Determining If an Office’s Culture Is Right for You

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As the U.S economy heats up, employees now have more opportunity to look for new jobs—and many of those employees aren’t necessarily jumping ship for better money.

As Dr. Kerry L. Schofield, co-founder of Good.co, wrote in a recent blog posting: “To be happy at work, as in life, we need to feel in control: that we choose and own our jobs, instead of them owning us. The fastest way to this kind of job satisfaction is good cultural fit: congruence between our goals, values, and personality, and those of the organization we work for.”

In recent months, many a tech executive has similarly lauded the benefits of a good cultural fit. Speaking at this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg implied that employees with a heartfelt belief in his company’s mission would do better than those who did not: “And if you believe [in our vision] than Facebook is a good company for you and if you don’t maybe find a different one.”

While Facebook (supposedly) tries to be as transparent about its culture as possible, many other companies remain stubbornly opaque. In the latter situation, how can you determine the culture and whether you’d be a good fit?

It’s not easy, said Susanne Currivan, senior IT recruiter at Montefiore Information Technology: “In my experience, it’s hard to get a sense of a company’s true culture from the outside. I expect that explains why so many intelligent, analytical candidates end up working for firms that are just wrong for them.”

But that doesn’t mean the task is impossible. Here are some tips for delving a bit into a company’s culture during your interview process:

Know Your Own Values: Before you meet your prospective employer, draw up a list of the things you want out of this particular job. Do you agree with the company’s overarching mission, or did you just apply because the perks seemed excellent? Do you want an environment that’s collaborative and supportive, or one that’s cutthroat and dedicated to getting the job done at all costs? Do you hunger for dynamic environments, or do you like it when things are more contemplative? Listing these values will allow you to more scientifically evaluate the company’s culture.      

Ask Why the Job’s Open: While an employer likely won’t tell you very much about the person who previously occupied the position, they can still offer up useful data. If the last two or three people in the position stayed for less than a year, for example, that suggests the environment is one of high stress and expectations.

Evaluate Everyone: From the receptionist in the front lobby to the folks in HR to the manager doing the actual interview, observe everybody’s body language, as well as how they interact with each other. Do things seem tense? Is everybody in the office harried and rushed? Wait, was that the sound of someone screaming? If the vibe seems negative, it might not be the right environment for you.

Question the Recruiter: “If you are so fortunate to be working with a recruiter that has a good relationship and history with a company,” said Chris Hildreth, founder and legal technology IT recruiter at ESP, “they will be able to offer a wealth of knowledge about the organization. In fact, they will know details never to be found on the Web.”

Reach Out to a Current Employee: “If a candidate can try to have a conversation with someone at the firm who holds a position comparable to theirs,” Currivan said, “that is a good way to get a sense of what things are like on the inside.”

Social media is another friend when it comes to finding out this sort of information. “Networking with people who have friends or peers who have worked for the company or who may know someone internal is another great source of information on the culture,” Hildreth said. “With the boom of Social Media and peer-networking sites it only takes a few minutes to find a connection with almost any company that you are researching.”

But such strategies come with some risk: People within the company may not feel wholly comfortable talking with outsiders about the culture. And in terms of social media, beware: people tend to take to the blogosphere and Twitter more frequently when they have negative things to share, which could skew your research.

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Comments

3 Responses to “Determining If an Office’s Culture Is Right for You”

March 16, 2015 at 12:10 pm, jgalt2000 said:

I remember going on an interview, and the first thing I remember about the place was some staffer coming out to the receptionist and the two of them bitching about how some things were being done at the company. Knew right away it was a very toxic place to work. Unfortunately, having been out of work for 13 months I had to take the job. Caught them in a couple lies from the interview within a week. Felt so much better once I finally left that place. It was actually worse than IBM.

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March 16, 2015 at 3:46 pm, Dino Londis said:

Thanks JGALT2000, I didn’t include that. When you need a job, you need a job and any culture will do. My thinking is that finally the market is become really strong, somthing we have seen since the early 2000s, so now if you do have a choice, look at culture.

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March 16, 2015 at 5:24 pm, Joseph I. Szweda said:

To whomever wrote this article, and with a few exceptions, THANK YOU!

I’ve been preaching this very thing for YEARS. Does anyone get it? No. Culture? What’s that? Then again, when you live in a place like I do in which a rock on the side of the road has more culture than the area, no wonder.

As for intelligent and analytical people, speaking as one of those, that one recruiter is right in saying what they said. People that fit that category need a certain culture and environment to do well in. If you try to force someone to fit into it, don’t expect that to happen without some other issue rising up somewhere or another-regardless if the employer sees it or not.

The problem I see here is when the recruiter says it’s hard to get that sense of culture from the outside, that’s something I’ve ran into many a time. Someone says save that for the interview. Why? If the recruiter is representing the employer, don’t they know? Why can’t I be told up front?

Culture is one of the very reasons I refuse to work in any place with finance. In the few times I’ve walked into one of the banking buildings in Charlotte, my first reaction when I walk in is that I want to vomit-literally. It’s so uptight, so regimented, I can sense it no sooner I walk into the place. That’s bad.

I like a place to plan things with some privacy. That’s not allowed it seems. I need some tunes going while I do whatever to help me think. That’s not allowed either or if it is, it doesn’t work for whatever reason. I’ve asked for a white board before-that’s a problem. I like to walk around at times because sometimes I need to walk away from something and think. Then after a bit, it comes to me. A lot of places won’t allow that.

What employers don’t seem to get is with the intelligent and analytical types, if you try to force us into a box that doesn’t fit, they’re cutting their nose to spite their faces in a manner of speaking. Nobody in how many years I’ve been through this seems to get that. I take that back. The clinicians do-but they’re not the ones hiring.

Mission statements? Ewww! The less I have to deal with that, the better-period. Those things make no logical sense at all. Everyone’s mission statement should be the same thing: “Our mission is to make gobs of money-period.” Beyond that? Uhmm….(scratching head)….runtime exception thrown in psycho32.dll.

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