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How to tell if a company's culture is right for you

Rich Hein | April 8, 2015
You want to work where you are inspired to do your best and appreciated by your colleagues and manager. However, that kind of fit doesn’t happen by chance. Find out what it takes to target the right job, company and culture.

Asking for a tour of their offices is a great way to see how employees interact with each other. "Start with reviewing the physical space. Are there lots of private offices? Cubes? Open work areas? Is technology visible in all areas? Are screens on the walls of open areas, conference rooms, do people roam with their laptops?," says Elaine Varelas, managing partner Keystone Partners. How do the employees look? Are they happy, engaged, and productive -- or clock-watchers, just waiting for the day to be over.

Ask your interviewer, 'What would you change about the culture if you could?' This type of question will help you get beyond the superficial and rehearsed answers and drive more meaningful and open conversations.

Ask them about he mission of the organization. "Most people won't know it or will guess incorrectly, which will be a signal that there is some misalignment between what they say and what they do as a company," says Van Vreede.

"Ask questions around how operational or project deadlines are set. Then ask about what process ensures that they are adhered to and how delays are dealt with," says Kumar.

Another good question, says Kumar, is how operational or project teams are organized and led in a company. "Remember, a successful company culture is not just about how well they work together but also more importantly about how well they can execute," Kumar says.

Speak with current employees
Many employers agree that you should network your way into these conversations before you get into the interview process. "Through networking, candidates should contact current and former employees to find out more about the culture -- both spoken and unspoken. A candidate needs to know the culture they work best in, because what one person hates may be exactly the culture where you might be successful," Varelas says.

However, there is a time and place in the interview process where it makes sense to talk to potential coworkers and this is a great time to get a feel for what will potentially be your home away from home. Experts say that it be in the stage of the interview where there is mutual interest from both parties so the first phone interview isn't the time to pose this request. It makes sense to wait until you are closer to the finish line. "After all -- you want to know the team you would be working with On a side note -- if the process has not included [conversations with] potential peers up to that point that can be telling, too. What is the reason and what might that mean? Is it a very hierarchical org? Maybe they don't value the team's opinion in the process? Are they not empowered to be part of the interview team?," Nathanson says.

 

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