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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