October 31, 2012

An Overlooked Ingredient: Discovering Corporate Culture Before Accepting the Job

Serious business leader in front of business teamA job interview may be about the employer and what that company wants, but that doesn’t mean you, as an interviewee, can’t do some probing of your own in order to make the best decision when choosing among job offers. No matter how attractive a position may appear on paper, if your values and personality don’t mesh with the corporate culture, you’ll either go for years working in a job that makes you miserable or lose more time, effort, and money jumping immediately back into the job market after a hasty exit. If you’ve ever quit a job, there were probably very good reasons to justify the act: a clash in values or attitudes, too competitive, or simply too unrelated to your career goals.

Once you make it to an interview, take advantage of the opportunity to quiz the hiring manager about their company’s corporate culture so you can get a good bead on what your life would look like should you accept the job. A lot of times, companies publicly list their core values and mission statement around the office, in the job description, or on their corporate website, but if you are walking in blind, the first questions out of your mouth near the end of the interview should be about the culture of the place.

Now that you’re ready to take the opportunity to learn about one of the crucial elements that will determine your future relationship with the company, it’s time to pick good interview questions that will not only make the hiring manager think, but impress him or her as well. Be specific. Instead of asking simply about what it’s like to work for the company, challenge the interviewer by making him or her truly think about the question. Consider something like, “What aspects of the work environment might someone not pick up on by wandering through the office?” This question requires an answer discussing day-to-day operation and how it affects the working conditions of all employees.

You can also appeal to the personal side of the interviewer by asking for particular reasons why he or she enjoys working for their organization. The answer can help you gauge the type of motivations the company offers to employees for keeping them coming back day after day. A good job is not just about a good salary, so learning about the environment in which you will work can be a good way to gauge the viability of the job over the long term.

The more you ask, the more you will know about the company culture you may be walking into. The company may even be willing to allow you to speak with long-time employees who can give you insight into a diverse range of experiences at the company. How frequently does the company hold meetings? How closely do teams work together? Questions such as these allow you to better estimate the closeness of coworkers and how much the company cares about teamwork and creating a synergistic environment.

Take the time to consider some thoughtful questions to ask during your interview so that you can start feeling out the internal cultural dynamics of a company before you charge in on your first day of work. The more you understand about the company ahead of time, the more appropriate decisions you can make when choosing the job that’s most suitable for your lifestyle.


Read more in Organizational Culture

Joshua Bjerke, from Savannah, Georgia, focuses on articles involving the labor force, economy, and HR topics including new technology and workplace news. Joshua has a B.A. in Political Science with a Minor in International Studies and is currently pursuing his M.A. in International Security.