantastic Ways To Uncover A Company’s Culture

“Company culture” is one of those phrases that gets thrown around a ton, but it can actually be quite hard to unearth just what a company’s culture actually is.

The interviewer isn’t likely to tell you outright that most people in the role you’re applying for burn out after 18 months, or that coworkers are discouraged from being friends at work, and paging through an organization’s website isn’t likely to turn up any leads. Their mission statement may say that the organization is committed to worker well-being and innovation, but in reality they may reward long hours and toeing the line.

A company’s culture will help determine how much you enjoy staying at the job, but until the honeymoon phase of a new job has passed it can be tough to really know if your goals and values are a match. By then it’s way too late.

According to a 2014 survey by Glassdoor, finding details on what makes a company an attractive place to work was ranked the highest (at 76%) in the most useful pieces of information that job seekers are looking to learn from potential employers. If you’re one of that 76%, here are some ways to find out if you’re a fit for a company culture – before you say yes to the job.

Do your research

Use a site like Glassdoor to do background research on the company or organization you’re interviewing at. Former and current employees can rank the pros and cons of the company, and it can give great insight into things like salaries, workload, and what your new coworkers might be like. Of course, you’ll need to read through the lines. Disgruntled employees often use the site as a place to vent anonymously, but there are plenty of more balanced reviews, too.

You can also try Googling news of the company, to see if it’s been written about in business magazines generally, or – if you’re lucky – been included in roundups of “best places to work.” You may be able to glean valuable insight into what the company culture is like through employee quotes.

Ask around

You can also research the company on LinkedIn. You won’t find anonymous reviews, but you can see things like how often they’re hiring, and find out whether you have any connections you could possibly tap for more information. If you find that you have a second- or third-tier connection working at the company, see if you can get an introduction to them in order to get their honest take on what it’s like to work there.

Observe the office

When you come to your interview, arrive a few minutes early and spend the time observing how people interact. Get a sense for how they greet each other, how they dress, and what the general vibe is like. Does everyone seem stressed out and unhappy? Is there a lot of friendly office banter?

Most likely, you’ll hear a bit about the company culture during your interview – or at least, you’ll get the vision of what the hiring manager thinks the company culture is. By paying attention while you’re actually in the office, you can discover if what you see matches what you’re being told.

Question your interviewer

Sure, you’re probably not going to get the whole scoop during the interview, but there are some questions you can ask to get an ideas of what the company culture’s really like.

  • What kind of employee will succeed in this role?
  • How do you handle training, and deal with mistakes?
  • How do teams normally work together?
  • What do employees love about working here?

Listen for canned or vague responses, or anything that indicates the interviewer is trying to sell you too hard on the company culture. If everyone honestly loves working there, that should shine through in the answers.

Don’t skip this step!

However you play detective, make sure you take the time to learn what you can about a company’s culture. Don’t make the mistake of waiting until you’ve already signed the contract to discover that you’re really not a good fit.

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David Kuehn

Observing the office is good advice. I like to do this not only where I may want to work but also with agencies with whom I might want to partner and vendors I may want to use.