Q: I’m interviewing, and it seems to be going well, but I am worried about making the wrong choice should one of these turn into an offer. Company culture is super important to me and I want to make sure I choose an environment that I can grow and thrive in for the long haul – but how do I learn about a company’s culture now that the interviews I have with them are all virtual?
A: Great question! How well a company’s culture aligns with your own values, beliefs, and company culture preferences is the leading contributor to your long-term success and satisfaction in the role. This said, the impact of Covid-19 on hiring has turned the world virtual. Not being able to step into an office, or meet with your future team in person, can make it tricky to learn about a company’s culture but there a few things you can do right now that should help…
1. START WITH YOU
Recognizing what makes you thrive in your job, from a LIFESTYLE, RECOGNITION, WORKSTYLE, CONVENIENCE, and COMPENSATION perspective, can help you understand what motivates you, culturally. Learning how these align with a company’s culture can help you determine how likely your long-term job satisfaction with the company will be.
To get started, think about a project or work experience that really worked for you. Then, break the culture nuances of the company and the team by LIFESTYLE, RECOGNITION, WORKSTYLE, CONVENIENCE, and COMPENSATION. How did it align with your cultural motivators in those areas?
Which area turned out to be most important to you? LIFESTYLE? WORKSTYLE? Maybe it all came down to how well the experience aligned with your CONVENIENCE threshold or your desire for RECOGNITION by your team and company. Maybe it really came down to the money, and your innate perceptions around COMPENSATION as they contribute to your job satisfaction. Your preferences in these areas make up your own personal blueprint of how you thrive, culturally, in your career.
Once you’ve identified HOW YOU THRIVE, culturally, you can compare those characteristics to the company culture as it's being described to you during your interviews with the company.
2. ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
Right questions focus on determining how well a company’s culture aligns with how you thrive. Before your next interview, formulate 3 or 4 questions designed to reveal the company’s culture around the areas above. For instance, if you thrive in a company culture that emphasizes convenience, you may want to ask what it’s like to work there and include something like, “What’s it like during lunchtime here?” Or, “I like to bike into work, would you happen to know if the company has onsite showers or lockers available?” – While sharing a bit about yourself, you also give the interviewer an opportunity to expand on what it’s like to work at the company from a culture perspective. An answer like, “The cafeteria is open 24/7, but my team prefers to go out together for lunch. Come to think of it, we do a lot together outside of work, too,” is revealing on multiple levels. If you’re a bike commuter and the response to showers and a locker is, “I don’t really know. I don’t think anyone does that here,” is telling too.
Remember, too, that if you haven't already done so, reach out to your network to see if anyone works at the company and ask them a few of these same questions. They may have insight into whether the company will be a good fit for you and can share details about a-day-in-the-life working there that a hiring manager or the people you are interviewing with may not be aware of.
In the end, one of the most difficult things to do – especially when you are trying to stay open to all of the opportunities being presented to you – is to decide whether or not the company you are interviewing with is truly the right culture-fit for you.
Taking time to reflect on the characteristics of company culture that you know you thrive in and comparing them with the company culture as it’s being described to you during interviews makes it simple to decide. Creating a spreadsheet gives you a visual scorecard for each company that is helpful.
An important thing to note, is that once you’ve determined the culture is not going to be a fit, it is important to communicate that to your recruiter or interview team ASAP. We like to call this, “Raise your hand before stomping your feet.” In short, if it is looking like the culture is not a fit, then raise your hand immediately and ask to be removed from consideration for the role. Respectfully, of course – but raise-your-hand nonetheless; no hard feelings and no guilt. You and your time are too important. There is nothing more disheartening than to have to admit you accepted a role that was not quite the right culture fit, and now find yourself – 6 months, or a year or more into that role – stomping your feet; feeling frustrated, drained, and stuck.
On the plus side, when company culture does align – share that, too! Hiring managers love to learn that you are thinking about the company culture, not just the role – and you’re going the extra mile to make sure the fit is there. A sign that you truly care about making a positive impact on the company as a whole once you join.
How important is a company’s culture to you in your job search? Which areas are your deal-breakers? We would love to hear your feedback! Do you have any questions from this post? Please feel welcome to reach out to our team via firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re here and happy to help. Thank you for visiting and wishing you every success in your search!
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