Looking for a New Role? Here’s How to Determine if a Company’s Culture Is Right for You.
After 16 years as an HR professional, I’ve seen too many skilled talents bouncing into and out of jobs because they didn’t match the company’s ethos, and didn’t jive with the culture. So, during my last interview process, in addition to wanting them to choose me, I wanted to choose them.
Here are five intentions you can use to gauge if a company’s culture is right for you.
- Know Who You Are. Culture comprises the personalities and values within a company. Given this, you’ll want to match your personality and beliefs to that of the company you are joining. Regardless of your adaptability, it’s important to remember that not all cultures work for everyone. A company’s culture might hinder your ability to succeed or reach your potential in a position. Before you go into an interview, think to the times you’ve been at your best and commit them to paper. What elements were present? Was it autonomy, structure, a straight-shooting boss, smart peers that inspire you, etc.? As you go into the interview process, use these elements to customize questions that will help you spot matching values.
- Look for Consistency. In each culture, there are a range of employee perspectives shaped by each person’s experience and background. This is a great diversity that drives innovation. Look for trends and consistent themes that can validate the existing cultural makeup. Here’s a trick to get at this: ask at least one question consistently to everyone. You may ask each person to describe the actions and attributes of someone (no names needed) who has been successful within the company. Your fit with the company could be the final deciding factor in whether or not you accept a job offer, so dig deep to ensure you have the data when you get to that final stage.
- Do Your Due Diligence. Reference checks are a standard part any employer’s selection process. Take a page from this common hiring practice by adding it to your own search methods. Talk to people who’ve worked at the company in the past and people who have worked for your boss at a previous company. Keep these references in perspective with what you’ve heard throughout the interview process. Sometimes people leave companies because they weren’t the right fit and that can cause hard feelings. You’d hate to pass up a company that is right for you based on the opinion of someone else. If you get any feedback that surprises you, circle back with the hiring manager to share the information and consider doing more of your own outreach.
- Reflect on the Recruiting Process. There is a common saying: “People show their best during the recruiting process.” It is known among recruiters and hiring managers that if someone is late for each interview, that same candidate won’t magically become punctual upon joining the company. This holds true when getting a read on companies, too. If interviewers are honest and candid, you’ll likely experience transparency at the company level. If the process is in flux with last-minute changes, then the environment will require greater flexibility from its employees.
- Gauge the Company’s Investment in People. Enlightened companies know that investing in people yields strong dividends. Find out what your potential employer currently does to grow its people’s skills and experiences, while staying open minded. Smaller companies may have more to offer through the sharing of information and stretch assignments, as opposed to costly classes and conferences. Ask for real-world examples—not just philosophies—to show that the the company’s investment in people isn’t just on the to-do list, but alive and well.
While individuals are brought in during times of transformation and are part of evolving cultures, keep in mind that while one can influence the culture, most can’t completely change it. Remember this when considering lucrative offers from a company where your research points to it not being a good cultural fit.
With an offer in hand and a comprehensive list of data points, stress test the company culture with your own needs. If the culture isn’t right, it’s a great learning and nothing to ding the ego over. Given what’s at stake, you should commend yourself for figuring it out. But, if it IS right, then you can accept it with confidence knowing that those pivotal first 90 days will be a piece of cake.