The job hunting process doesn’t end when you get an offer: It ends when you decide to take it. That’s as important as the decision you made to look for a job in the first place. It can be as complicated, too, because there’s more to it than simply agreeing on pay, perks and vacation time.
Just because everything looks great on paper doesn’t mean that you’re going to end up loving the situation you put yourself into. You want a position that’s going to engage you and be fun more often than not. The problem is accepting a job is a leap of faith, kind of like sky diving for the first time. You’re not going to understand how much you like the experience — or don’t — until gravity has taken hold.
Once you’ve settled on those nuts-and-bolts basics — the salary and all that — it really comes down to culture. That’s a buzzword that’s been thrown around to the point where it’s become almost meaningless. Really, when’s the last time you heard someone talk about their “cube-based, buckle-down-and-get-the-job-done” culture? Instead, they talk about values that are “open” and “team-based” and that they challenge employees to “do great things.”
Culture is what you’re going to walk into every day. It’s going to determine how happy you are and how productive you are. But how can you tell what it’s like before you’ve taken the job? You may not realize it, but you saw some hints when you visited the company for your interviews.
Think About Tone
If you had relaxed, professional conversations with everyone you met, that’s a good sign. If the sessions were pure Q-and-As, where they asked and you answered, that could indicate a culture that’s more about checklists and rote than exploring and ideas. It sure doesn’t indicate a situation where you’ll be able to put your creativity to use.
Then there’s the attitude of your interviewers. Did the conversations seem more like interrogations? If sessions seemed like they were designed more to wear you down than probe your skills, intellect and ability to learn, it’s reasonable to conclude the company takes a similar approach to its work.
You want to work with people who want to work with you. Whether they do is something you’ll sense when you’re all in a room together. Again, the key here is conversation. If you did all the talking and everyone else just listened, there’s not a lot of engagement there. What you want is a group of people who don’t just accept your ideas, but are excited about what you have to say. And you should be excited by what they say, too. If you walked out of the interview thinking it was fun, you know you’re in a good place.
Look and Feel
Finally, what was the feel of the office? By this, I don’t mean whether a ping pong table was in evidence, I mean what were people doing? If everyone was hunkered down in cubicles and the place was silent, that doesn’t speak to a “relaxed, dynamic” culture. True, you’ll come upon times when everyone is focusing, but you can find hints of the company’s reality in the way desks are tricked out, whether people are up and talking even in twos and threes, or how your escort is greeting others as you make your way to the conference room.
Like so much else involved in your job search, none of these are hard-and-fast rules. But before you say “yes,” it’s worth taking the time to think about your sense of the people you’ll be working with and the place you’ll be going into every day.